Nigeria has again reached out to Asian economic giant, China, not for loans but for the advancement of the government’s stronghold on the censorship of the internet in the country, as both nations have met to create an internet firewall that would further add restrictions on the free access of internet by Nigerians.
The Federal Government’s recent engagement with communist China on the creation of an internet firewall was reported by the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ).
According to the report, representatives from the Nigerian side include the Chief of Staff to the president, Ibrahim Gambari, and the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; and on the Chinese end, sits the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).
What is an Internet Firewall?
A firewall is a security network that monitors traffic to and from your network.
With the introduction of an internet firewall, the Nigerian Government will have absolute control over platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
This is similar to the Chinese firewall that has gained total command over internet access in the country.
China’s President, Xi Jinping, in defence of the firewall said, “We should respect the right of individual countries to independently choose their own path of cyber-development.”
The internet firewall the Nigerian Government seeks to create was precedented by the ban of Twitter operations in the country, pushing citizens – whose livelihoods hinge on their presence on the microblogging platform – to circumvent the ban through the use of VPNs and other methods.
Creating a firewall would give the Federal Government the ability to take away the option of the virtual private network (VPN), effectively taking the reins of control over the internet.
Other powers that would be conferred on the government once the firewall is deployed include “bandwidth throttling, keyword filtering, and blocking access to certain websites,” according to CFR.
The government noted that it enacted the ban on Twitter because Nigerians were “undermining” the country through activities conducted on the platform.
However, the ban followed the deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet where he threatened separatists with the same fate as the victims of the 1967 Civil War.
Many have noted the government’s drive to suppress free speech, as many Nigerians convene on social media platforms to discuss national issues.
Internet Shutdown In African Countries
The Nigerian Government’s move mirrors those of other African countries such as Uganda, where the internet was shut a day to the general elections.
Other countries are Zimbabwe, Sudan, Ethiopia, Togo, Burundi, Chad, Mali, Guinea, and Benin.
On the list are Gabon, Eritrea, Liberia, Malawi, and Mauritania.