Nigeria says Twitter suspension isn’t just about leader’s tweet

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari poses before the opening session of the Summit on the Financing of African Economies on May 18, 2021 in Paris. (LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL / AFP)

Nigeria’s government said its ban on Twitter was “temporary” and the result of broader grievances than the company’s deletion of a post by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Telecommunications operators shut down remaining links to Twitter on government orders hours earlier on Saturday.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who briefly led a military dictatorship during the 1980s, ran afoul of Twitter’s rules with a threat to crack down on separatists waging a rebellion in southeastern Nigeria. The tweet was deleted two days ago

“There has been a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real world violent consequences,” Garba Shehu, a spokesperson for Buhari, said in an emailed statement. “All the while, the company has escaped accountability.”

Buhari, who briefly led a military dictatorship during the 1980s, ran afoul of Twitter’s rules with a threat to crack down on separatists waging a rebellion in southeastern Nigeria. The tweet was deleted two days ago.

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He said those who fought in Nigeria’s three-year civil war that ended in 1970, including the 78-year-old head of state himself, will treat those “misbehaving” today “in the language they understand.”

The result is the latest tussle between social media and political leaders. Twitter “permanently suspended” Donald Trump after the storming of the US Capitol in January and Facebook Inc said this week it’s keeping the former president off its networks for at least two years.

While Shehu didn’t say when access to Twitter would be restored, the statement pulled back from an earlier declaration that the suspension was indefinite.

“The temporary suspension of Twitter is not just a response to the removal of the President’s post,” Shehu said.

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Twitter’s app is popular with young urban Nigerians, ranking as the sixth-most used social media platform in the country, and its suspension caused an outcry. The company said it was concerned by the move and will work to restore access.