Nigeria breaks silence, sets to lift Twitter ban soon

After resolving some of its concerns with Twitter, Nigeria’s ban on the social media platform would be lifted soon, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said on Wednesday, signaling the end of a policy widely criticized as an affront to freedom of expression. 

On June 4, the Nigerian government stopped Twitter after President Muhammadu Buhari’s post threatening to punish regional secessionists was removed. Following that, some telecom firms banned access to Nigerian subscribers.

“The ban on Twitter will soon be lifted as we are getting close to reaching full agreement,” Mohammed told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “We have agreed on some areas. Hopefully in the next few days or weeks we will conclude.”

Nigeria’s demand that Twitter open an office in the country, according to Mohammed, is one outstanding issue. He stated that Twitter has agreed to this, but that it would not be able to do so until 2022.

A Twitter spokesperson said: “We recently met with the Nigerian government to discuss why Twitter has been blocked and ways to resolve the matter. Our aim is to chart a path forward to the restoration of Twitter for everyone in Nigeria. We look forward to ongoing discussions with the Nigerian government and seeing the service restored very soon.”

The Twitter ban was met with outrage from the social media network itself, Nigerian civil society organizations, including some that sued the government over it, a large number of Nigerian users, and the United States government. 

The attorney general of Nigeria first stated that those who violated the Twitter ban would be prosecuted, but this was not followed through on. 

On June 22, a West African court ruled that the Nigerian government could not prosecute anybody for using the platform while it reviewed a lawsuit challenging the ban.

In practice, many Nigerian users continued to post on Twitter, but government ministries and other public bodies stopped using it.

The ban was imposed after Twitter on June 2 removed a post by Buhari that it said violated its “abusive behaviour” policy.

In the post, Buhari referred to the 1967-70 civil war, during which he served in the Nigerian army as it battled southeastern secessionists. Talking about modern-day secessionists in the same region, he said he would “treat them in the language they understand”.

Even before the president’s post was removed, relations between the Nigerian government and Twitter were tense. 

Mohammed was enraged in April when Twitter chose Ghana, a considerably smaller West African country, as the location for its first African branch. The corporation had been swayed by media misrepresentations of Nigeria, according to the minister. 

Another point of contention surfaced last year during a period of widespread protests gainst police brutality. Demonstrators used social media to organize themselves, raise funds, and publish proof of police brutality. 

The Nigerian authorities were enraged when Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, posted to encourage his followers.

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