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3 Jun, 2021 01:13

Twitter scrubs Nigerian president’s post & suspends account for ‘abusive behavior’ after tweeting warning to rebels

Twitter scrubs Nigerian president’s post & suspends account for ‘abusive behavior’ after tweeting warning to rebels

Twitter has removed a post by the president of Nigeria and temporarily locked his account, claiming he broke the site’s “abusive behavior” policy after sending a warning to rebels accused of attacks on police and election offices.

A tweet posted by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday was removed less than one day later over the rule violation, with the platform also suspending his handle for 12 hours, according to Reuters.

“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,” Buhari said in the now-deleted tweet.

The move was quickly decried by Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed, who insisted on the president’s right to speak on security matters while questioning the platform’s agenda in the country.  

“Twitter may have its own rules, but it’s not the universal rule. If Mr. President, anywhere in the world, feels very bad and concerned about a situation, he is free to express such views,” the minister said. “Any organization that gives directives to its members to attack police stations, to kill policemen... you are saying that Mr. President does not have the right to express his dismay and anger about that?”

The mission of Twitter in Nigeria is very, very suspect.

Mohammed also cited a series of intense demonstrations against police brutality in Nigeria and compared them to the situation in the United States, saying that when people were “burning police stations and killing policemen” during the rallies, Twitter insisted on their “right to protest.”

“But when a similar thing happened at the Capitol, it became insurrection,” he continued, referring to the January 6 riot in which supporters of then-president Donald Trump stormed the halls of Congress. Twitter banned tens of thousands of US-based accounts following the unrest, as well as Trump’s personal handle, suggesting his posts helped to incite the riot.

Buhari’s scrubbed post referred to the 1967 Nigerian Civil War, which saw secessionists attempt to break away from the central government and form an independent state named Biafra out of a region in southern Nigeria. While the secessionists were defeated and Biafra was reincorporated into the country in 1970, separatism has remained alive through the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) movement. 

Founded in 2012, IPOB has become among the largest Biafran independence organizations, but has faced intense opposition from the government, which classified the group a terrorist outfit in 2017. While officials insist operations against separatists are necessary to preserve security, international rights groups have alleged state repression and extrajudicial killings against IPOB activists, including a major crackdown on a group meeting last year that saw at least 21 civilians killed in the resulting clashes.

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Violence has only escalated since, with IPOB forming a new armed wing last December, the Eastern Security Network. The militant group has been accused of carrying out a string of attacks on election offices and police stations, particularly in southern Nigeria, though IPOB has denied involvement on several occasions. 

In a press briefing earlier this week, a senior election official said 42 attacks had been launched on election offices since the last race in 2019, most of them in the previous seven months. During the same press conference, Buhari – who served in the military during the 1967 war – said a “rude shock” awaits the separatist rebels if the assaults continue.

IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu, meanwhile, took to Twitter later on Wednesday to cheer the platform’s decision, thanking the site for removing Buhari’s “hate-filled tweet” while charging that Nigerian leaders “feel they’re not accountable to Biafrans.”

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