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Opinions of Monday, 7 June 2021

Columnist: Chido Nwakanma

Twitter ban: Decree 4 of 1984 reloaded

Nigeria suspends Twitter operations in Nigeria indefinitely Nigeria suspends Twitter operations in Nigeria indefinitely

The Federal Government led by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), took Nigeria back to 1984 on June 4, 2021 with the announcement of a ban on the microblogging social media app, Twitter. To many discerning observers, it was déjà vu and back to the past. Nigeria has been working and walking to this end over the last four years.

Twitter’s offence was deleting a tweet by Buhari that it considered offensive because it amounted to hate speech. Facebook has also joined Twitter to pronounce the post offensive. Will Nigeria also ban Facebook?

What does it really mean? It is best to appreciate the situation by looking at the statistics and impact of these platforms.

Twitter is the sixth social media platform by Active Users globally. Research shows that 16 per cent of West Africans use social media. The numbers for Nigeria are huge and instructive.

There were 104.4 million Internet users in Nigeria as of January 2021. Research by Hootsuite states that the number of Internet users increased by 19 million (+22%) between 2020 and 2021. Internet penetration in Nigeria stood at 50.0% in January 2021.

There were 33.00 million social media users in Nigeria in January 2021, increasing by 6.0 million or 22 per cent between 2020 and 2021. The number of social media users in Nigeria was equivalent to 15.8% of the total population in January 2021.

Twitter clocked sixth position on the ranking of social media platforms in Nigeria. WhatsApp is number one with a market share of 93 per cent followed by Facebook.

Facebook lists 29 million users in Nigeria. Conversely, there are only 3.05 million Nigerians on Twitter. It ranks lower than even LinkedIn (5.70 million), Instagram (8.40 million), YouTube (30 million) and WhatsApp (90 million).

WhatsApp is the real deal in Nigeria. Banning Twitter is like winking at a girl in the dark. The Buhari regime may think that it has done something, but Twitter would hardly notice nor would its users.

Nigerians should brace themselves for the planned ban on other social media platforms. It is aimed at the media. The upside is that repression of the media by the same Buhari using Decree 4 in 1984 forced it to grow and made citizens more discerning.

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