Telecoms operators in Nigeria restricted access to Twitter on Saturday, a day after the government announced its indefinite suspension. Authorities said the social media platform was being used for activities "capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence". International human rights groups have already condemned the move.
The suspension in Africa's most populous country came two days after the social media giant deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari's account for violating its rules.
"The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria," ministry of information and culture spokesman Segun Adeyemi said in a statement on Friday.
Twitter on Wednesday deleted a remark on the president's account after he referred to the country's civil war in a warning about recent unrest in the southeast.
The 78-year-old president, a former general, referred to "those misbehaving" in recent violence in the southeast, where officials blame separatists for attacks on police and election offices.
"Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand," Buhari had posted on Twitter.
The Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) confirmed its members had received formal instructions from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry regulator to suspend access to Twitter.
It said in a statement that a robust assessment of the request had been made and that members had "acted in compliance".
"Network data show that access to the Twitter platform and backend servers is now restricted on leading networks MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile," the London-based internet monitor Netblocks wrote on its website Saturday.
⚠️ Confirmed: Network data show Twitter is restricted for many users in #Nigeria as of Saturday morning following deletion of President's Tweet, as government declares the platform can undermine "Nigeria's corporate existence" #TwitterbaninNigeria 📰 https://t.co/3WahgWmaCk pic.twitter.com/MSSet5Yl7O - NetBlocks (@netblocks) June 5, 2021
Move to stifle civic space
Amnesty International on Friday condemned the moved, calling on Nigeria to "immediately reverse the unlawful suspension".
"This repressive action is a clear attempt to censor dissent & stifle the civic space," Human Rights Watch researcher Anietie Ewang said.
Twitter said that the move was "deeply concerning".
"We're investigating and will provide updates when we know more," the company said in a statement.
Reacting to the government's decision to suspend the platform, the UK's deputy high commissioner in Nigeria Gill Atkinson said "any action taken by government must be measured, proportionate and not suppress basic freedoms."
Several countries including China and Turkey have come under fire for putting restrictions on social media platforms such as Twitter.
In February Twitter condemned Myanmar for blocking access to its platform as part of a crackdown on social media, days after a coup that saw Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders jailed.