The Presidency on Saturday said its decision to ban Twitter wasn’t a “knee-jerk reaction” to the social media network’s deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweets.
According to a statement signed by spokesman Garba Shehu, Twitter has long been accused of spreading “misinformation and fake news” which can have “real world violent consequences.”
“The temporary suspension of Twitter is not just a response to the removal of the President’s post,” the statement said.
“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.
“Major tech companies must be alive to their responsibilities. 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. This could tear some countries apart.”
The Federal Government announced an “indefinite suspension” of Twitter operations in Nigeria on Friday.
By early Saturday, users across the network started to experience difficulties in accessing the service and many resorted to using Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
The decision to suspend Twitter has been criticised by many, but the Presidency in its Saturday statement insisted it was a justified move
“. . . the removal of President Buhari’s tweet was disappointing,” the statement said. “The censoring seemed based on a misunderstanding of the challenges Nigeria faces today.”
The tweet deleted by Twitter had referenced the Nigerian civil war, in which millions of Igbo died, many due to starvation.
Buhari had threatened to deal with IPOB “in the language they understand”, a statement many interpreted as a repeat of the civil war injustices meted out to Igbos.
IPOB is a group, proscribed by a Nigerian court, seeking secession of a chunk of Southern Nigeria.
“The tweet was not a threat, but a statement of fact,” Mr. Shehu’s statement said.
“A terrorist organisation (IPOB) poses a significant threat to the safety and security of Nigerian citizens.
“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.
“This is not promotion of hate, but a pledge to uphold citizens’ right to freedom from harm. The government cannot be expected to capitulate to terrorists.
“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.
“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.”