Nigerian business owners are counting their losses following the ban on the use of Twitter by the federal government.
The minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, had on Friday made the surprise announcement suspending Twitter Nigeria, two days after the social media giant temporarily froze president Muhammadu Buhari’s account.
With the ban on Twitter Nigeria, commercial banks have since gone silent on the social media platform and seem to be compliant as none of them has sent out any tweet or replied to any in which they were tagged.
The chief corporate services officer, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Tobe Okigbo when contacted said “it will be difficult to our a figure on who much revenue MTN is making from Twitter access. It is not something I can give you a figure on a day-by-day basis. It is our technical people that can compute that and such figure can only be available at the end of the financial year. For now, what I can say is that influencers are the one that the restriction is affecting seriously because they promote their business on Twitter. They promote brands and their products and they get paid for doing that.” Banks and corporate organisations use their Twitter handles to resolve customers’ complaints and to promote products and services.
A banker who craved anonymity, told LEADERSHIP that “no corporate organisation would want to be caught in this battle even though it is affecting every aspect of businesses.
“The young people in Nigeria nowadays literally live and transact on social media. That is how they communicate and promote their products and services.”
In his reaction, director-general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Muda Yusuf, said the Twitter saga raises a major issue of proportionality on both sides of the divide.
“We should worry about the collateral damage to businesses that could result from the Twitter ban. Many businesses, especially SMEs, leverage this digital platform for marketing and other promotional activities.
“The implications is that this group of businesses are being deprived the use of the platform. Some even have ongoing contractual obligations in this regard. The outright ban was disproportionate, having regards to the wider implications for numerous small businesses that derive significant value from the use of this digital platform. My view is that other channels of seeking redress should have been explored,” Yusuf said.
He, however, said that there is a flip side, saying, the reality is that the platform could also be used as a tool for the dissemination of information that could be harmful to the society.
According to him, this imposes a major responsibility on Twitter to ensure an effective self-regulation. The media and communications manager, Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, said the company has created other multiple channels to interface with the company’s customers.
“There is nothing to worry about for now as we understand it’s still a temporary ban. It’s also still too early to say if it’s affecting or not. We have created multiple digital channels for regular interface with our customers and these include website chat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, email, phone, and we are still working on more options for our guests.
“As you know, our customer service is 24/7 and these channels are also available And open to our customers 24/7 so for now , it’s too early to say if it’s affecting or not,” he pointed out.
Also, the spokesperson of Air Peace, Stanley Olisa, said, it has no implication on their operation or service as they have deployed other channels of communication.
“As an organisation that takes communication with its customers very seriously, we have multiple channels via which we convey messages to our customers and get their feedback. Yes, Twitter operations have been suspended, but Air Peace has presence on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and we have a website through which our customers can reach us. We have designated email and WhatsApp lines for customers’ concerns. We also have a mobile app. So, we urge our Twitter followers to check our other digital assets for news on our operations and contact us through them,” he said.
Meanwhile, some banks who spoke with LEADERSHIP noted that they have established platforms such as email and telephone lines that their customers can reach them on. Also their pages on other social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram remain active.
Valentine Ozigbo, business mogul and international sports developer, condemned the suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria by the Nigerian government.
“The economic consequences of such actions ought to have been reviewed before such pronouncements. Twitter is a platform that drives business and creates jobs for millions of Nigerians, especially the youth,” Ozigbo said.
He called on the federal government to reconsider its stand on the suspension of the operations of the microblogging platform.
He said the ban contradicts the constitutional rights of Nigerians to express their thoughts freely and access information.
“It contradicts the constitutional right of Nigerians to free speech and also to access information,” he added.
The managing director of Lancelot Ventures Limited, Mr Adebayo Adeleke, said that the internet has become the platform for business transaction, saying the ban on twitter will definitely affect businesses.
In the same vein, serial entrepreneur, Bukola Wahab, said the suspension of twitter has affected her business, adding that, “I have clients that I do social media campaigns for on the internet. The kind of reach, impression and engagement I get is no longer there, since the suspension.”
While VPN is an option, Wahab said, she does not subscribe to it as it consumes a lot of data. She, however, called on the government to find a lasting solution to the issue on ground. “I plead with the government to reverse its decision. Twitter has become a community, where we help one another. Twitter is like a real time engagement for us. I know a lot of vendors who can’t survive without Twitter, because that is where they engage people. So, I plead with the government to rethink and reverse its decision, because banning it is not the solution,” she added.
For the IT community, the founder, Programos Foundation, Amos Emmanuel told LEADERSHIP that twitter, as a technology, is not something to be toy with at this point, as it offers opportunity to share information and to grow businesses.
With the suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government, Emmanuel said, it will definitely affect digital economy. He said most Nigerians have demonstrated to the world their capacity to leverage internet and social media technologies and platforms like twitter for jobs, wealth creation and social good under the digital economy agenda.
“So I fault the government for its suspension. This will affect digital economy and it is actually wrong. This shows that any time we have a digital economy issue, the government will want to use its power to shut it down, rather than dialogue. This is against ICT development,” he added.
He, however, called on government to reconsider its decision. “Government should weigh their decision with the point of view of developing the digital economy,” he added.