Abuja, Nigeria – Samuel Abraham, an Abuja based Business and Development Leadership Consultant discovered early on Sunday morning that he could no longer access Twitter on his phone. This was barely 48 hours after Segun Adeyemi, the spokesman for the Ministry of information and culture announced the Federal Government’s suspension of Twitter in Nigeria on Friday 4th June 2021.
“I felt very pained and disappointed, aside Twitter being an unofficial current affair media where new and evident based information can be accessed, it also serves as a medium of pushing out quality content to information consumers” said Samuel who has switched to other Social media platforms already.
The Twitter ban which was triggered when the social media platform deleted President Buhari tweet for being genocidal and going against Twitter rules has received global condemnation from the United States, the United Kingdom, European Union, Canada and several civil society organisations who all maintain that the ban is undemocratic, unconstitutional and an attempt to clamp down on freedom of speech.
Analysts say the Twitter ban is an attempt by the Federal government to foist the draconian and the plagiarised Singaporean Hate Speech and Social Media Bill which was overwhelmingly condemned by Nigerians at the public hearing held by the National Assembly last year.
In today’s digitalised, technological and digital media-driven era, the internet and notably Social Media platforms have become veritable and essential tool for information sharing, business marketing, civic engagement and remote work. The Nigerian creative sector which includes digital media, entertainment, visual arts etc but largely driven by social media currently employs about 4.2 million people with potential to create an additional 2.7 million jobs in the next 4-5 years
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, ICT and Finance emerged as the two fastest-growing sectors with growth rates of 12.9% and 9.4%, respectively. This goes to show that digital economy remains quite sacrosanct in driving the country’s economic recovery from the devastating fall out of the novel covid 19 pandemic.
“lots of marketing and communication companies are still counting their losses because Twitter is a platform for most SMEs and enterprises to interact seamlessly with both potential and current customers” Ikemesit Effiong, Head of Research at SBM Intelligence, a geo-political-risk analysis firm said.
“it [the Twitter ban] also deepens the impression that the current administration is not business friendly”
The financial impact of Twitter ban is one that has been gigantic for Nigerian businesses across all sectors. The Alliance for Affordable Internet estimated the economic loss of the Twitter ban at $1.2b while NetBlocks, a global internet monitor revealed that the continuous existence of the Twitter ban costs Nigeria $250,000 (N102.5 million).
The effect of the ban on young Nigerians who make a living from jobs on Twitter such as social media influencing, social media management, sales vendors, digital marketers (who focus on Twitter Ads) amongst others remains huge. A Twitter influencer with handle @uncle2triplets revealed how he lost a digital marketing gig that was meant to commence on the 10th of June because of the ban.
“I would have needed not less than 15 other influencers [for this gig]. The company no longer wants to do anything relating to Twitter at all, [it’s really painful because] I have waited a long time for this” he tweeted.
The Governor of Oyo State Seyi Makinde also tweeted in favour of the economic merits of Twitter in Nigeria
“We should also remember that Twitter has gone beyond a source of communication for many of our hardworking youths in Nigeria. It has become a source of livelihood for many, irrespective of their political affiliations or religious leanings. Nigerian youths and digital communications organizations earn a living from being able to use the platform to post communications on behalf of their clients,”
Since the advent of the Corona virus a lot of organisations and individuals do more business online and Twitter is a major facilitator. The customer service sector which Twitter has boomed and revolutionised has been dealt a great blow by the Twitter ban.
“a lot of Nigerians myself included rely on Twitter to get quick customer service from Telcos, Banks etc, even the [Federal Government operated] Empower advices people to look out for more information from their Twitter page “ Odinakachi Nwafor, a Digital Inclusion Program Assistant at Paradigm Initiative, a Digital Right Advocacy group told our reporter.
Mr Oladotun Roy of Dotun Roy Media also explained how his media outfit has suffered revenue loss as a result of the Ban, “ There are jobs that we can’t take because Twitter is down, several campaigns that is perfect for Twitter had to be turned down by Dotun Roy Media”
As the Twitter Ban in Nigeria enters its 5th week, Nigerians have resorted to using virtual private networks(VPNs), that obscure one’s real location and allows you to establish a private and anonymous connection to circumvent the Twitter Ban, Effiong posits that “ because Nigerians have migrated to using VPNs, this administration has inadvertently provided Nigerians with more visibility to air their grievances internationally”.
Nigerians using VPNs have been trending the #TwitterBan and other hashtags in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and other western countries. This seems like the only positive impact of the ban, however this bodes no respite for businesses who have seen engagement on Twitter reduce drastically.
Many Nigerians are still not comfortable with the idea of using VPNs to access twitter due to various reasons ranging from fear of data breach to the psychological effect of the Federal government ban. And even though the ECOWAS Court of Justice has restrained the Federal Government from arresting and prosecuting Nigerians who are still tweeting with the aid of VPNs, most Nigerians have already migrated to other social media platforms.
Pro government supporters have called on Nigerians to use the Twitter ban as an accelerator for tech and social media app start-ups, however Effiong insists that “ Twitter has multiple leverage in a table with the Nigerian government [being a US Company] and yet got suspended, Nigerian tech entrepreneurs have almost no leverage in a tussle with the government and could easily find themselves at the business end of the government’s regulating hammer”.
The federal government has set up a committee headed by Lia Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture to engage in high level discussion with Twitter on the 22nd of June. While the country awaits the result of this high level meeting, Samuel is one of those averse to the idea of using VPN and has turned to Facebook, Instagram and Medium as alternatives.
“I do have a complete detest for the ban and how it happened, I’d admonish the government to remove the ban and allow freedom of communication at all cost especially as it is a fundamental human right”.
Chinonso Kenneth Onwurah
Research Writer And Solution Journalist.
Butterfly Works (Netherlands) Design Thinking Alumnus