This decision has clearly been taken because the government thinks Twitter is being used to make it look bad. But banning Twitter makes is look worse. My advice to the government is this – you look unwise and frightened and you need to think again.
As a both a digital democracy campaigner and an entrepreneur I am extremely alarmed by this decision, which is economically illiterate and democratically unacceptable – President Buhari must reconsider before serious damage is done to both Nigeria’s economy and our international reputation.
“An official report by the World Bank has reported that digital entrepreneurship has the potential to become ‘an engine of economic transformation in Nigeria and set the country on a new growth trajectory’. Official figures suggest that 14% of our GDP is directly dependent on digital communications – with many more key economic sectors dependent on it for productivity.
At a time of economic uncertainty and mass unemployment the government needs to be encouraging international technology firms to invest in Nigeria, and new innovative companies to start up and scale up. Sending the message that Nigeria has a government which is likely to declare war on technology companies every time it reads something it doesn’t like does our nation no favours at all.
The worst part of this is for the government is that this move is unlikely to work. Previous attempts to limit access to social media in Nigeria have proven utterly unenforceable and completely ineffective because social media users have time and time again come up with ways of bypassing the obstacles placed in their way by the authorities. The only thing worse than a ban on Twitter is a ban on Twitter that doesn’t work!
Our constitution clearly protects the right to freedom of expression and in 2021 that expression inevitably takes place online, with almost two-thirds of Nigerians using Twitter. Restricting that right is unjustifiable in a democratic society.
As I have repeatedly said in recent weeks, social media holds the key not to dividing Nigeria. Platforms like our own Rate Your Leader empower electors and elected to come together to address matters of mutual concern and to collaborate to make things better.
This sort of engagement, which social media platforms enable, is the first step towards building a society where everyone has a stake. It is the first step towards building trust between people and politicians and moving forward together as a nation.
The problems faced by our nation can feel insurmountable. But they are not, as long as we work together and utilise the technology of the digital age to bring us together.
“We need to build bridges. Digital technology allows us to do that, but the government seems determined only to build walls.”
Statement by Joel Popoola on the banning of Twitter in Nigeria, digital democracy campaigner and founder of Rate Your Leader: