Nigeria in Talks With Twitter, Gives Condition to Lift Ban

(file photo).
7 June 2021

The Federal Government has said it is in talks with Twitter over the suspension of the micro-blogging site in Nigeria.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama disclosed this Monday at press conference after his meeting with representatives of five foreign missions in Nigeria over their comments on the Twitter ban.

The Minister however said that Twitter remains suspended and there was still no date for the lifting of the suspension.

He said Twitter operations in Nigeria would be restored only if the platform could be used "responsibly."

He further said that the federal government never said Twitter was threatening the country, but said the suspension of the platform was a measure taken to stop it from being used to destabilize the country.

According to him: "We are not saying that Twitter is threatening the country or any such thing.

"Why we have taken this measure is to stop them from being used as platform for destabilization and facilitation of criminality or encouragement of criminalities."

His remarks were however at variance with the statement by the Ministry of Information last Friday wherein the Federal Government announced the indefinite suspension of the operations of the micro-blogging and social networking service site in Nigeria, citing the persistent use of the Twitter platform for activities that were capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence

The Federal Government had on Monday summoned ambassadors of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland and the European Union in Nigeria over their comments on the suspension of Twitter.

Commenting on the meeting with the five envoys, Onyeama said: "They had useful discussion with the countries that are considered to be close friends and partners of Nigeria. We sat down and reviewed the whole situation and we stated the security concern of Mr. president and the whole Nigerians and the very strong steps we've taken to address the security challenges of the country."

Onyeama said government presented the first hand information about the security challenges of the country and also the role of the social media.

He admitted that the social media was good for dissemination of information, but just like anything else it can be used for bad purposes, insisting that such could have dire consequences on human lives and property.

He said that it was important to keep the unity of the country, and to achieve all these a decision had to be taken and measures put in place to ensure the social platforms were used responsibly.

He admitted that as a democracy, the issues of fundamental human rights was expected to be respected, especially freedom of speech, but added that this should not be allowed to bring the country down.

While admitting that the five missions and their countries had been supporting Nigeria in the areas of security and development challenges, he said Nigerian government was also asking that they should support the need to control the use of social media.

He said the major task before President Buhari was security of lives and property of everyone in the country, insisting that without security everything would turn up-side-down in the country and foreign investments would even be at risk.

Responding to questions from the media, the United States Ambassador, to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, who spoke on behalf of the other envoys, said the security situation of Nigeria was understood and the need to do something urgently to address the drift was equally important.

She insisted that the issues of fundamental human rights was inalienable and needed to be respected by the government.

She said that judicial process should be allowed to take effect in some of the disputed areas.

The Twitter ban was announced by the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, Friday, two days after Twitter deleted President Muhammadu Buhari's tweet posted wherein he threatened to deal with secessionists "in the language they understand".

The social media networking site had said the tweet violated the Twitter Rules.

The ban has attracted widespread condemnations as Nigerians described it as violation of rights of citizens and a prelude to dictatorship.

More than 39 million Nigerians have a Twitter account, according to NOI polls, a public opinion and research organization based in Nigeria.

Nigerian telecoms operators complied with the government directive on the ban Friday but Nigerians are navigating around the ban using VPN

The U.S. and the European Union had on Saturday expressed concern over Nigeria's decision to ban Twitter.

"Banning systems of expression is not the answer," the diplomatic missions of the EU, U.S., Britain, Canada and Ireland had said in a joint statement Saturday condemning the ban.

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