Nigeria’s government on Friday said it had suspended Twitter’s activities, two days after the platform removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish secessionists. Nigerian telecoms firms have since blocked access to Twitter.
“Broadcasting stations are hereby advised to de-install Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source… of information gathering for news,” NBC’s director Armstrong Idachaba wrote in a statement.
“It would be unpatriotic for any broadcaster in Nigeria to continue to patronize the suspended Twitter as a source of its information.”
International diplomats responded with a joint statement in support of “free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria.”
Buhari, who was Nigeria’s military ruler in the 1980s, has previously been accused of cracking down on freedom of expression, though his government has denied such accusations.
Twitter has called its suspension “deeply concerning” and said it would work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on the platform to communicate and connect with the world.
More than 39 million Nigerians have a Twitter account, according to NOI polls, a public opinion and research organization.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama summoned diplomats for a meeting Monday in the capital Abuja after the EU and several countries issued a joint statement voicing concerns with the Twitter ban.
“Banning systems of expression is not the answer,” the EU, US, Britain, Canada and Ireland said in the statement late on Saturday.
The statement added it was “precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue and expression of opinions, as well as share vital information in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.”