Nigeria’s Online Vendors Count Losses After Long Twitter Ban

ABUJA, NIGERIA — Online computer dealer Mohammed Maitano has nearly 30,000 followers on Twitter and says he normally makes around $4,500 every month from sales of his computers and other office accessories.

He says that being blocked on Twitter for months was a big setback.

“Seventy-five percent of my business income comes from Twitter,” Maitano said. “Banning Twitter was one of the catastrophes that happened to us online vendors, actually. We lost a huge amount of investments and profits during this time. We suffered a lot.”

Nigerian authorities lifted a seven-month ban on Twitter last week. The ban was imposed June, barely 24 hours after Twitter deleted a message from President Muhammadu Buhari to separatist groups that referred to Nigeria’s 1960s civil war, in which an estimated 1 million people were killed.

In imposing the ban, authorities blamed Twitter for promoting comments that could incite public unrest in Nigeria.

This week, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce said the ban cost Nigeria about $26.1 billion.

Victoria Akai, the director general of the Abuja chapter of the Nigeria Chamber of Commerce, agrees.

“A lot of Nigerians do businesses on Twitter and they make a lot of income, and this income, some of it is taxable,” she said. “So definitely there’s a very possible likelihood that Nigeria lost that amount of money from banning Twitter.”

Despite the end of the ban, an activist group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, is calling on authorities to compensate citizens like Maitano, who incurred economic losses.

The group sued the government this week at the court of regional bloc ECOWAS in Abuja.

Kolawole Olawale, the group’s deputy director general, said, “Our position remains the same: The ban shouldn’t have been done in the first place because it is unlawful. Millions of Nigerians have been victims who have lost not only in pecuniary terms but in other terms as well during the period of the ban. We intend to seek compensation for those victims through the court to make sure that there’s some form of remediation.”

Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohamed, did not respond to requests from VOA to comment on the lawsuit.

The ECOWAS court is scheduled to hear the case on January 31.In the meantime, many vendors like Maitano have resumed their online marketing and will be trying to recover lost revenue.

Source: Voice of America