Nigerians criticise NASS for keeping silent on Twitter ban

FOLLOWING the swiftness with which the Federal Government enforced Twitter suspension in Nigeria and compliance by telecoms service providers, experts have lampooned Nigeria’s representatives at the National Assembly for their silence,  saying that it is not healthy for a liberal democracy.

They express concern that various committees with oversight function over the telecommunications sector at the Senate and the House of Representatives have remained silent, despite the ban’s negative impact on livelihoods of millions of Nigerians.

Apart from the House of Representatives minority caucus and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who have spoken up against the ban, the committees on the ICT from both houses have been silent, which is a poor signal for Nigeria’s quest for liberal democracy, analysts say.

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“Millions of people have their livelihoods tied to Twitter and social media. We also have people specialising in influencing on the social media, who have their livelihoods attacked by this decision. I wonder why our representatives at the National Assembly are not speaking out to this since they are representatives of the people,” a media personality and Bbnaija star Tacha Adike said in a Channels Television-monitored programme on Sunday in Abuja.

“Twitter has millions of Nigerians on its platform. Most of us reach out to a larger audience on this platform. There are small businesses thriving on this platform, there are families surviving through businesses on this platform. The government has to re-think its strategy on suspension of Twitter, for it has provided a sustainable means of livelihood for several Nigerians,” Tacha noted.

Speaking further on the Twitter suspension, David Hundeyin, who described Twitter as the official opposition party in the country, said the ban signposted weak media freedom in Nigeria.

“Specifically, the type of engagement that goes on in Twitter are more critical and contains more critical reasoning, the type that the Nigerian government doesn’t want to see. Twitter is more intellectual and there are studies proving this. Twitter is effectively an opposition party in Nigeria,” Hundeyin said.

He called on the National Assembly and other elected representatives to rise up to the occasion and take up the issue.

“The elected representatives need to understand that this is a fight for everyone now,” he noted.

Legal practitioner Timi Olagunju called on Nigerians to engage the elected representatives on the need to address concerns raised by the Nigerian people on government’s suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.

“We have more of a presidency than a president. My heartfelt sympathy goes to media houses for if a single tweet could cause this ban, then there is more to it,” he said.

“The ban is in violation of several treaties signed by the Nigerian government on freedom of expression,” he stressed.

Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.

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