Bashir Ahmad, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Personal Assistant for New Media, and Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant for Media and Advertising, were caught using Twitter despite an existing ban on the microblogging platform in Nigeria.
FIJ’s independent investigation revealed that Shehu liked a tweet by Defense News Nigeria praising the prowess of the Nigerian Army on September 5, exactly three months after the ban.
Similarly, Ahmad liked a tweet by Abiy Ahmed Ali, the Ethiopian president, on September 11. Again, on October 28, Ahmad liked a tweet from Haramain Sharifain, the official news handle of the two grand mosques in Saudi Arabia.
While these government officials may have liked the tweet outside Nigeria, there is a strong indication that they did not intend to make their use of the microblogging platform public. Until the government of Muhammadu Buhari banned Twitter on June 5, Shehu and Ahmad were prolific users of the platform, feeding their large audience updates on the activities of the federal government and defending it against critics.
Meanwhile, Nasir El-Rufai, the Kaduna State Governor, was under fire on Wednesday for resurfacing on Twitter despite its ban. El-Rufai, a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and ardent supporter of Buhari’s government, said he could only use Twitter “for the time being” as he was outside the country.
Hadiza, el-Rufai’s wife, also tweeted on Thursday for the first time since June 6, saying she missed Twitter.
The Nigerian government banned Twitter after the platform deleted tweets by the Nigerian president threatening the southeast with a possible repeat of the 1967 civil war over attacks by rebels.
The Nigerian government said although the deletion of Buhari’s tweets factored into its decision, it was ultimately based on the spread of fake news on the platform and a litany of other problems which threatened Nigeria’s corporate existence.