By Benprince Ezeh
SCORES of small and medium-sized businesses across Nigeria are reeling from the indefinite suspension of the social media site, Twitter.
In Nigeria, Twitter has been used to raise funds for the sick, summon ambulances, help locate missing persons and has been a source of livelihood for many of the country’s young people. But these services have been eclipsed due to the suspension and the economic cost to the country in terms of existing and new investments into its technology sector is enormous.
And for the minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, all social media sites must register a local entity and get a license to operate. This, according to him, will bring in revenue to the country.
Recent opinion polls by NOPC and NOI Polling firms, put the number of Nigerians using Twitter at 39.6 million and that 20% of them use the platform for business advertisement, while 18% use it for employment search.
According to NetBlocks, a data-driven web application and an international internet watchdog that allows anybody to rapidly and simply evaluate the economic cost of Internet outages and other platforms that use statistics from the World Bank, the International Telecommunication Union, ITU, and Eurostat to evaluate the economic effect of an internet outage, mobile data blackout, or app restriction stated that shutting down Twitter in Nigeria has cost the country over N6 billion as of June 4.
MTN, Globacom, Airtel, 9mobile and other networks restricted access to the Twitter platform and backend servers since June 4, forcing Nigerians to find other ways of accessing the microblogging service.
According to the Netblock platform, a single-day total internet outage would cost the country N48.596 billion in economic value, while Nigeria will lose N10.885 billion per day if WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter are all shut down.
It might also not be technologically feasible. Within hours, internet searches for Virtual Private Networks, VPNs, virtual private networks, which allow users to disguise their online identity and evade country-specific limits surged across the country. Multiple videos appeared on YouTube, explaining the ins and outs of VPNs to Twitter-hungry Nigerians.
Twitter users cried out when asked how the ban has affected their businesses online.
“I thought it was a joke,” said Yusuf, who now uses twitter through a VPN.
“I didn’t expect the government to go so low. Twitter is like my awareness of what is happening in the country or the world. Whenever I want to check what’s happening in the country, I refresh my timeline. Sadly, when I woke up on Saturday, June 5, my homepage wasn’t loading,” he said.
Chisom Okpala known as @OkDaWrist said she was selling over N350, 000 worth of watches, shoes and handbags on Twitter per week, now, with the site suspended by the Nigerian government, Okpala does not know how she will cope. “Social media is where I eat,” she told Realnews.
“I depend on social media for my livelihood because I get nothing from people rather I take care of my family and siblings,” she said.
Another Twitter user Chelsea babe @debbie_chelsea, who sells jerseys explained that it has taken a torn on her and customers have reduced. “Omo, the ban affected my business, customers reduced because many people are not on Twitter now, while some have VPN, but they are not enjoying it.
“Like I had more people buying my jerseys before the Twitter ban, but now it has reduced because we have fewer people on Twitter now,” she said.
General Jumong @Tha_shenko, a blogger said that he tweets all his content on Twitter. “It’s been a while I post my blogs on Twitter because fewer people engage it anymore.
“Prior to the ban, I have over 800 Twitter users reading news from my contents and it doesn’t happen anymore since the effect of the ban and its bad for business, and it’s from this that I cater for my family,” Jumong said.
Ifeoma White @Ifychops1 said that she owns an online food vendor that delivers to people around Lagos who place order. “I no longer do suppliers like before to my clients. These days, I do less than 70 percent of what I usually do because of the ban on Twitter.
Muda Yusuf, director general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, explained that the ban has significant collateral damage. “Sizeable number of citizens use Twitter to make a living.
“Parliament’s minority caucus warned the suspension was costing Nigerians billions of naira on daily basis,” he said.
Dumebi Iyeke, a research analyst with the Financial Derivatives Company, said it would hit young Nigerians, among whom there is a 45% unemployment rate, the hardest.
“We are looking at a potential loss in their revenue, it could further lower living standards amid high inflation,” Iyeke said.
The government made little effort to hide the likely main reason for the ban. The social media giant’s decision to delete a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari just days before. In the tweet, Buhari seemed to threatened violent retaliation against the southeastern secessionist group’s alleged recent attacks on government facilities and personnel. Twitter claimed the message had violated its rules against “abusive behavior”. Most telecommunications sites have since blocked access.
The move angered many in the Nigerian government. The information and culture minister criticized the “double standards” and complained that Twitter had not deleted missives from a separatist leader. He also alleged that it supported the 2020 #EndSARS movement against police brutality.
The potential that social media could help mobilize such a large, youth-driven protest movement sent shudders throughout the ruling establishment. Officials might hope a ban squelches a growing protest movement against rising insecurity.
The deletion of Buhari’s tweet also came on the heels of Twitter’s April 2021 announcement that it would be setting up its first African office in Accra, not Lagos. In its justification, Twitter cited Ghana’s support for “free speech, online freedom, and the open internet.”
However, the United States mission in Nigeria and other local and foreign organisations have cautioned the federal government on the suspension. With rising levels of economic hardship, widespread insecurity and the rising expense of internet restriction, many believe the Nigerian government should focus on key macroeconomic issues, particularly poverty and insecurity.
As the restriction persists, the cost rises, and the impact spreads from large corporations to small businesses. If the government continues to enforce the ban, it will set a dangerous precedence that could spread to other social media platforms, resulting in even more revenue losses.
– June 25, 2021 @ 18:10 GMT|Tags: Nigerian small businesses reeling from Twitter suspension