The Nigerian Economic Summit Group and economic experts on Sunday described the Federal Government’s ban on a social media network, Twitter, as ill-advised.
The NESG said people, particularly the small and medium entrepreneurs, would suffer, adding the ban would compound Nigerians’ economic woes.
Others who spoke on the development included a former President of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Sam Nzekwe; a Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Prof Akpan Ekpo; the Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria and the Lead Director, the Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere.
They lamented the impact of the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria on businesses, warning that the development was capable of triggering more job losses in the country.
Recall that the relationship between the Federal Government and Twitter went sour on Wednesday when the network deleted a post on the Nigerian Civil War by the President Muhammadu Buhari.
The President, had on Tuesday in the post hinted that he would treat IPOB and other secessionist groups, “in the language they understand,” a tweet, which was deleted by Twitter on the grounds that it violated its rules.
On Wednesday, the Federal Government reacted angrily, saying Twitter’s mission in Nigeria was suspicious.
On Friday, the Federal Government suspended, indefinitely, the operations of Twitter in Nigeria. It said Twitter’s operations violated Nigeria’s cooperate existence.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who on Friday announced the suspension, cited what he described as “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
The ban, which sparked public outrage, has been condemned by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, among others.
“The government’s recent #Twitterban undermines Nigerians’ ability to exercise to exercise this fundamental freedom and sends a poor message to its citizens, investors and businesses,” the US Mission in Nigeria said in a statement on Saturday.
Ban will dampen foreign investors’ interest in Nigeria – Experts
The NESG, a private sector-led think-tank, and economic experts, who spoke to our correspondents in separate interviews, said the ban on Twitter would dampen foreign investors’ appetite to invest in the country and take a toll on the government’s digital economy drive.
The President, Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria, Mr Femi Egbesola, lamented the adverse effect the ban would have on small and medium-scale enterprises.
According to him, the social media, of which Twitter is a leading platform, provides a cheaper option of advertising.
Egbesola said, “SMEs would no longer be able to advertise their products and services on Twitter. This ban would disrupt the tens of thousands of small businesses that create more than 70 per cent of the nation’s employment.
“Twitter might have been at fault for censoring the President’s tweet, but the government should consider the positive side. The ban would affect employers and may lead to the loss of jobs which would worsen the unemployment woes of the country. We appeal to the government to reconsider the ban.”
The Chief Executive Officer, NESG, Mr. ‘Laoye Jaiyeola, said, said the ban would have a significant impact on the economy.
He said, “The impact of Twitter ban on Nigerian economy is not good. Generally, some of us will want to believe that the President must have been ill-advised on the ban. The digital space is one area that we have every potential to grow as a national, given the fact that a number of our people that do not have work at least are able to carry out some legitimate work on the social media.
“It is important that in time like this, we are careful how we add to people’s problems. In a way, it will discourage those who are supposed to come and invest in Nigeria. The small and medium enterprises suffer, and the people suffer.”
Jaiyeola said although the NESG had not done any research on how much the country would lose, it had done a study on the impacts of the digital economy on the country.
He said, “It (digital economy) is not just an enabler to the economy but a sector that we must mine to grow. If well harnessed, it could take people out of poverty and create more jobs.
“Let us not mess up an area where we do not even have control. This is an area where we want people to come and develop. This action is not in the interest of Nigerians.”
A professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Akpan Ekpo, described the Twitter ban as a wrong signal to investors.
He said, “It will scare potential investors from coming to Nigeria because it is global practice to allow Twitter to operate.
“Although the government says this is temporary, it is still not a good omen for investors, especially foreign investors and portfolio investors (hot money), they would be scared since they do not know what would happen to other platforms so they might take out their money.”
According to Ekpo, there is a need to think through decisions before taking them.
He said, “The tech space would suffer; they would not raise the amount they raised last year, which was a good year. Tech investment will reduce, although this is an opportunity for innovation also.
“FDI inflow will be greatly reduced. The government should have thought about the business aspect. A lot of young people get employment on this platform and now it is affected, with a high unemployment rate they should have been careful before taking this decision.”
According to Ekpo, investment is a part of GDP, and once investment declines, employment will too.
“Investment generates employment. The Nigerian economy is in a state of stagflation; we have rising inflation and unemployment. So, there is a need for thorough thinking before making economic decisions, so we don’t worsen our situation. I am hoping that very soon they will reverse the suspension in the interest of the economy,” he said.
A former President of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Dr Sam Nzekwe, said the suspension would negatively affect the Federal Government’s plan for a digital economy and portray the government in a bad light internationally.
He said, “It is going to affect online businesses badly because they have to start looking for an alternative for advertising their goods and services, and those alternatives may be expensive.
“In a way, it is going to affect the digital economy. Our economy is still a small one; we need to deploy all facets of digital tools, and I hope that this issue gets resolved.”