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Nigeria turns to VPN after Twitter ban

Nigeria’s First Lady Aisha Buhari has reportedly deactivated her Twitter account, in a move that suggests she supports a decision by her husband’s government to ban the social media app in the country.

Her move to stop using Twitter comes a day after the country’s Information and Culture minister, Lai Mohammed, announced its suspension in a statement by his media aide, Segun Adeyemi, on Friday.

Mohammed’s move comes two days after Twitter deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari.

It was reported that Twitter viewed these comments by the Head of State as widely offensive.

Buhari had threatened to ‘deal’ with people in the country’s southeast and also blamed the recurring attacks on public infrastructure in the region.

“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” Buhari wrote in the now-deleted tweet.

The Nigerian President referred to the brutal two-year Nigeria-Biafra war, which killed an estimated one to three million people, mainly from the Igbo tribe in the eastern part of the country between 1967-1970.

But some Twitter users in Nigeria have been able to circumvent Buhari’s ban by using virtual private networks (VPN).

Figures from Google Trends on Saturday morning showed more than 100% spike in searches related to VPNs.

Plateau, Niger, Kaduna, all in Nigeria’s north, are the top three states where the search for VPN-related searches surged.

VPN also trended on Twitter a few hours after the announcement of the ban.

The ban also prompted an immediate backlash among social media users and human rights activists.

“We advise all Twitter users and other social media platforms in Nigeria to download virtual private networks (VPNs) to enable them to continue to use the platforms for their economic survival and social and political engagements,” a Nigerian civic tech organization Paradigm Initiative said in a statement.

Buhari is the latest President, after former US leader Donald Trump, to have his message deleted by Twitter.

And Nigerian is the third African country, after Tanzania and Uganda, whose residents have been forced to suffer a social media blackout after a government ban.