A pro-democracy group, Yiaga Africa, has expressed dismay over the indefinite suspension of Twitter services in Nigeria by the federal government and subsequent directive that all Over-The-Top (OTT) services must be licensed by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) before they can operate within Nigeria.
The group also expressed concern that the federal government’s action came at a time when nations around the world are building mutually constructive relationships with citizens through diverse channels of communication, while the Nigerian government is imposing a ban on a platform where citizens engage in public conversation, public policy scrutiny, and civic engagement.
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Director of Programmes in Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, in a statement on Saturday, said the suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government was antithetical to democratic principles, adding that it portends a great threat to the freedom of speech and expression.
She said: “Twitter, as well as other social media platforms, has emerged as a veritable tool for fostering direct and deliberative democracy by providing a space for citizens to express their opinions, ask difficult questions, and demand accountability from their leaders.
“Interestingly, the Nigerian government also employs the Twitter platform to engage with citizens on public policy matters.
“This decision coupled with the ill-thought-out policy directive on licensing of over-the-top (OTT) platforms sends a dangerous signal to the world that Nigeria is not open for investments, particularly in the technology and entertainment sector.
“These two sectors have experienced steady growth in recent years and created value through job creation for young people and sustained exports from Nigeria.
“It is our considered opinion that the suspension of Twitter affirms the shrinking civic space in Nigeria.
“Democracy cannot thrive in an oppressed civic space where the government opposes any form of dissent or opposition and shuts down easy and accessible channels of communication at will.
“To this end, we call on the federal government to reverse this decision immediately and to refrain from the further assault on press freedom, freedom of expression, and free speech.
“Yiaga Africa urges other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc to continue to uphold their commitment to sanitizing the digital ecosystem by eliminating all forms of hate and harmful content on their platforms regardless of the status of the individuals or groups utilising their platforms to propagate hate speech and misinformation,” she said.