7 months after, FG lifts ban on Twitter operation

January 13, 2022
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FOLLOWING the approval given by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Federal Government has lifted the suspension on Twitter operations in Nigeria effective from 12.00 midnight of today

Chairman, Technical Committee, Nigeria Twitter Engagement and Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, disclosed this in a statement on Wednesday. 

He said the approval was given following a memo written to the president by Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami. 

The statement read: “The Federal Government of Nigeria directs me to inform the public that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the lifting of the suspension of Twitter operation in Nigeria effective from 12a.m. of 13th January, 2022. 

“The approval was given following a memo written to the president by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Ibrahim. In the memo, the minister updates and requests the president’s approval for the lifting based on the recommendation of the Technical Committee, Nigeria-Twitter Engagement. 

“You may recall that on 5th June 2021, the Federal Government suspended the operation of Twitter through an announcement made by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. Thereafter, the president constituted a seven-man presidential committee to engage Twitter Inc. 

“Subsequently, in its wisdom, the committee set up a 20-member technical committee comprising all relevant government agencies. The committee engaged and worked directly with the Twitter team. 

“The immediate and remote cause of the suspension was the unceasing use of the platform by some unscrupulous elements for subversive purposes and criminal activities, propagating fake news and polarising Nigerians along tribal and religious lines, among others. 

“These issues bordering on national security, cohesion and the effects of the abuse of the Twitter platform forced the Federal Government to suspend the operation of Twitter to address the direct and collateral issues around its operations in Nigeria. 

“The new global reality is that digital platforms and their operators wield enormous influence over the fabric of our society, social interaction and economic choices. These platforms can be used as either a tool or a weapon. Every nation is grappling with how to balance its usage efficiently. 

“Without balancing, every citizen’s security, privacy, social well-being and development are at stake. Therefore, our action is a deliberate attempt to recalibrate our relationship with Twitter to achieve the maximum mutual benefits for our nation without jeopardising the justified interests of the company. Our engagement has been very respectful, cordial, and successful. 

“Twitter is a platform of choice for many Nigerians ranging from young innovators to public sector officials who find it helpful to engage their audience. Therefore, our engagement will help Twitter improve and develop more business models to cover a broader area in Nigeria. 

“While appreciating all Nigerians, especially the vibrant Nigerian youths who have borne with the long wait to resolve this impasse, the Federal Government is happy to say that the gains made from this shared national sacrifice are immeasurable. 

Some of the gains include: “Ongoing economic and training opportunities as the company continues to consider expanding its presence in Nigeria; getting a better understanding of how to use the Twitter platform effectively to improve businesses; revenue generation from the operation of Twitter in Nigeria; smooth and coordinated relationship between Nigerian government and Twitter leading to mutual trust; reduction of cybercriminal activities such as terrorism, cyberstalking, hate speech, etc.; and working with Twitter and other global companies to build an acceptable code of conduct following the global best practice.” 

It said Twitter agreed to meet all the conditions set by the Federal Government and both parties have decided on an execution timeline, which started this week. The conditions the Federal Government asked Twitter to fulfill include that Twitter should establish a legal entity in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2022. The legal entity will register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). 

“Twitter has agreed to appoint a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities. The global public policy team is also directly available through a dedicated communication channel. 

“Twitter has agreed to comply with applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law. 

“Twitter has agreed to enrol Nigeria in its partner support and law enforcement portals. The portal provides a direct channel for government officials and Twitter staff to manage prohibited content that violates Twitter community rules. 

“At the same time, the law enforcement portal provides a channel for the law enforcement agencies to submit a report with a legal justification where it suspects that content violates Nigerian laws. Taken together, these represent a comprehensive compliance apparatus. 

“Twitter has agreed to act with a respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws and the national culture and history on which such legislation has been built and work with the Federal Government and the broader industry to develop a code of conduct in line with global best practices, applicable in almost all developed countries. 

“Therefore, the Federal Government lifts the suspension of the Twitter operations in Nigeria from midnight of 13th January 2022. We encourage all users of the Twitter platform to maintain ethical behaviour and refrain from promoting divisive, dangerous and distasteful information on the platform. 

“As patriotic citizens, we need to be mindful that anything illegal offline is also illegal online and that committing a crime using a Nigerian Internet Protocol (IP) is synonymous with committing a crime within our jurisdiction. 

“Considering Twitter’s influence on our democracy, our economy and the very fabric of our corporate existence as a nation, our priority is to adapt, not ban, Twitter. 

“The Federal Government is committed to working with Twitter to do anything possible to help Nigerians align and navigate Twitter algorithmic design to realise its potentials while avoiding its perils.” In his approval, the president appreciated the presidential committee led by the Minister of Information and Culture, for the supervisory role and guidance given to the technical committee during the engagement. 

“Similarly, the presidential committee commends the technical committee for a professional, robust and productive engagement with Twitter Inc. It also appreciates government regulatory agencies and internet service providers who implemented the Federal Government’s directives during the suspension.” 

The Federal Government slammed an indefinite suspension on the microblogging site on June 4, 2021 after Twitter had deleted a tweet by President Buhari, which the site explained had violated its rules. 

The tweet concerned the president’s condemnation of the activities of the indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), including attacks of security forces and burning down of police stations. Twitter brought down the post following complaints by some of its users. 

In announcing the suspension, Mohammed, through a statement by his special assistant on media, Segun Adeyemi, said Twitter was encouraging acts capable of undermining the security of the country. The government’s action drew criticisms from sections of Nigeria led by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which rejected what it called the unwarranted suspension of the social media platform. 

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