from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA – THE United States government has denounced the ongoing suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government.
It criticised the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for the subsequent threats to arrest and prosecute Nigerians who use the American micro-blogging and social networking service.
Ned Price, the US Department of State spokesperson, said his government of President Joe Biden was likewise concerned that the Nigerian National Broadcasting Commission had ordered all television and radio broadcasters to cease using Twitter.
“Unduly restricting the ability of Nigerians to report, gather, and disseminate opinions and information has no place in a democracy,” Price said.
He added, “Freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies.”
Nonetheless, the envoy pledged his country’s support as Nigeria worked towards unity, peace and prosperity.
“As its partner, we call on the government to respect its citizens’ right to freedom of expression by reversing this suspension.”
The suspension of Twitter came after the site removed a post by Buhari for violating its rules.
Buhari’s tweet alluded to the 1967-70 Nigerian civil war.
The warning that “those misbehaving today” would be responded to in “the language they will understand” was a warning to perpetrators of the violence accompanying protests for the secession of the southern parts of the country.
Buhari’s government has been quoted as slamming Twitter’s move as “unfair” but this has not spared it criticism locally.
“The suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government is a jackboot experiment. It cannot be defended, rationalised or excused in anyway. Internet freedom is as basic as the right to life and the right to freedom of expression,” said analyst, Frederick Nwabufo.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and most populous country is losing N2,18 billion (US$5,278 billion) per day owing to the Twitter shutdown, according to data-driven online service NetBlocks.
Buhari ruled the West African country as an iron-fisted a dictator from 1982 before he was overthrown in a coup.
He was elected in 2015 promising he was a democrat but retained his old image as a staunch anti-corruption fighter.
– CAJ News