A member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Yunusa Ahmad Abubakar, alleged on Wednesday that Nigeria banned Twitter last week in part because the jihadist organization Boko Haram “have been allowed to be tweeting.”
“My constituents have suffered defects of this Boko Haram and they have been using that Twitter. In fact, that banning should have come much much earlier. So to me, my constituents have a relief now [sic],” Abubakar, who represents the Yamaltu/Deba constituency of eastern Nigeria’s Gombe state, told Nigeria’s Channels TV during an on-camera interview on June 9.
“Yunusa … claimed that Twitter was escalating the Boko Haram insurgency [in Nigeria]” during his interview, according to the Lagos-based newspaper Politics Nigeria. “[W]hen the interviewer asked why he said so, the honourable house member replied: ‘They have been allowed to be tweeting … the insurgents … They have been allowed to be tweeting [sic].’”
Boko Haram is a jihadist terror group based in northeastern Nigeria. The group has waged an Islamist insurgency across northern Nigeria and the neighboring states of Niger, Chad, and Cameroon since 2009, killing tens of thousands of people and displacing at least 2.3 million more. Nigeria’s federal government has failed to contain a growing threat from Boko Haram in recent months, which culminated in the terror group seizing 50 villages surrounding Nigeria’s centrally-located national capital, Abuja, in late April.
Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Information and Culture suspended Twitter operations across Nigeria “indefinitely” on June 4, though it made no mention of Boko Haram’s alleged use of the microblogging website at the time.
“The [Nigerian] Federal Government has suspended indefinitely the operations of the microblogging and social networking service Twitter in Nigeria,” the ministry announced via press release.
“The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday [June 4], citing the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence,” the press release read.
Nigeria’s government banned Twitter from operating in the country on June 4 in direct response to the U.S.-based company’s decision to delete a post issued by the official Twitter account of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on June 2. Twitter said Buhari’s Tweet allegedly violated the company’s rule concerning “abusive behavior.”
“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,” read President Buhari’s now-deleted Twitter statement.
Buhari’s Tweet referenced Nigeria’s 1967-1970 civil war, which saw Nigerian federal troops fight against secessionist Igbo people. The Nigeria Army won the civil war against the Igbo separatists, who demanded independence for a region of southeastern Nigeria they call Biafra. The Igbo secessionist movement lives on today and is led in large part by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which the Nigerian federal government officially designated as a terrorist organization in 2017.
Buhari fought in the Nigerian Army during the civil war against the Biafra separatists and is a member of the Fulani ethnic group, which has long experienced strife with the Igbo. He is considered by many Igbo as unfairly critical of their tribe and ongoing secessionist movement, which manifests itself through violent and often deadly terror attacks carried out across Nigeria by the IPOB. Prior to winning the 2015 presidential election, Buhari ruled the country as a military dictator from 1983 to 1985.
Buhari posted his civil war-related Tweet on June 2 in the context of recent terror attacks in southeastern Nigeria allegedly perpetrated by the IPOB, according to Nigeria’s federal government. The violence included “a spate of arson attacks on electoral offices and police stations … especially in the southeast,” Reuters reported on June 2, adding that a number of Nigerian police officers had “also been killed” in the terror attacks.
“[Nigerian] Authorities have blamed a banned separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and what police call its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network,” for the violence, Reuters noted at the time.