NIGERIA is believed to have lost a total of $360m in economic revenue from the suspension of the social media platform Twitter over the 100 days that embargo has been in place according to a group of social enterprises.
In June this year, the Nigerian government banned the use of Twitter across the country after the platform deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari. This ban attracted widespread condemnation from civil society groups with the Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Project (Serap) and 176 concerned Nigerians taking the government to the Economic Community of West Africa (Ecowas) court.
Since then, negotiations have been ongoing with the two sides as Nigerian celebrities and businesses have also attacked the ban, saying it is costing them money. According to Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s information minister, there is now an end in sight and both sides are confident of an amicable settlement.
Yesterday, however, a coalition of social enterprises, made up of groups like Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE), Paradigm Initiative (Pin), Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and Serap, said the ban was contradictory to the government’s economic drive promoting national development. Pin executive director Gbenga Sesan, noted that as far as they are concerned, the ban remains illegal as the rule of law must prevail in a democratic dispensation.
Citing NetBlocks, Mr Sesan said the blockade costs Nigeria’s economy $250,600 every hour over the last 2,400 hours since the federal government banned the platform in the country. His group, which is advocating for digital rights and freedom of speech, alleged that the government has been making up reasons for the continued suspension.
Mr Sesan said: “Suspending Twitter in Nigeria is illegal and we are saying it categorically, as we expect the court to support what we have said because the order to suspend the telecommunications companies was not done with a court warrant. Maybe they can now come up with a backdated court warrant, well at that time, the court was on strike, so there was no way they would have obtained it.
“Please do not forget that at the beginning they said the reason for the ban was to free the space from the activities of terrorists and then they claimed it is now safe. My question is if it is now safe why is the suspension still on?”
MRA programme director, NetBlocks, said EIE Nigeria has filed a N5bn claim at the federal High court in Lagos against four mobile telecommunications operators in Nigeria over the blocking of access to Twitter, in a class action on behalf of the companies’ subscribers, including PIN and MRA.
He added: “This action is founded on the belief that the telecommunications operators have no legal authority to block our access to Twitter. MRA filed a separate suit against the National Broadcasting Commission challenging its powers to licence social media platforms, following its announcement calling on all social media platforms operating or seeking to operate in Nigeria to register with the commission and obtain a licence.”