Nigerians Fear Internet Shutdown as Protests Persist, Businesses Hurt

By Bashir Olanrewaju and Abdul Yahaya

There are mounting fear that Nigeria might shut its internet network to curb protests against police abuses now in its second week.

Youthful protesters who pour out daily into Nigerian cities to demand far-reaching police reforms and good governance, have organized mainly through the social media, making it difficult for the authorities to negotiate with a movement that has no clear leader. This makes the option of shutting the internet attractive.

The demonstrations have also caused economic disruptions as offices and business are forced to close either for safety reasons or because blocked routes.

Wealth management firm ARM sent out a note to its customers on Wednesday announcing the closing of its offices for the rest of the week, citing the present state of unrest.

ARM’s note to clients.

“This measure has become necessary because your safety and that of our staff is our utmost priority,” ARM said in the note.

Similar measures are being adopted by other businesses to avoid the gridlock caused by the daily protests and the potential dangers that may result from an escalation into violence.

As of Thursday morning the dominant message being shared on social media was how to stay connected even if the internet is shut. Many of them are how-to-do-it hacks ranging from the use of VPNs to peer-to-peer systems that rely on the Bluetooth function.

The military indicated its disquiet in a statement where it reiterated support for President Muhammadu Buhari, while expressing readiness to assist in restoring civil order.