SENIOR Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, on Saturday evening, reacted to the controversy surrounding the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, stating that Buhari’s deleted tweet on dealing with Biafra agitators ‘in a language they understand’ was a statement of fact, and not a threat.
Garba Shehu said the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) posed a major threat to the safety and security of Nigerians.
In a statement, Shehu said the president’s tweet was meant to emphasise the Federal Government’s readiness to match forces with IPOB over its continued disturbances in South East, Nigeria.
“The tweet was not a threat, but a statement of fact…When the President said that they will be treated in a language they understand, he merely reiterated that their force shall be met with force. It is a basic principle of security services response the world over.
“This is not a promotion of hate, but a pledge to uphold citizens’ right to freedom from harm. The government cannot be expected to capitulate to terrorists.”
He faulted Twitter for deleting Buhari’s tweet.
Describing the action as disappointing and ridiculous, the presidential aide stated that the social media platform should be sensitive to the current security situation in the country.
He said IPOB members had murdered innocent Nigerians, killed policemen, and set government properties ablaze, alleging that the agitators had also amassed a substantial stockpile of weapons and bombs across the country.
Twitter’s temporary suspension, he stated, was not just a response to the removal of the president’s post. He said the micro-blogging platform was fuelling misinformation capable of disrupting the nation.
According to Shehu, the trend had remained despite repeated warnings from the Buhari-led administration.
“The temporary suspension of Twitter is not just a response to the removal of the President’s post. There has been a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real-world violent consequences. All the while, the company has escaped accountability.
“Nevertheless, the removal of President Buhari’s tweet was disappointing. The censoring seemed based on a misunderstanding of the challenges Nigeria faces today.
“Major tech companies must be alive to their responsibilities. They cannot be allowed to continue to facilitate the spread of religious, racist, xenophobic, and false messages capable of inciting whole communities against each other, leading to the loss of many lives. This could tear some countries apart,” the statement read in part.
“Twitter does not seem to appreciate the national trauma of our country’s civil war. This government shall not allow a recurrence of that tragedy,” Shehu added.
However, the Federal Government has been receiving backlashes from local and international actors since its decision to ban Twitter.
The United States, Swedish governments, lawyers, civil society organisations (CSOs), among others, have all kicked against the decision.
Nigerians have also resolved to use the Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in order to maintain access to the social media platform.
But the use of VPN has also received a stiff reaction from the government as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami has directed the Department of Public Prosecution to partner with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to prosecute violators of Twitter ban.