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Twitter ban hits six months as Nigeria awaits FG’s decision

By Adeyemi Adepetun
03 December 2021   |   3:02 am
In about two days from now, precisely December 5, it will be exactly six months since the Federal Government banned Twitter operations in Nigeria.

People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/File Photo

Nigerians explore other platforms, but economic losses via suspension rise to N447b
• ALTON, A4AI express worries, want FG to consider the impact on the economy

In about two days from now, precisely December 5, it will be exactly six months since the Federal Government banned Twitter operations in Nigeria.

Though the Federal Government last week claimed that Twitter has met all the demands handed it before it can resume operations in Nigeria, Nigerians are, however, worried that the ban has not been lifted.

Recall that the Federal Government had announced the suspension of Twitter operations in the country on June 4, after the social media giant deleted a post by President Muhammadu Buhari for “violation of the company’s abusive behaviour policy.”

By June 5, the suspension was effected by telecommunications companies as Nigerians woke up to a Twitter shutdown across all platforms.

But in his Independence Day anniversary speech on October 1, President Muhammadu Buhari had sounded like all outstanding issues had been resolved, directing the lifting of the suspension if the organisation meets the government’s conditions. In fact, many headlines misled readers to believe the unbanning was with immediate effect. But about 64 days after Buhari’s October 1 pronouncement, Twitter remains banned with costs spiralling.

The pangs of the ban have been felt by impacted businesses, especially the Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) and government at different levels. They continue to bear the brunt of the suspension while the economy took a hit. It had also brought untold hardship on Nigerians, especially those in the online community.

According to NetBlocks, a watchdog organisation that monitors cyber-security and governance of the Internet, each hour of the suspension costs Nigeria $250,000 (N102.5 million), bringing the daily loss to N2.46 billion. Invariably, it means in the last six months of the ban, the economy might have lost about N447 billion to the suspension.

On November 28, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, stated that Twitter has agreed to all the conditions for the suspension to be lifted.

Keyamo, who is a member of the committee set up to engage Twitter over its suspension, said Twitter has “agreed to all the conditions.”

“The reason why the president took that step is to recalibrate our relationship with Twitter and not to drive them away from our country. That recalibration, we have started it and the president graciously added me to the committee,” he stated.

The Guardian checks showed that most Nigerians, especially those who run their businesses via the microblogging platform, had since switched to platforms including YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, among others to ply their trades.

On Twitter meeting, FG’s demands, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said, “we’re not privy to the understanding between parties, but it goes to say that an agreement of such may not be a plug and play.”

Adebayo said ALTON hopes that parties conclude as soon as practicable in order to minimize the economic loss on users as well as the reputation and social implications of the ban on Nigeria.

“The longer the time, the more we lose as Nigerian users are feeling the impact more than Twitter as a provider is feeling the loss of traffic and revenue,” he stressed.

From his perspective, the Nigerian Coordinator, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Olusola Teniola, said: “I believe the issue may be to do with the fact that timelines for when Twitter will have a physical presence in the country and how taxes may be rendered are still to be ratified. This may now give the FG an opportunity to extend a hand out to Twitter to enable them to feel comfortable with the enabling business environment the government is focusing on.”