On Wednesday, Lai Mohammed, minister of information, accused Twitter of “double standards” after the microblogging site deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet about the civil war.
Amid the unrest in the country, Buhari had on Tuesday threatened to deal with those “bent on destroying” Nigeria through “insurrection”.
“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” he had said.
The president’s tweet had sparked nationwide outrage, with many accusing him of fuelling violence and hatred across the country.
Shortly after the outcry, Twitter yanked off the tweet for alleged “violation of its rules”.
But while addressing state house correspondents in Abuja, Mohammed said Twitter’s mission in Nigeria is “very suspect”.
Buttressing his point, the minister claimed, among others, that the microblogging site “funded” #EndSARS protesters during last year’s demonstrations against police brutality.
He, however, did not provide any evidence to substantiate his claim.
“The mission of Twitter in Nigeria is very very suspect. Has Twitter deleted the violent tweets that Nnamdi Kanu has been sending? The same Twitter, during the #ENDSARS protests, that was funding #ENDSARS protesters,” the minister said.
How true is the minister’s claim?
In October 2020, thousands of youths across the country hit the streets to protest against harassment and extra-judicial killings by operatives of the now-disbanded special anti-robbery squad (SARS).
The demonstrations garnered the support of several influential figures across the world, especially after operatives of the Nigerian Army stormed the Lekki tollgate protest ground in Lagos and opened fire on unarmed protesters on the night of October 20.
Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, was among the popular figures who backed the Nigerian youths during the course of the protest — which grounded activities in several parts of the country for days.
Checks by TheCable revealed that Dorsey promoted activities related to the protest between October 14 through 21 when the demonstration was at its peak to his over 5.4 million followers on Twitter.
October 14 for instance, Dorsey retweeted an article about the protest with the #EndSARS hashtag alongside a link to the Feminist Coalition, one of the groups providing support for the protesters are the time. The post had more than 54,000 retweets and over 1,200 comments.
On the same date, he asked people to donate via Bitcoin to support the movement. “Donate via #Bitcoin to help #EndSARS,” he wrote in the post which has so far garnered over 82,000 retweets, 81,000 likes and more than 4,500 comments.
Donate via #Bitcoin to help #EndSARS �� https:///kf305SFXze
— jack (@jack) October 14, 2020
Like his previous tweet, however, the Twitter CEO again included link to the Feminist Coalition’s website where they could make the donations — not his personal or company’s link.
During the #EndSARS protests, the Feminist Coalition had asked supporters to make donations via bitcoin, after government authorities reportedly blocked its account.
As the demonstrations ended across the country, the group put a stop to donations, and also announced a breakdown of how the remaining funds would be disbursed.
On October 16, Dorsey continued his solidarity for the movement by launching a special emoji to give the protesters more visibility on the microblogging platform.
“#EndSARS,” he wrote in the post announcing the emoji. So far, the post has had 159,000 retweets, over 10,000 comments and more than 187,000 likes.
— jack (@jack) October 16, 2020
On October 21 — hours after the shooting at the Lekki tollgate took place — Dorsey again retweeted posts of prominent figures on the matter including Rihanna, Barbadian singer, who has 102 million followers on Twitter.
His retweets also included that of Oby Ezekwesili, former minister of education, with over 1.2 million Twitter followers, who wrote at the time: “Hello World, our @NigeriaGov of @MBuhari is killing our young citizens on the street on Lagos now. Join us to #StopNigeriaGovernment Now!!!”
— jack (@jack) October 21, 2020
Dorsey then shared link to the Feminist Coalition’s website again where those willing to support the movement can donate. That was his last tweet about the #EndSARS protests. The tweet had over 57,000 retweets, 47,000 likes and more than 1,400 comments.
Dorsey’s support for the movement at the time elicited mixed reactions. While most of the protesters backed his solidarity, some Nigerians called him out for his role during the campaign.
Adamu Garba, a former presidential aspirant, for instance instituted a $1 billion lawsuit against the Twitter CEO but later withdrew the case.
VERDICT: Mohammed’s claim that Twitter funded #EndSARS protesters is misleading. While Dorsey indeed called for donations to support the campaign, it was done on behalf of the Feminist Coalition — not himself or his company. There’s no evidence that Dorsey or Twitter made any donation to fund the campaign.