On January 13, 2022, Nigerians woke up and could access micro-blogging site Twitter without any virtual private network (VPN).
The last time they could do that was June 6, 2021.
A few days after Twitter took down a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari, he announced via his Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, that the site was suspended in the country.
The news was met with backlash from Nigerians, even as the government warned that those who continued to tweet via whatever means will be prosecuted. This threat was later withdrawn.
The international community and rights organisations viewed the Twitter ban as a blatant fight against media freedom and access to information.
In spite of all this outrage, Buhari remained adamant. Instead, he set up a committee to liaise with Twitter and listed conditions to be met before their operations are restored.
According to Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), some of the agreements that have now been reached with Twitter include legal registration of operations, taxation, and managing prohibited publications in line with Nigerian laws.
Nigerians are taking all of this with a pinch of salt.
Most believe that the lifting of the ban is not unconnected with the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
“Lifted in time for election season,” TV host and political buff, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, tweeted.
UK-based Nigerian doctor, @DrOlufunmilayo, also feels the timing is indeed linked with online and digital campaigns.
He tweeted: “Next year is the election year in Nigeria. Candidates are declaring interests and campaigns will soon start.
“So lifting this Twitter Ban is NOT because they care about the millions of young people’s businesses they have ruined – it’s just for politics’ sake.
The embargo took its toll on the major users of social media, the young demographic, who use it for commerce, PR, information and business.
Chidi Okereke, who boasts of 113k followers on Twitter, tells DAILY POST that the ban infringed on fundamental human rights and freedom of speech.
“It was unconstitutional, stupid and evil. Those who perpetrated it are unfit to lead and those who supported them are unfit to be citizens of this country.
“They basically infringed on Nigerians’ freedom to communicate, engage in commerce and connect, which are the things Twitter helps with.
“They banned it for over 200 days. That shows we are not in a democracy. What we have is a semblance of democracy.
“The Senate did not kick against it. The legislative arm of government was powerless about it and gave the executive a free run. Even the media houses that complied with the ban did not help,” Okereke fumed.
Mixed reactions as Buhari govt lifts ban on Twitter in Nigeria