Telecommunications operators in Nigeria have blocked access to Twitter after the government slammed an indefinite ban on the social media platform on Friday.
The telcos, under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), said there has been a directive from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to block Nigerians from accessing the platform.
A statement jointly signed by ALTON Chairman and Executive Secretary, Gbenga Adebayo and Gbolahan Awonuga, confirmed this.
It said: “We, the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), wish to confirm that our members have received formal instructions from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry regulator to suspend access to Twitter.
“ALTON has conducted a robust assessment of the request in accordance with internationally accepted principles.
“Based on national interest provisions in the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, and within the licence terms under which the industry operates; our members have acted in compliance with the directives of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) the industry regulator.
“We will continue to engage all the relevant authorities and stakeholders and will act as may be further directed by the NCC.
“We remain committed to supporting the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and upholding the rights of citizens.
“As an industry, we endorse the position of the United Nations that the rights held by people offline must also be protected online. This includes respecting and protecting the rights of all people to communicate, to share information freely and responsibly, and to enjoy privacy and security regarding their data and their use of digital communications.
“The announcement made by the Nigerian government on Twitter’s operations in Nigeria is deeply concerning. We’re investigating and will provide updates when we know more,” Sarah Hart, Twitter’s Senior Policy Communications Manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said in a tweet.
President Buhari had on Tuesday threatened to be resolute against separatists attacking facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), killing security personnel and destroying critical infrastructure in the South East.
Buhari, in his response to INEC’s briefing, said: “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. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
He also posted the statement on his Twitter page but it was pulled down after many petitioned Twitter.
Facebook on Friday also deleted Buhari’s post on the 1967-1970 Civil War.
“In line with our global policies, we’ve removed a post from President Buhari’s Facebook page for violating our Community Standards against inciting violence. We remove any content from individuals or organisations that violates our policies on Facebook,” the platform explained.
Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had on Friday announced Twitter’s indefinite suspension.
Mohammed announced Twitter’s suspension in a statement on Friday by his media aide, Segun Adeyemi.
The suspension of the social networking service was also shared on the Twitter handle of the Federal Ministry of Information, which has since generated reactions from some Nigerians on Twitter.
The Minister cited “the persistent use of the platform for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence” as the reason for the suspension.
Meanwhile, individuals and groups including Amnesty International (AI) have condemned the decision to suspend Twitter, saying it stifles democracy.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) warned it would sue Nigeria for the action while AI termed the action an infringement on the rights to freedom of expression and access to information.
Amnesty said: “We call on authorities to immediately reverse the unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress the civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights.
“This action is clearly inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s international obligations, including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”