On Friday, the federal government announced the suspension of Twitter, the microblogging and social networking service, in Nigeria.
Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, who announced the “indefinite” suspension, cited the continued use of the platform for activities that could undermine the existence of the Nigerian company.
The Twitter suspension comes days after a post from President Muhammadu Buhari on the 1967 civil war was deleted by the microblogging platform.
In one series of messages on Twitter On Tuesday, the president condemned the attacks on government facilities in the country and, citing a reference to the experience of the civil war, threatened to treat those “wanted to destroy” Nigeria “by insurgency” in “a language they understand ”.
Defending Buhari’s post, the information minister condemned the abolition of the post of president and accused Twitter of “double standard”.
Mohammed also added that the mission of the social networking service with regard to Nigeria is “suspect”.
With this ban, Nigeria joins the list of countries like China, Iran, North Korea that have restricted the use of the platform.
IMPACT ON VARIOUS ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES
The ripple effect of the ban will have an impact on economic activities some of which are sources of income for millions of young Nigerians.
Suspension will affect online news platforms that leverage Twitter to expand their reach and bring information closer to the public.
For telecoms, the suspension will also mean lower data revenue, as Twitter remains one of the most popular social media platforms in Nigeria. Telecos are also resolving many of their customer complaints through their social media accounts and also informing them of the latest promotions will need to deploy another means to achieve this in the future.
The popularity of the social media platform has seen a growing number of young Nigerian influencers who are often recruited by PR companies to promote brands. The suspension of Twitter will end their revenue streams and affect the reach of these brands as well.
Fintech companies that don’t have physical branches are using Twitter to educate customers about their product offerings and promotions – all of this will also take a hit and slow down the government’s financial inclusion campaign.
For investment platforms such as Piggyvest, Flutterwave, among others, this latest development will mean a change in their strategy of reaching out to their clients online.
All of this will further slow economic activity when Nigerians grapple with the triple impact of sluggish growth, high unemployment and rising inflation.
The Twitter ban also comes at a time when the country’s economy is only crawling after the pandemic-induced economic contraction. The latest first quarter gross domestic product report released by the National Bureau of Statistics said the country’s economy grew 0.51 percent.
Femi Adeoti, financial analyst, noted that the decision to ban Twitter was ill-conceived.
“But more importantly, it sends the wrong signal to foreign investors and development institutions that the Nigerian government is still suppressing free speech, even after years of democracy.
This is not the first time that government policies and decisions have negatively impacted the country’s economic growth.
In December 2020, Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, tasked the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) with audit subscriber registration database.
The directive required mobile network operators to suspend the sale, registration and activation of new SIM cards until the end of the audit exercise.
The controversial policy denied new entrants to the country access to purchase mobile lines while existing users who wish to recover their lost lines were not allowed access.
The NCC recently announced an extension of the NIN and SIM integration exercise until June 30.
The policy ripple effect has been seen in the first quarter growth for the sector. The information and communications sector, one of the most resilient sectors, recorded a growth rate of 6.47%, the first single-digit growth since the first quarter (Q1) of 2020. The performance of the The sector is the result of sluggish growth of 7.69% in the telecommunications sub-sector – a single-digit growth since the first quarter of 2020 – when it registered a growth of 9.71%.
According to NCC, the number of subscribers in the Nigerian telecommunications market declined by more than 12 million during the period.