EHIME ALEX reports that the ban on Twitter will worsen Nigeria’s unemployment situation amid persistent inflation that has left many of its citizens impoverished
As the Federal Government of Nigeria clamps down on social media platforms, the suspension on Twitter has put a major source of livelihood for many of its citizens at risk.
Just days after the ban was declared, the Nigerian economy lost over N6bn, according to an international watchdog organisation, Netblocks.
Many hustlers, including Nigerians, rely on social media platforms, especially twitter, not only for quick and easy access to information, but also for business purposes.
Generally speaking, social media have become the most effective way for businesses to reach new audiences on a global scale. Many small and medium-sized businesses use the networks to connect to a large customer base. As a result, many have resorted to taking advantage of the online opportunities offered by the Internet.
While latest reports showed Nigeria’s unemployment rate at 33.3 per cent, the number of digital marketers, freelancers, influencers, online vendors, social media managers, podcasters and content creators in the country continued to rise.
A poll by Financial Street showed that the Internet topped advertising spending in Nigeria between 2018 and 2020.
Compared to music, cinema, business-to-business, magazine, newspapers, radio, outdoor, television and video, Internet advertising spending rose by 36.62 per cent from $73m in 2018 to $99m in 2020, and on a Year-on-Year basis by 15.12 per cent from $86m in 2019. It more than doubled advertising spending on television and video, which followed, rising by 13.46 per cent from $156m in 2018 to $177m in 2020, and on a YoY basis by 7.27 per cent from $165m in 2019.
While outdoor advertising spending rose by 11.02 per cent from $118m in 2018 to $131m in 2020 and on YoY basis by 4.8 per cent to $125m in 2019, others, including newspapers and radio, lagged far behind.
Nigeria exited recession, the second in five years, after its Gross Domestic Product grew by a marginal 0.11 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020. In April 2021, its headline inflation dropped for the first time in 20 months to 18.12 per cent.
However, last Friday’s decision to suspend the Twitter platform, days after micro blogging platform deleted a remark from Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, has already provoked an international outcry over freedom of expression and calls for protests online and on the streets.
Information from Statista.com showed that about 33 million Nigerians used social media platforms as at January 2021, having increased by six million (22 per cent) from 2020. It further showed that the number of social media users was equivalent to 15.8 per cent of the country’s population in January 2021.
A survey by NOIPolls, a Lagos-based research firm, showed that 31 per cent of the government’s institutions prefers to use Twitter to get feedback from people, more than just six per cent who use it to freely express their opinions.
While 88 per cent of people used Twitter to influence government policy decisions, 84 per cent used it for activism, advocacy and related purposes.
Twitter has also shown to be effective for advertising, job opportunities, activism/advocacy, attention grabbing on issue, communicating grievances or dissatisfaction, among other purposes.
According to GlobalStats, in May 2021, about 25.52 per cent of Nigerians were engaged on Twitter as against other social media platforms such as Facebook (56.46 per cent), Pinterest (7.83 per cent), Instagram (5.25 per cent), YouTube (3.41 per cent) and LinkedIn (0.86 per cent).
Condition to lift ban
The government had, on Wednesday, insisted that the ban on Twitter would only be lifted if the medium is registered and licensed locally.
“Nobody, in honesty, can accuse Nigeria of stifling freedom of expression, if anyone wants to be honest. But there’s one line you must not cross,” the country’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, reportedly told the Agence France-Presse.
According to NOIPolls, more than 120 million Nigerians have access to the Internet, and nearly 40 million of them have a Twitter account, which is about 20 per cent of the country’s population.
“A lot of businesses that rely solely on Twitter have lost a lot,” a Twitter handle reseller and promoter, who asked to be anonymous, told Financial Street.
He said customer services were not easily accessible on other social media networks.
“(Now) People rarely see updates, unlike before. Twitter space should be opened,” he pleaded.
He claimed to have lost so much; that his business has dropped by about 50 per cent in the last few days of the ban.
Beyond the economic cost in monetary terms, the negative consequences for Nigerian businesses seeking investments and partnerships from foreign investors may not be easy to quantify.
Many have described the ban as the height of repression on freedom of the press, citing the seemingly ‘media-arrogant’ Donald Trump, the immediate past President of the United States, who did not go that far. Others censure Buhari, who rode on the back of social media to get their votes in 2015, for such action, likening it to one who destroyed the bridge he used to cross to El Dorado.
Waiting for Godot?
Some Nigerians still believe that since the country is in a democracy, the government will have a rethink and lift the ban, even as some were optimistic, given that Buhari is not known for rescinding his decisions in a hurry.
Whether the global outcry for Nigeria to lift the ban on Twitter will be hearkened to will be known in coming days.
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