3 months ago, The Federal Government of Nigeria announced the suspension of the activities of the micro blogging site Twitter. This announcement of the ban was made on the basis that the platform is used for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence. But is this true? Nigerians are asking, questioning the intention behind the suspension without considering the economic consequences.
The announcement was made by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on the 4th of June 2021 but took effect on the 5th of June, 2021. This decision was taken when the social media platform deleted a comment made by President Muhammadu Buhari, warning the indigenes of the South Eastern Region of Nigeria, emphasizing the repetition of 1967 Civil war if the insurgency persists.
The Twitter ban has raised a lot of questions about investment options in the country. Many inquire if they can continue to invest in a dictatorial regime that threatened to arrest those who defy the ban using virtual private networks (VPNs) to access their twitter accounts. The twitter ban is a sad narrative to the economy of the nation. In a country with an inflation rate of 15.97% according to the Statista report published on May 18, 2021, the economic decline has been aggravated by the ban, looking at the high rate of unemployment, poor food security, insecurity and high rate of poverty across the country.
Nigeria has one of the biggest numbers of internet users across the continent and according to the Statista report published on May23, 2021, it was estimated that social media users across the country tallied at 28 million with 93% of its users being in the age bracket of 16-64years. In its analysis, Whatsapp, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram are the social media platforms with the highest number of users across the country. Whatsapp, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter users were estimated at 93%, 86.2%, and 81.6%, 73.1% and 61.4% respectively.
The Twitter ban had a downward spiral effect on e-commerce in Nigeria. Tech Startups and Fintech companies such as Flutterwave, PayStack, Cowry wise, Piggy vest were not left out of the misery the Twitter suspension impacted onto their businesses. It was hard for tech entrepreneurs to get investment because of the invisibility of their businesses to the world hence reducing their chances of seeking funds or investment opportunities as stated by The Conversation. Speaking to a digital expert at the time this was going on, they expressed shock and disappointment over the decision and the Federal Government’s negligence to the digital economy that was improving gradually due to the rising gig economy which comprises of influencer marketing, ad campaigns, promotion and sponsored adverts to run businesses.
Nigeria has been at a loss following the decision of the Federal government; The Punch Newspaper stated in its report published on the 5th of August 2021, that Nigeria lost $366.8million(N150.46bn) in the last two months of the Twitter ban. According to Punch Ng, Nigerians lose over $250,600 (N102.77million) every hour due to the Twitter ban .Despite being dragged to the ECOWAS Court by the Socio-Economic Rights and accountability Project, the Federal Government insisted on the ban until the micro blogging site, Twitter come to terms with the Federal Government on regulating social media in Nigeria.
With Twitter setting up shop in Nigeria, there are talks ongoing about lifting the suspension but the question remains, can it restore the economic damage it has caused to the growing digital economy? Will Businesses recover their lost revenue for the past 3 months? The economy is declining and inflation is rising, it will be interesting to know how the Federal Government will help tech startups and the digital economy at large to gain ground again when the ban is finally lifted.