It was New Year’s eve all over again on Nigerian twittersphere, as the Nigerian Government announced that it was lifting the ban it had placed on twitter in the country. Twitter was to be restored by 12 am, on the 13th of January, 2022. We all kept vigil as we waited for the midnight hour, to confirm the lift of the ban. Lo and behold it was real, as we all started tweeting again. It looks like airtel was the first to comply to the new ruling as some users were still having problems logging onto their favorite social media app. At the beginning of the standoff between the Nigerian Government and twitter, the FG had given twitter a set of conditions to meet, if they are to operate in the country.
One of the conditions is that twitter must open an office in the country. This means business for estate managers, artisans, as well as employment for tons of Nigerians who would run the office. Another condition was that twitter must pay taxes to the country. It is believed that twitter makes billions of naira from its Nigerian users, and it was only of global best practice that they pay tax from the millions of dollars they make (some claim billions). This is supposed to be across board, as other social media & tech companies who do not have offices in the country, but have their services running here; are also expected to open offices in the country. This would have the same ripple effect of more taxes, more jobs and more business for locals. All these terms appear to have been met now.
Twitter has agreed to also enrol Nigeria in its Partner Support and Law Enforcement Portals. This portal is a direct channel through which government officials and twitter staff, can manage prohibited content that violates twitter community rules. It also provides a channel for our law enforcement agencies, to submit reports, with legal justification, where it suspects that contents violate Nigerian laws. Twitter has also agreed to respect our laws and our heritage, upon which our legislation has been built. Twitter has also agreed to work with the FG and the broader industry to develop a code of conduct which is obtainable around the globe. During the ban, twitter’s 3 million Nigerian users were majorly offline, with the exception of a few users and news channels, who used VPN to access twitter. VPN is a Virtual Private Networking tool that allows a user to connect to a remote server, whereby your identity, location and sites you visit are shielded from tracking. Some are free and some run on charges. So most of the users of twitter during the ban were doing so at an extra cost. Now that the ban has been lifted, we all get to enjoy a cheaper twitter, businesses from twitter, while twitter continues to rake in millions from the Nigerian market.
During the ban, all handles of government officials and offices were inactive. They had to resort to disseminating information through other channels or media platforms. So the narrative that government had silenced opposition via the twitter ban is illogical — because it means that it had silenced itself along with the opposition? The ban was 8 months ago and it was hardly a time for politicking. Even as we speak, we are a good 1 year plus away from the elections in 2023, and a few aspirants for the Office of the President, have just begun to express their interests.
Fake news has become very rapacious and is used as a potent tool in stirring up violence, commotion, mayhem and even wars. A single line, unproven, from social media can plung a nation into war. It can create reprisals to attacks that never happened. It can distort facts with fabricated videos and voice commentaries that pitch one community or one religion against the other. It goes viral and before it can even be proven to be an accurate representation of facts; the intended damage has already been done. It takes weeks and months sometimes, to manage the after effects of such fake news. Lives are lost, futures are truncated, and properties worth billions are lost. So the regulation of social media space is very important for any right thinking government. Even private establishments regulate the use of social media by their officers.
Regulation has become paramount, as the govt’s biggest challenge, has been keeping this country one and whole, from the usual suspects of destruction. Nigerian’s may never be able to appreciate the forces we are facing and the true battles we are fighting. Of course the FG is not going to press with the Intel it has on these efforts and their actors. Nigeria is under a satellite telescope, with its every fragment and fibre being assessed for exploitation. Some selfish elements who are willing to be used to cause and spread violence do not care, as they are backed by dual citizenship or offers of new ones. Regulating our media and fine tuning our laws, as well as enforcing them, are impediments to their appetitive aggression. They will never win God willing. Millions of us that have no other country to flee to, have God on our side, receiving and blessing our prayers and aspirations for a better Nigeria. Nigeria has exceeded the time limit of a prophesied break up by over 7 years. God willing Nigeria will conquer all evil thrown at it.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi.