Twitter users in Nigeria have continued to lament the effect of its suspension on the nation’s democracy, describing the move as authoritarian and an infringement of citizens’ right of expression.
Freedom of expression
Some Nigerians have said the suspension of the social media platform by the Federal Government following the tussle did not consider the benefits Nigerians derive from the app, making the government appear dictatorial. One of them is Bizuum Yadok.
“This act just makes the government appear dictatorial. It’s a wrong move and this has put us in a bad light,” Yadok, a freelance writer and columnist, told HumAngle.
Yadok, who runs a ‘Tuesday Column’ on social media that analyses issues around societal ills, said his readers have been denied access to reading his analysis and interacting with them.
He elaborated that, “Twitter is the fastest social media platform when it comes to dissemination of information.”
In Nigeria, many Twitter users use the platform to run their businesses, engage in social activities and disseminate information to hold the government accountable. The ban, according to some, was inconsiderate, unfair and a direct violation of their fundamental human right.
“I felt bad that I could not access my account. Twitter is a place where I unburden my mind, connect with people, and share my stories. I also run my fashion business where I have gotten so many customers. I was at the verge of signing a contract before everything went up in flames, the ban affected my business, I lost a lot of customers but I am trying to get back, for now, I use other social media to promote my business but it can’t be compared to using twitter.” Lengshak Gomwalk, a fashion entrepreneur, said.
“In 2014, during the presidential elections, they used Twitter as a ladder to win the election and now they want to cut it off. It is very wrong,” Gomwalk added.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed that the main reason for the ban was because Twitter is responsible for the security crises happening in Nigeria, especially in the Southeast.
But Gomwalk disagreed: “Twitter is not the cause of what our country is going through. As long as we don’t fix the real problem, the situation in Nigeria will continue to deteriorate.”
He elaborated on how the government appears to be unperturbed about bandits, kidnapping and other pressing issues threatening the unity of the country, but “when it comes to voicing out, they are out to frustrate citizens.”
But, “to be fair to the government, Twitter also made a wrong move by deleting his tweet, they should have issued a warning for that respect,” Gomwalk added.
HumAngle also spoke to Gimba Kakanda, a popular Twitter user who is also a columnist. He opined that though he does not support the ban, with this action, the government is creating a balance in Nigeria, to let citizens know that there is a limit to everything and they are obliged to protect the prestige of the country.
“So, for me I feel the ban is okay, given that a lot of anti government activities take place there and people are beginning to misuse that power,” Kakanda said.
Gimba Kakanda also disclosed that for now he is not using his twitter account, he also said he will lose followers and readership he gets by obeying the government but it also serves as an example to being a patriotic citizen.
The Risk With VPN
Since the ban, Nigerians have used Virtual Private Network (VPN), “a digital tool that allows users to browse the internet safely and privately.” It also enables them to hide their online activities, IP address, and location from other people online.
Despite the switch to VPN, there has been a wide concern over the risk of using it as most Nigerians are likely to use free VPN instead of fee based ones. This will involve sharing data with an unknown third party.
Currently, some Nigerians who use VPN complain of how it slows down activities on their phone.
Gbemileke Daniel, a student and a baker told HumAngle that the stress of using VPN is draining, from the advertisements to slow internet and the error alerts that sometimes pop out when pages are opened.
“For days I don’t remember to open my Twitter to get updates or post about my business. VPN just makes everything frustrating,” Gbemi said.
As Nigerians battle to access Twitter, some remain hopeful the government will lift the ban.
Yewande Adio, a graduate from the University of Lagos, Southwest Nigeria disclosed she only uses Twitter to interact and check for jokes. But after the ban, she did some research concerning the risk of using VPN and since then has been trying to cope without Twitter.
Yadok, on the other hand, said he knows nothing about VPN and so has not gotten access to his account since.
Barrister Teju, a human rights activist, told Humangle that she appreciates Twitter’s wide reach and considers the suspension wrong. “Banning Twitter in response to the deleted tweet was arbitrary and illegal and clearly it is an infringement on free speech. Every community (digital or not) has its rules of engagement. If you infringe on a rule, they should be able to chuck you out,” Teju said.
She stated that Twitter has provided an opportunity for Nigerians in terms of employment and free speech, which ordinarily the government are supposed to provide but have failed.
“A responsible government would have considered the losses that would arise for Nigerians and Nigeria before taking that decision,” Teju added.
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