Nigerian media investors blast Buhari over Twitter ban

Sopuruchi Onwuka

The body of recognized investors in the Nigerian newspaper industry has called on government to immediately rescind its ban on popular social media platform, Twitter, describing the action as “wrong and an overreaction.”

President of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Kabiru A. Yusuf, declared in a signed statement of Saturday that government’s ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria “would not win us friends as closure of public space limits public discourse and democratic advancement.”

“Banning Twitter is regressive and should be rescinded in favour of dialogue,” Mr Yusuf declared, adding that the ban “is a futile exercise in any case, as other platforms are more likely to suspect Nigeria’s intentions towards democratic tenets and act adversarially towards Nigeria.”

President Muhammadu Buhari

In calling for engagement on the matter at issue, NPAN observed that both sides to the dispute are not infallible. It warned government not to play “into the hands of the enemies who are relentless is seeking to destroy and ostracize her.”

The Oracle Today reports that NPAN, along with the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), forms the Nigerian Press Organization (NPO) which presents the position of the Nigerian media on contentious public issues.

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It would be recalled that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari had weekend declared indefinite suspension of the Twitter’s operation in the country. The action followed Twitter’s deletion of the warning of President Muhammadu Buhari to the insurrectionists in South East Nigeria who have been vandalizing the symbols of the authority of the state.

President Buhari had in his tweet warned that the insurgents in the Southeast might be ignorant of the cost of violence and may attract severe sanctions, reminiscent of the 30-month Nigerian civil war, if they persist in unrestrained violence and challenge to the authority of the state.

The NPAN observed that the president’s reference to the nation’s grim civil memories was extreme, pointing out that the pervasive insecurity in the country is not peculiar to the southeast region.

Mr Yusuf pointed that whereas “these lawless ones have been committing arson against public assets like police stations, prisons and the courts; and freeing prisoners from lawful custody, killing policemen and soldiers as well as harmless civilians; it is a state of fear in the South East of Nigeria as in almost all over the country where terrorists, Kidnappers, farmer/herder clashes have almost crippled Nigeria.

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“It is that threat of maximum state reparisal that Twitter found objectionable, according to its stated policy and sanctioned President Buhari with a deletion. This is not the first time Twitter would sanction world leaders for infractions against its stated policy. It did so to President Donald Trump of the United States of America, to global aplomb when Trump instigated violence against the Capitol,” He noted.

NPAN also knocked Tweeter for allowing its platform to be used by the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, for his venomous outbursts against perceived enemies in the country, describing the action of Tweeter as double standard.

“Kanu has used same Twitter not just for serial hate speeches but for actually provoking and justifying violence in his separatist agitations,” Mr Yusuf pointed out, adding that the medium should correct itself.

According to him, “Twitter may have been hasty in sanctioning President Buhari and shown an uneven application of its rules against separatist Kanu, its sincerity stands questioned. It should correct itself.”

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NPAN “thinks that the suspension of Twitters operation by Nigeria is wrong and an overreaction,” he pointed out, noting that “Twitter is a global platform for public communication that has expanded the frontiers of Free Speech and Press Freedom. It is a platform for business that has brought relief to Nigeria’s youthful population who have prospered by its operation.”

“The NPAN believes Twitter as a business is not infallible and can be influenced through high level engagement, to be a more responsive, liberal platform of public good and not a cynical champion of suspicious causes.

 “There should be a compromise: Nigeria needs friends and not enemies at this critical juncture of her existence. She should not play into the hands of the enemies who are relentless is seeking to destroy and ostracise her. Banning Twitter is regressive and should be rescinded in favour of dialogue.”

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