How hardship knocks Twitter vendors over ban 


witter vendors who found it easy using the microblogging social network platform to promote their businesses are still lamenting over its ban as it stalls business activities thereby causing more hardship. ADEOLA TUKURU reports.

 Business owners across the country are expressing concern over the ban on Twitter activities by the federal government, thereby stalling the promotion of their businesses as it has affected tweeps who use the microblogging platform to promote their trade .Business Starter notes that on June, 4th, 2021, the federal government announced the suspension of Twitter operations in the country. The indefinite ban was imposed two days after Twitter removed messages posted by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened secessionists with punishment. FG’s stand on Twitter ban The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed has insisted that social media firms must register a local unit and obtain a license if they wish to offer services in the market. According to him, for Twitter to operate in Nigeria, they must first be a Nigerian company and be licensed by the broadcasting commission.He also confirmed that Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram had not been suspended, but did not specify whether they would need to register and obtain a license. 

The minister further said that companies would need to meet certain conditions to continue operating, but provided no specifics.He said that some social media firms had been informed of the new government requirements but didn’t mention a deadline for registration or licensing. Effect of ban on Twitter vendors When Business Starter sampled the opinions of Twitter vendors who trade through the platform, one Cynthia Daniel, who sells shoes and bags explained that she get orders from her followers whenever she post new sales on Twitter.Cynthia whose Twitter signature is @4Shoe/Bag said she started the business in 2017 when she lost her elder brother who was her breadwinner.The 300 level student of the University of Abuja said she started fending for herself on Twitter sales to make ends meet and also to train herself through the University. “When my elder brother died and no one to take care of my needs, I started the online business and I must say that it hasn’t been bad since then .“My followers order for shoes and bags and I make sales. It is from the money I make that I train myself through school and take care of my needs,” she said. Another trader, Ifeoluwa Adedeji who is also into online clothing said her life had experienced a turnaround since she started advertising her clothing lines on Twitter because she enjoyed a good patronage from other Twitter users. 

Many young Nigerian entrepreneurs depended on Twitter to advertise their goods and services as the platform provides access to a large number of customers.Ife explained that what made the platform unique was that it cost nothing to advertise her goods and services, unlike other social media platforms where she would pay before advertising. Also, one Ernest Okeke a customer from Twitter believes that the move to form part of a wider crackdown on freedom of expression in Nigeria , with critics claiming that the government of former military ruler Buhari is pushing back in the direction of the decades of military rule endured by Nigeria during the 20th century . Another Twitter vendor , Hannah Michaels lamented that since all of her customers were Twitter users, the ban had in less than one week nearly stunted her business and crippled her source of livelihood.She said most of her customers were busy professionals and business people who checked Twitter for news updates and when they checked her account, they patronized her to save time they would have lost going to the market. She said some of her customers didn’t migrate to VPN or stopped Twitting for fear of being arrested and prosecuted by the government.CSO’s reaction on Twitter ban The Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, has reacted to the recent ban of Twitter by the federal government of Nigeria, saying that it is not only a step backward for the Youth Digital Engagement (YDE) project campaign, but it also threatens the civic space in Nigeria which has continued to shrink in recent years.Obi stated this on Tuesday at the Youth Digital Engagement (YDE) Project Consortium during the Project closeout and dissemination meeting held in Abuja.Ene called on the Nigerian government to rescind its decision as it has a huge impact on the lives of emerging young entrepreneurs who depend on the social media for their livelihood.She further said it is also a counter productive move for a nation seeking to create more jobs and reduce poverty as part of its post COVID-19 recovery strategy.Also, the  Peoples Alternative Political Movement (TPAP-M), said they received with a sense of justified outrage the so-called ban on the operations of Twitter in Nigeria by Nigeria’s incompetent, and increasingly authoritarian and tyrannical government.TPAP-M Secretariat, Omotoye OlorodeJaye Gaskia who spoke on behalf of the group condemned  this unconscionable act of impunity on the part of a failing government and insecure ruling class; even as we totally reject the so-called ban, and the consequent attempts by the regime to criminalise engagement on and with the social media platform – Twitter.They said if this government has an issue with Twitter with respect to the taking down of President Buhari’s totally unpresidential post, then it should make its case and it is within its rights to boycott Twitter.“But this act of generalising the grievance of the presidency as the grievance of Nigerians, and of taking the unprecedented step of preventing other citizens from accessing the platform by fiat is not only illegal and unconstitutional, it us also further indication of the highly intolerant character of this regime, as well as manifestation of the increasing and seemingly unhinged tendency of this regime to obliterate the civic space.

“We call on all freedom living Nigerians to defy the ban on Twitter, not only as a reaffirmation of their rights to freedom of expression, but also as an act of defiance and civil disobedience to protect and preserve our fundamental human rights.“Towards this end, we call for the immediate and unconstitutional release of all those arrested in connection with the unconstitutional ban; while we also express the readiness of the TPAP-M to offer legal services in defense of all those arrested in connection with this illegitimate act of government, just as we pledge our commitment to legally defend all those who maybe subjected to state harassment on occasion of their act of defiance of the unconstitutional ban.“The legal defense commission of TPAP-M has been put on notice and has been mobilised to respond to this illegitimate, unwarranted and outrageous assault on our collective dignity and rights.As Fidel Castro once said, ‘in a lawless society, it is illegal to be law abiding’.

In this context, it will be demeaning of our humanity and dignity to obey, and not to defy an illegal act of the state.”Lawsuit on FG over suspension of micro blogging platform, Twitter Also, the Civil society organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit against the federal government at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Abuja over the government’s suspension of micro blogging platform, Twitter.The suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21 was filed on Tuesday by Solicitor to SERAP and human rights activist, Femi Falana, SAN.SERAP also argued the “suspension of Twitter is aimed at intimidating and stopping Nigerians from using Twitter and other social media platforms to assess government policies, expose corruption, and criticize acts of official impunity by the agents of the Federal Government.”In the suit, SERAP and the concerned Nigerians sought, “An order of interim injunction restraining the Federal Government from implementing its suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and subjecting anyone including media houses, broadcast stations using Twitter in Nigeria, to harassment, intimidation, arrest and criminal prosecution, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”

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