On Monday, Twitter claimed its conversations with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to resolve a lingering issue about the reinstatement of its services in Nigeria were respectful and fruitful.
“Discussions with the Nigerian government have been respectful and productive – we look forward to seeing the service restored very soon,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement to Peoples Gazette on Monday evening. “We continue to engage with the Nigerian government to discuss why Twitter has been blocked and ways to resolve the matter. We are committed to charting a path forward to the restoration of Twitter for everyone in Nigeria.”
The remark came a day after the contentious ban reached its 100-day mark, with rights campaigners fearing that the dictatorship was not in a hurry to reverse its decision and enable Nigerians to exercise their constitutional rights.
In an announcement made by communications minister Lai Mohammed on June 4, telecom companies were urged to prohibit access to the microblogging network with effect from June 4. The move was initially criticized on Twitter as repressive and out of step with modern times. Other Western diplomatic missions, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Sweden, expressed their displeasure with the decision and demanded its immediate reversal.
Mr Buhari, on the other hand, dug in his heels, with several of his political aides alleging that Twitter made a significant error when it deleted the president’s comments, which appeared to incite for violence against Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo inhabitants.
Officials from the administration also stated that before Twitter’s services could be restored, the company must register in Nigeria, a demand that Twitter sources warned The Gazette would be difficult to meet.
The government formed a panel of ministers in July, including Mr Mohammed and Attorney-General Abubakar Malami, to deal with Twitter on the issue. Some of the officials went to the United States, but they didn’t say how successful they were.
Mr Mohammed stated at one point that Twitter had agreed to register as a business and create offices in Nigeria, but in an email to The Gazette, a Twitter spokeswoman quickly disputed the minister’s assertion.
The remarks once again cast Mr Mohammed in the role of propagandist, with Nigerians claiming that he made the bogus declaration to buy more time for the government or to maintain a positive public image in the event that the ban was reluctantly withdrawn.
Twitter and other social media outlets should not be permitted to police what Nigerians can do online, according to pro-regime bloggers, and should certainly not be policing the president’s postings, which they regarded as harmless and even reconciliatory toward the Igbos.
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