By Danielle Paquette
Nigeria has indefinitely suspended Twitter two days after the social media platform temporarily froze the account of the nation’s president, sparking a torrent of Internet outrage in Africa’s most populous country.
The minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, made the surprise announcement Friday in the capital, Abuja, citing safety concerns.
Mohammed condemned “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence,” according to a statement from Segun Adeyemi, special assistant to the president.
Officials did not provide further details.
On Wednesday, Twitter removed a post by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, that threatened punishment for separatists in the nation’s southeast that authorities have blamed for attacks on federal property.
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War,” wrote Buhari, a retired general, referring to the 1967-70 conflict. “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
The social media platform said Buhari’s tweet violated its “abusive behavior” policy, removed the post and suspended his account for 12 hours.
Twitter is massively popular in Nigeria. Activists have harnessed the platform to fuel major protest movements in recent years, and government criticism is rampant.
Shortly after the announcement, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, which spread the news, saw its own Twitter account flooded with replies. Many users blasted the irony.
“Using @twitter to announced the suspension of its operation in Nigeria on its platform. Are you alright???” wrote one user.
Authorities did not clarify how and when the ban would start.
One senior official, speaking anonymously to discuss sensitive matters, said he was shocked by the suspension and wasn’t sure how it would work.
People across Nigeria, meanwhile, continued to tweet — including JJ Omojuwa, a podcast host in Lagos with a million followers.
“It’s a disaster,” he said. “It’s a tragedy that the government would even think to do something like this rather than focus on real problems.”
In recent months, attackers in Nigeria’s southeast have ambushed police stations and government buildings, killing several officers and civil servants.
Authorities have pinned the escalating violence on the Eastern Security Network, an armed group that emerged from a secessionist movement called the Indigenous People of Biafra.
For two and a half years in the late 1960s, separatists in the region fought to split from the government and form a new state, Biafra.
Between 500,000 and 3 million people died on the Biafran side, researchers estimate — many from hunger. The Nigerian military faced accusations of war crimes after blocking food supplies for civilians.
Source: Washington Post