Nigeria’s government has told the country’s mobile phone networks to block access to Twitter, a statement from the industry umbrella body said.
Phone users are reporting difficulties in accessing the site. It is still available through some wi-fi networks.
This comes after the government said it was suspending Twitter operations in the country “indefinitely”.
It alleged the site was being used to undermine “Nigeria’s corporate existence”.
Twitter has called the ban “deeply concerning”.
The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (Alton) said its members complied with the request to suspend Twitter access based on “national interest provisions” in the telecoms law and the licensing terms.
But it also said that it backed the UN’s position that the right to communicate both offline and online should be protected.
“This is a shocking move for Africa’s largest democracy to block access to one of the country’s main communication avenues,” the BBC’s Nigeria correspondent Mayeni Jones says.
Removal of Buhari tweet
The move by the government came just days after a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari was removed for breaching the site’s rules, though no mention of this was made in its statement.
Mr. Mohammed has previously criticised the US social media giant’s decision to take it down, calling it “double standards”.
The tweet sent by Mr Buhari on 1 June referred to the 1967-70 Nigerian Civil War and to treating “those misbehaving today” in “the language they will understand”.
A Twitter spokesperson said at the time that the post “was in violation of the Twitter Rules”.
The government gave no explanation of how Twitter had undermined Nigeria’s corporate existence.
By Saturday morning, internet monitoring site Netblocks reported that Twitter was restricted on all the leading networks.
⚠️ Confirmed: Network data show Twitter is restricted for many users in #Nigeria as of Saturday morning following deletion of President’s Tweet, as government declares the platform can undermine “Nigeria’s corporate existence” #TwitterbaninNigeria
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) June 5, 2021
Access was still possible through some wi-fi providers, but this is not the most common way to connect to the internet in Nigeria.
Search terms such as “VPN” were popular overnight, according to the search tracking site Trendsmap.
Call for reversal
The government’s statement, which was released on Twitter, also revealed that the national broadcasting regulator, NBC, has been told to start “the process of licensing all OTT [internet streaming services] and social media operations in Nigeria”.
Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria, condemned the announcement.
“This action is clearly inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s international obligations. We are calling on the Nigerian authorities to immediately reverse the unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights.”
A long time coming
Analysis by Nduka Orjinmo, BBC News, Abuja
The Nigerian government has toyed with the idea of regulating social media in the country, and this administration has been obsessed with the idea since it came into office in 2015. Deleting the president’s tweet, however, was seen as the final straw.
But it was the role Twitter played in the #EndSars anti-police brutality protests which shook Nigeria last year that truly sealed its fate.
The demonstrations were mostly organised on the platform and the company’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, made donations to one of the leading groups of organisers. A special emoji was also created for the protests.
Twitter helped give Nigeria’s many youths a voice. But in the eyes of the government, the company’s role in galvanising the country’s young population was a line crossed.
Yet the government appears not to have reckoned with the ingenuity of #EndSars protesters. People are already downloading VPNs to bypass the block when it happens.