On Friday, June 4, 2021, the Nigerian government announced the “indefinite suspension” of Twitter’s operations in the country. A statement issued by the Ministry of Information and Culture said the microblogging website allowed its platform to be used “for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
The announcement came just days after Twitter deleted a tweet by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari that violated its rules. On Tuesday, June 1, 2021, Buhari, in a tweet, threatened to punish those responsible for attacks on government buildings in the country’s southeast.
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” the 78-year-old wrote, referring to the 1967-70 Nigerian Civil War which killed many.
Twitter deleted the post on Wednesday, and this was not well-received by Information Minister Lai Mohammed, who accused the American social media company of “double standards.”
Nigeria’s government is yet to give details of the ban. Its statement however said that the national broadcasting regulator, NBC, has been told to begin “the process of licensing all OTT [internet streaming services] and social media operations in Nigeria”.
Since the ban was imposed four days ago, many analysts have warned of dire economic consequences on the Nigerian economy and startups that depend on the Twitter platform to reach customers.
According to an analysis by Netblocks’ Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST), the shutdown of Twitter in Nigeria is costing the West African nation up to $220,000 (N90.7 million) per hour. The analysis shows that Nigeria was not only losing money but many startups that relied on Twitter to reach customers are also negatively affected.
Netblock is a data-driven web platform that allows users to rapidly and simply evaluate the economic cost of Internet outages. The web application estimates the economic impact of internet disruption, mobile data blackout, or app restriction using indicators from the World Bank, ITU, Eurostat, and the U.S. Census.
According to their calculation, the ban had cost Nigeria over $14 million (N6 billion) in revenue as of 7:00 am on June 7, 2021. According to the firm, a single-day total internet outage costs more than $100 million (N48.596 billion) in economic value, adding that Nigeria will lose more than $20 million (N10.885 billion) per day if Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Twitter are all shut down.
Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa and has 39 million Twitter users, which is more than the population of Ghana, where Twitter announced that it will be setting up its Africa headquarters. Twitter explained that it chose Ghana over Nigeria because of its democracy, support for free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet.
In an interview with Aljazeera, Gbenga Sesan, executive director of the Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise working on digital inclusion and rights, noted that the Twitter ban sends wrong signals to tech investors.
He added that it has the potential to hurt small businesses that rely on Twitter for their source of livelihood. “Businesses in Nigeria use digital media to reach customers, expose their brands, and communicate with various stakeholders. That will definitely be affected by this erratic decision,” Sesan told Al Jazeera.