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Information minister Lai Mohammed

Nigeria suspends Twitter in the country indefinitely

4 June 2021

Nigeria’s information minister said the platform was being used to “undermine” Nigeria, though gave no examples. The US media giant recently deleted a tweet from Nigeria’s president for being “abusive” toward minorities.

Nigeria’s government indefinitely suspended the operations of US social media giant Twitter, according to a statement by Information Minister Lai Mohammed on Friday.

He cited “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence,” and said the government had, “suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service Twitter, in Nigeria.”

Why did Nigeria suspend Twitter?

Though it was not immediately apparent what Mohammed was referring to in announcing the suspension, Twitter did delete a tweet by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, automatically suspending his account for 12 hours.

Twitter labeled a Buhari tweet threatening retaliatory action against the Eastern Security Network (ESN), a regional, pro-Biafran secessionist group blamed for attacks on government and police in Nigeria, “abusive.”   

In it, he referred to the country’s civil war in a warning to those “misbehaving” in the country’s southeast. Buhari, himself a former civil war general, said he would, “treat them in the language they understand.”

Information Minister Mohammed on Wednesday, accused Twitter of hypocrisy for deleting the president’s tweet while ignoring violent messages from a separatist leader. He also called out Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s support for last year’s #EndSARS anti police brutality protests in Nigeria. 

How did Twitter respond?

Twitter on Friday released a statement that it was investigating its “deeply concerning” suspension of operations by the Nigerian government,” adding that it “will provide updates when we know more.”

When asked about when the suspension would begin and what form it would take Information Ministry Special Assistant Segun Adeyemi told news agency AFP, “I can’t answer technicalities … operations will be suspended indefinitely.” 

The platform was still functioning after the announcement was made on Friday.

Africa not afraid to take on big tech

As elsewhere, big tech companies avoid taxation in Africa. Nigeria is currently trying to counter that with an indirect value-added tax (VAT) on digital services. Enshrined in the Finance Act since 2019, the tax goes directly into government coffers.

A second approach would require foreign companies not based in Nigeria to pay taxes on profits they make from digital services there, though experts say it is complex and would not be easily implemented.

A version of this report was published by DW, the German public service broadcaster.

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