International human rights groups have also condemned the move, which followed previous attempts by the government of Africa’s most populous country to regulate social media.
Nigerian telecom operators complied with a government directive on Friday to suspend access to Twitter indefinitely.
The diplomatic missions of the EU, the United States, Great Britain, Canada and Ireland issued a joint statement Saturday night condemning the ban.
“Banning speech systems is not the answer,” he said.
“Precisely the time when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue and expression of views, as well as share vital information at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“The path to a safer Nigeria lies in more, not less, communication,” he added.
More than 39 million Nigerians have a Twitter account, according to polls by NOI, a Nigerian-based public opinion and research organization.
The platform has played an important role in public discourse in the country, with the hashtags #BringBackOurGirls after Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in 2014, and #EndSARS during protests against police brutality last year.
The government suspension came after Twitter deleted a comment on President Muhammadu Buhari’s account on Wednesday referring to the country’s civil war four decades ago in a warning about recent unrest.
The 78-year-old president, a former general, referred to “those who misbehaved” in the recent violence in the southeast, where officials blame an outlawed separatist group IPOB for attacks on police and electoral offices.
“Those of us in the field for 30 months, who went through the war, we will treat them in the language they understand,” the president had posted on Twitter.
The presidency denied late Saturday that the suspension of Twitter was a response to the removal of that post.
“There has been a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had violent consequences in the real world,” a presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.
Shehu said the deletion of Buhari’s tweet was “disappointing” and said “major technology companies must be mindful of their responsibilities.”
Twitter said it was “deeply concerned about the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria.”
“Free access and #OpenInternet is an essential human right in modern society. We will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who depend on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world. #KeepitOn,” the company said in a statement. .
The “VPN app” was the second most searched trend on Saturday on Google in Nigeria, as virtual private networks can allow Twitter users to circumvent the ban.
Nigeria warned, however, that it would prosecute offenders.
“Federation Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami has ordered the immediate prosecution of violators of the federal government’s ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria,” said spokesman Umar Jibrilu Gwandu.
Amnesty International condemned the ban and called on Nigeria to “immediately reverse the illegal suspension”.
“This repressive action is a clear attempt to censor dissent and stifle civic space,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Anietie Ewang.