With the Nigerian government blocking access to Twitter, millions of Nigerians who used the platform are trying to find ways to access it, though they could be subject to prosecution. On Saturday, Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, announced that Nigerians can be prosecuted for sending tweets. “Any violator, whether individuals or organizations, will be prosecuted,” said spokesman Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu.
President’s Controversial Tweet Removed
On Friday evening, President Muhammadu Buhari banned the social media site when Twitter removed the president’s earlier post, saying the president violated their “abusive behavior” policy. Many interpreted his words as a threat against the Igbo ethnic group, the majority in Nigeria’s southeastern region.
The tweet read: “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.”
A Historical Connection
The Nigerian Civil War was fought between July 1967 and January 1970, when the Southeastern region seceded to form the independent sovereign state of Biafra. It was reported that between 500,000 and 2 million Biafran civilians died of starvation during the two-and-half year conflict, with military casualties estimated at 100,000.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet also connected the war and recent shootings and arson attacks against Nigerian government offices and police, as many occurred in what was once the secessionist state of Biafra. Pro-Biafra separatists have been accused of being behind those May attacks.
Minister Lai Mohammed has criticized Twitter’s action and accused the company of “double standards.” Mohammed announced at a press conference Thursday that the social media giant has ignored inciting tweets by Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and his supporters. Mohammed referred to “the mission of Twitter in Nigeria” as “very, very suspect”.
More Crackdowns on Social Media
Nigerian lawmakers are currently trying to push through a bill that prohibits statements on social media that are “likely to be prejudicial to national security,” and “those which may diminish public confidence” in the Nigerian government. If passed, offenders could face fines and up to three years in prison. Authorities would also have the power to order Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to restrict access to certain social media sites.
Nigerians Flocking to VPNs
Some Nigerians, however, are using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to get around the ban, with trending hashtags like #KeepitOn, #OpenInternet, #ThankYouVPN, and #ThankGodforVPN.
Although many VPNs are blocked in Nigeria in an effort to stop VPN use, there are VPNs that currently still work in the country. These five are recommended by VPNOverview.com:
According to TechUnCode.com, TunnelBear, ProtonVPN, and Windscribe are free VPNs available in Nigeria following the ban.