Buhari’s Twitter ban undermines Nigerians’ human rights and fundamental freedoms

Buhari’s Twitter ban undermines Nigerians’ human rights and fundamental freedoms
Buhari and Biden

The United States has expressed worry at the order given by the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) that all social media platforms operating in Nigeria must register and obtain a licence, including the ban on Twitter.

WuzupNigeria, quoting Netblocks, reported that the ban on Twitter has cost the country the sum of N111.03 billion between Saturday, June 5 when the Twitter ban took effect to Monday, July 26, 2021, a figure that would increase to $366,877,817 (NGN 132,802,432,084) by the end of 61 days which is August 5.

Buhari cited the spread of false information and "activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence" for the ban which was announced on June 4.

A follow-up statement by Nigeria's information minister, Lai Mohammed, revealed that the Buhari regime would not allow social media platforms to operate in the country without registration or payment of tax.

Mohammed said, "Whether it is Netflix, Iroko, or Facebook…they are all doing business in Nigeria, making money, and they are not paying taxes. This is in addition to being able to regulate them. They are making billions of naira out of this country and they are not paying tax. That can't be allowed to go on."

Speaking during an event tagged 'A Conversation on Press Freedom, Freedom of Expression and Civic Space in Nigeria,' the US consulate, through its Consul general, Claire Pierangelo, described the suspension and directive as worrisome, according to GazzetteNGR.

She said, "Nigerian government's ongoing suspension of Twitter and stated intent to introduce registration requirements for other social media platforms are deeply worrisome.

"Banning or significantly restricting social media, including under threat of prosecution, undermines Nigerians' human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Noting that a free press is a core pillar to a democracy, Ms Pierangelo noted that "the Biden-Harris administration is committed to putting human rights at the heart of our foreign policy, and that includes press freedom and freedom of expression."

The American envoy added, "In the same breath, history is full of cautionary tales showing that when governments try to limit citizens' right to talk about certain topics, important conversations are pushed into the shadows allowing individuals to express their opinions — no matter how much the government and other citizens may disagree with them. Rigorous debate promotes transparency and social stability."

Ms Pierangelo expressed concerns that the Buhari regime's orders have significant consequences on the freedom of the press and she admonished the media to remain vigilant to protect the right to freedom of expression and fulfill its civic purpose of reporting accurately and not function as a public relations mouthpiece for the government.

She however revealed that the U.S. was encouraged by the meetings between Twitter and the regime to resolve the suspension.

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