Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has lambasted the Canadian government and micro-blogging giant, Twitter, over their handling of truckers’ protest against COVID-19 restrictions in Canada.
Mohammed described both the Canadian government and Twitter as having double standards, saying they took different positions during the 2020 #EndSARS protest against police brutality in Nigeria.
Canada was one of the countries that condemned the actions taken by the Muhammadu Buhari-led regime to disperse protesters. A panel set up in Lagos last year concluded that soldiers and police officers deployed to quell the protest shot and killed peaceful protesters.
The minister in a press statement on Sunday said “The Canadian protesters, who have blockaded roads and resorted to inconveniencing others, have been branded as terrorists or insurrectionists and subjected to a number of clampdowns by government and private organisations.”
Mohammed noted that the crowdfunding company GoFundMe has shut down the campaign to raise funds for the truckers after they raised over $10 million. The minister also said the Ontario government has frozen access to millions of dollars donated to protesters through the online fundraising platform, GiveSendGo.
He also condemned Twitter for suspending the truckers’ accounts.
He said, “Jim Watson, the Mayor of Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, has also declared a state of emergency in the city in response, saying the protests posed a threat to residents’ safety.
“Recall, gentlemen, that during the #EndSARS protest, which culminated in the blockage of public roads and massive destruction of government and private property, Canada was one of the countries that spoke out in support of the protesters.
“Recall also that Twitter actively supported the #EndSARS protesters and even helped them to raise funds while GoFundMe was used to raise funds for the protests.”
Mohammed described the Canadian government and Twitter as entities “now rushing to distance themselves from the protesters in Canada and even denying them the use of their platforms”.
He continued, “This is similar to what played out during the January 6th 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol In Washington, D.C. where those involved are either still being investigated or have been charged to court. I don’t blame them. Nobody wants their country destroyed under the guise of protests.”
“Don’t misunderstand this intervention. We are not gloating over the unfortunate development in Canada. But we are only calling attention to the double standards involved in the way protesters deemed to be violent are perceived in Nigeria and in the West.
“Those who referred to the hoodlums who destroyed public and private property in Nigeria under the guise of EndSARS as peaceful protesters have tagged similar protesters in their own countries as insurrectionists and terrorists. This glaring double standard should not be lost on all Nigerians.
“We have always said that you must have a country before you can even enjoy the freedoms guaranteed by your country’s constitution. If there is no Nigeria, no one will be talking of freedom of expression or freedom of association and the like.
“This realisation explains why every country goes the extra mile to protect and preserve itself. And this also explains why we have continued to insist on the regulation of social media to ensure responsible content. In this area, I can confidently say we are far ahead of most countries in the world, who have now realized that social media must be regulated in the interest of their own people.
“In this regard, our successful negotiation with Twitter to fashion out measures to ensure responsible use of that platform which, by the way, will also apply to other social media platforms, has made us a global trailblazer in efforts to prevent harmful content from social media platforms
“Gentlemen, we must not allow anyone to destroy our country under the guise of protest or unbridled freedoms. We all must put Nigeria first at all times,” he said.