Human RightsNewsSecurity & Tech

#TwitterBan: Nigerian Government Defends Suspension

Nigerian presidency said Buhari's deleted tweet was in fact a pledge to uphold citizens' right to live from harm.

Nigeria’s presidency has justified the government’s decision to suspend Twitter’s operations in the country amidst calls to rescind the order.

A statement by Garba Shehu, President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson on Saturday, June 5, 2021, said the decision was not a retaliation to the deletion of the President’s divisive tweet.

“The temporary suspension of Twitter is not just a response to the removal of the President’s post. There has been a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real world violent consequences. All the while, the company has escaped accountability,” Shehu said.

President Buhari had, on Tuesday June 1, 2021, in a tweet, said his government would deal with suspected separatists attacking government institutions and security formations in “the language they understand,” citing his role as brigadier general in the 1967 civil war that claimed two million lives.

Twitter deleted the president’s tweet, saying it violated its rules against inciting violence.

But Shehu said the removal of President Buhari’s tweet was disappointing because “the censoring seemed based on a misunderstanding of the challenges Nigeria faces today.”

“The tweet was not a threat, but a statement of fact. A terrorist organisation (IPOB) poses a significant threat to the safety and security of Nigerian citizens,” he said.

“When the President said that they will be treated ‘in a language they understand,’ he merely reiterated that their force shall be met with force. It is a basic principle of security services response world over.”

Shehu said the statement was not a promotion of hate, but “a pledge to uphold citizens’ right to freedom from harm.”

“IPOB is proscribed under Nigerian law. Its members murder innocent Nigerians. They kill policemen and set government property on fire. Now, they have amassed a substantial stockpile of weapons and bombs across the country,” he said.

He said major tech companies must be alive to their responsibilities, saying they cannot be allowed to continue to “facilitate the spread of religious, racist, xenophobic and false messages capable of inciting whole communities against each other,” leading to loss of many lives.

“Twitter does not seem to appreciate the national trauma of our country’s civil war. This government shall not allow a recurrence of that tragedy,” Shehu added.

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Aishat Babatunde

Aishat Babatunde heads the digital reporting desk. Before joining HumAngle, she worked at Premium Times and Nigerian Tribune. She is a graduate of English from the University of Ibadan.

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