Nigeria’s attorney general Abubakar Malami Saturday said the country will prosecute those who flout the government order to deactivate operations of twitter in the West African nation.
Nigeria announced on Friday that it has suspended Twitter from operating in the country after a face-off between the authorities and the social media giant escalated earlier in the week.
The ban came into effect on Saturday with millions of users blocked from accessing the site. Many young Nigerians are, however, circumventing the ban by using virtual private networks (VPN).
Malami’s statement was, however, silent on who will be prosecuted: the ISP who did not block Twitter access fast enough or those who still use the site despite the ban.
“Malami directed the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF) at the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to swing into action and commence in earnest the process of prosecution of violators of the Federal Government De-activation of operations of Twitter in Nigeria,” said Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, spokesman to Malami, on Saturday.
“Malami directed the DPPF to liaise with the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, National Communication Communication (NCC) and other relevant government agencies to ensure the speedy prosecution of offenders without any further delay.”
The Buhari government has always viewed Twitter with suspicion. It blamed the social media giant for the escalation of the #EndSARS protests against police brutality last October.
Then the company snubbed Nigeria for Ghana when it decided to cite its first African office.
The relationship got worse this week.
A tweet by the President Muhammadu Buhari evoking the dark memories of the Nigerian Civil War was deleted by Twitter on Wednesday, with the platform saying the tweet violated its “abusive behaviour” rules.
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War,” Buhari tweeted. “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.
Twitter’s action came after the offensive tweet was reported, with many calling for the suspension of the president from the social media platform.
The Nigerian government reacted on Thursday by casting doubt on the operations of Twitter in the country.
Nigeria’s information and culture minister Lai Mohammed told a press conference on Thursday that the social media giant has deliberately ignored inciting tweets by Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and his cohorts.
Mohammed claimed Twitter displayed the same biases during the #EndSARS protests.
“The mission of Twitter in Nigeria is very, very suspect,” Mohammed said on Thursday.
“Has Twitter deleted the violent tweets that Nnamdi Kanu has been sending? Has it? The same Twitter during the #EndSARS protests that was funding #EndSARS protesters?”
The culmination of the spat was the ban.
“The announcement made by the Nigerian Government that they have suspended Twitter’s operations in Nigeria is deeply concerning,” Twitter said in a statement, adding that it was investigating the matter.