Nigerian government-enforced Twitter suspension takes effect

International

FILE (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Millions of Nigerians were unable to access Twitter Saturday after the government enforced an indefinite suspension of the microblogging platform’s operations in Nigeria.

The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria said in a statement that its members have suspended access to Twitter in compliance with a government directive to do so.

The Nigeria government said Friday it was indefinitely suspending Twitter in Africa’s most populous nation, after the company deleted a controversial tweet President Muhammadu Buhari made about a secessionist movement.

Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed said Friday that government officials decided to suspend Twitter because the platform was being used “for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”

Mohammed has criticized Twitter for deleting the post saying: “The mission of Twitter in Nigeria is very suspicious,” adding that Twitter had in the past ignored inciting tweets against the Nigerian government.

Twitter had deleted Buhari’s post on Wednesday after the president threatened suspected militants in the southeast, calling it abusive.

More than 1 million people died during the 1967-1970 civil war that erupted when secessionists from the southeast sought to create an independent Biafra for the ethnic Igbo people. Buhari, an ethnic Fulani, was on the opposing side in the war against the Igbos.

In recent months, pro-Biafra separatists have been accused of attacking police and government buildings, and Buhari vowed to retaliate and “treat them in the language they understand.”

The government’s decision to suspend Twitter is being widely condemned. Amnesty International said it condemns the Nigerian government’s suspension of a social media widely used by Nigerians to exercise their human rights including their rights to freedom of expression and access to information.

“We call on the Nigerian authorities to immediately reverse the unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress the civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights,” Amnesty said in a statement.

The U.S. mission in Nigeria said that Nigeria’s constitution provides for freedom of expression.

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