Twitter deleted a tweet by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, 2nd June 2021 because the tweet violated its policy. Subsequently, the Nigerian Federal Government on Saturday, 5th June 2021 enforced the indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria. The Nigerian Government believes that Twitter has been engaging in activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
There are several arguments for and against the actions of Twitter and the Federal Government of Nigeria. Of course, many of these divergent views are laced with sentiments. This is largely unexpected in a nation of more than 200 million people. However, these are pertinent; the actions of Twitter and the Nigerian Government can be viewed from legal, economic, and political standpoints and implications.
From the economic standpoint and the implications, the tweet of the Nigerian President, Twitter’s deletion of the tweet, and subsequent indefinite suspension by the government can be narrowed down to how it would affect employment in Nigeria.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Labour Force Survey, the Nigerian unemployment rate was 27 percent in Q2, 2020. In 2021, the unemployment rate in Nigeria has been estimated to reach 32.5 percent according to a report published on 19th March 2021. The figure is projected to increase in 2022.
It was reported that, following the president’s tweet, some businesses and people have prepared to leave the south-eastern states of the country where the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970 was largely fought. Some businesses, and people in those states, shortly after the tweet, left their jobs and relocated, while some planned to do so. It was believed that the tweet was a direct message as regards what was coming from the Federal Government.
It is hard to place a figure on how many businesses and people pulled out, would pull out, or planned to pull out of the states as well as the direct/indirect economic impacts on these states, particularly on employment. However, it is not hard to expect these reactions either. The President’s tweet is lethal. Regardless of whether it has been deleted or not. The deletion has not, and would not in any way, ameliorate its consequences. Some businesses would close down. People would leave or lose their work.
Under state disaggregation of the unemployment rate in Nigeria, Imo state reported the highest rate of unemployment with 56.6 percent. Cross River, 53.7 percent. Bayelsa, 34.22 percent. Delta, 31.14 percent. Ebonyi, 40.16 percent. Rivers, 41.59 percent. Akwa Ibom, 51 percent. Anambra, 44.22 percent. Abia, 50.07 percent. These states were largely affected by the Nigerian Civil War of 1970, and some of the activities the President’s tweet alluded to occurred in those states.
Twitter has only succeeded in washing its hands clean of not being party to the direct or indirect impacts of the tweet on Nigerians. At least, taking a clue from how tweets have set nations on fire, unseat a serving president, affected elections and economic decisions, crashed a perceived business platform, currency, and drew the world’s attention to genocides and wars, etc.
The ban may not affect Twitter negatively, but it would definitely affect Nigerians. Twitter makes almost all of its revenue by selling advertisements that show up in its users’ feeds. Advertisements’ revenue was $2.25 billion, accounting for 89 percent of the company’s top line last year. It has more than 290 million monthly active users worldwide in 2020. This figure is projected to grow by 2.4 percent in 2021, and there are an estimated 40 million Twitter users in Nigeria. 25.52 percent of businesses on Social Media are on Twitter according to statistics released in May 2021. Jack Dorsey was believed to have held the view that there are not enough Nigerians on Twitter.
However, thousands of Nigerian businesses depend solely on revenues generated from Twitter. This means their incomes are directly tied to Twitter. These are social media accounts’ managers and influencers. Many of them have established a strong prominence on it with little or no presence on other social media platforms. These businesses have lost a business on Twitter automatically and, by extension, employment.
There are also indirect impacts of this on other businesses like data subscription sellers, online banners/flyers and graphic designers, content creators, and videographers who work directly with these influencers who cannot do all of these by themselves.
Also, a lot of businesses have utilised Twitter for their business development campaign because of its wide reach, flexible use, and affordability. This has, in turn, boosted their revenues, ensuring business continuity, increase in staff welfare, and employment for a lot of people. Now, all of these would be affected. The business boost would stop on Twitter; revenues would also drop. Business continuity would be shaky, and there is the likelihood of a reduction in staff welfare and loss of jobs for some.
It is noteworthy to conclude that the unemployment rate in Nigeria, which was estimated to reach 32.5 percent according to a report published on the 19th of March 2021 and projected to increase in 2022, would reach an alarming figure once the figures of the economic impacts of this ban come out in the public.
The President’s tweet and subsequent indefinite suspension of Twitter by the government would affect employment in Nigeria regardless of Twitter’s deletion of the President’s tweet and engagement in other activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
Adebayo Adekola is a Legal Practitioner and Head, Probate Services, Greenwich Registrars, and Data Solutions Limited. You can reach him on 08165299774 and 08150373535.