AS reactions continue to trail the Nigerian government’s indefinite ban on Twitter on Friday which became effective on Saturday, many Nigerians are becoming digital migrants as they turn to the Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology to remain active on the platform.
Although telecommunication companies in Nigeria including MTN, Airtel, Glo and 9Mobile started blocking access to the Twitter site on Saturday, a VPN allows you to access regionally restricted content from anywhere in the world.
It works by routing your device’s internet connection through your chosen VPN’s private server rather than your internet service provider (ISP) so that when your data is transmitted to the internet, it comes from the VPN rather than your computer.
A VPN connection is also secure against external attacks as it creates a private ‘tunnel’ from your device to the internet and hides your vital data through something that is known as encryption. This disguises your IP address when you use the internet, making its location invisible to everyone.
Although Nigerians are still able to use the platform since the ban was announced, some have already started downloading free VPNs such as: Windscribe, USA VPN, Nord, PIA and IPvanish, to guarantee their continuous use of the platform.
Nigerians in the diaspora, who ordinarily would not be affected by the suspension, have also sworn to amplify the voices during this period to draw the attention of the world to the plight of Nigerians back at home.
Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed announced the suspension of Twitter on Friday after the company removed a post by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari that vowed to punish separatists for the incessant attacks on security facilities and other federal properties in the country’s South-East.
“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. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” Buhari wrote.
The president’s Twitter account was also suspended for 12 hours as the company said his tweet violated its ‘abusive behavior’ policy.
However, Mohammed accused the company of persistently using their platform “for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence,” according to a statement from the Special Assistant to the President (Media) Segun Adeyemi.
Prominent Nigerian individuals and groups have continued to call out the government for the move which they say is an attempt to curtail the right of Nigerians to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions through the medium.
President of the Nigerian Bar Association Olumide Akpata said he found no constitutional or legal authority to support the peremptory action of the Federal Government to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria and threatened to challenge the move ‘in the interest of the public and for the sake of our democracy’ if the ban was not lifted.
Similarly, former Nigerian Minister for Education Oby Ezekwesili urged the government to be introspective and “walk away from this bad decision.”
Amnesty International has also condemned the suspension of a social media platform widely used by Nigerians to exercise their human rights, including their rights to freedom of expression and access to information and has called on the authorities to immediately reverse the “unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress the civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights.”
“This action is clearly inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s international obligations including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” it said.