Twitter has deleted a tweet by Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari in which he threatened to punish pro-Biafra groups blamed for escalating attacks on government and security authorities.
The move on Wednesday came as Buhari’s tweet, referring to a civil war in the southeastern Biafra region, violated the social media company’s abusive behaviour policy, leading to a 12-hour suspension of his account.
The two-and-a-half-year conflict started in 1967 and more than one million people died from fighting, disease and starvation.
Buhari, who served in the army against the secessionists and was Nigeria’s military ruler in the 1980s, tweeted on Tuesday that many people misbehaving today were too young to remember the deaths and destruction from the civil war.
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Biafra war”… “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” he warned in the tweet that was taken down.
Nigeria has seen a spate of arson attacks on electoral offices and police stations in recent weeks, especially in the southeast. Officers have also been killed.
Authorities have blamed a banned separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and what police call its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network. The IPOB has repeatedly denied involvement.
Some social media users criticised Buhari’s tweet before it was removed, accusing him of targeting Igbo people from the largest ethnic group in the southeast. IPOB is influential in the region and its efforts to revive sentiments over Biafra have prompted a crackdown from security agencies in recent years.
Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, dismissed Twitter’s action. “Twitter may have its own rules, it’s not the universal rule,” he told reporters. “If Mr President anywhere in the world feels very bad and concerned about a situation, he is free to express such views.”
Twitter has a long and detailed list of material that should not be used in tweets, including abusive behaviour, harassment, discrimination and violent threats, with various levels of action for violating rules, including post removal and account suspension or deletion.