Nigeria pledges to prosecute anyone breaking Twitter ban

Some people still using app through other means after mobile phone operators comply with order

<p>The president’s order has caused anger in the country</p>

The president’s order has caused anger in the country

Nigeria’s chief legal officer has ordered that anyone breaching a ban on using Twitter in the country be prosecuted.

Telecoms firms have blocked access to Twitter after the government announced an indefinite suspension of the social media giant on Friday.

Millions of users in Nigeria were blocked from accessing the site and app on Saturday, but some Nigerians have got round the ban by using virtual private networks (VPNs).

Attorney general and justice minister Abubakar Malami said he had “directed for immediate prosecution of offenders of the federal government ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria”, telling the public prosecutor to “swing into action”.

The ban came two days after Twitter removed a post from the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, that threatened to punish regional secessionists.

Information minister Lai Mohammed said the government had acted because of “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.

Mr Mohammed did not spell out what form the suspension would take or explain what the “undermining” activities were.

In an irony not lost on Twitter users, his ministry used Twitter to announce the suspension.

Early on Saturday, Twitter’s website was inaccessible on some mobile carriers, while its app and website worked on others, according to tests in Lagos and Abuja by Reuters.

The mobile phone operators’ umbrella body confirmed to the BBC that they had been told to stop people accessing Twitter, and that companies had complied.

The attorney general’s spokesperson said his warning about prosecutions was targeted at both corporations and individuals.

Twitter is investigating what it called the “deeply concerning” suspension of operations.

The company tweeted: “Access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential human right in modern society. We will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world.”

On Wednesday, the US tech firm said Mr Buhari’s post threatening to punish groups blamed for attacks on government buildings had violated Twitter’s “abusive behaviour” policy.

The government has blamed the social media giant for the escalation of protests against police brutality last October, shared with the slogan #EndSARS.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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