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214 Days After, President Unbans Twitter

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The federal government of Nigeria has lifted the ban on Twitter effective from 12 midnight of January 13, 2022.

This comes exactly 214 days after the government suspended the Twitter in the country.

The lifting of the ban was announced yesterday in a statement issued by the Chairman Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement and the Director-General National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi.

Abdulahi, who said the approval was granted following a memo written to the President by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim, after the social networking platform agreed to respect Nigeria’s laws and culture.

The NITDA DG said, Pantami in the Memo, updated and requested the president’s approval for the lifting based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation.

“The federal government directs me to inform the public that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the lifting of the suspension of Twitter operation in Nigeria effective from 12am tonight, 13th January 2022.

“You may recall that on 5th June 2021, the FGN suspended the operation of Twitter through an announcement made by the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alh Lai Mohammed.

“Thereafter, the President constituted a seven-man Presidential Committee to engage Twitter Inc. Subsequently, in its wisdom, the Presidential Committee set a 20-member Technical Committee comprising all relevant government agencies. The Technical Committee engaged and worked directly with the Twitter team,”

Abdulahi explained in the statement.

The federal government had suspended Twitter’s operation in the country on June 5, 2021, after the social media platform deleted some tweets made by the president which it had perceived were not appropriate.

However, Abdulahi said the ban was lifted after Twitter agreed to act with a respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws and the national culture and history on which such legislation had been built.

In addition, he said the company has agreed to collaborate 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.

Other conditions which Twitter accepted included committing to setting up an establishment in the country in the first quarter of this year.

The company would register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), with the establishment of the entity being Twitter’s first step in demonstrating its long-term commitment to Nigeria.

Also, Twitter has agreed to appoint a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities as well as complying with applicable tax obligations on its operations under the Nigerian law.

The statement stressed that Twitter has agreed to enroll Nigeria in its Partner Support and Law Enforcement Portals, which provides a direct channel for government officials and Twitter staff to manage prohibited content that violates Twitter community rules.

The federal government said 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.

“Therefore, the FGN 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,” Abdulahi said.

He described government’s action as a deliberate attempt to recalibrate its relationship with Twitter to achieve the maximum mutual benefits for the nation without jeopardising the justified interests of the company.

“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 engagement has been very respectful, cordial, and successful,” he said.

He added that the process of resolving the impasse between the federal government and Twitter has helped lay a foundation for a mutually beneficial future with endless possibilities.

He described Twitter as a platform of choice for many Nigerians ranging from young innovators to public sector officials who find it helpful to engage their audience

He said the engagement will help Twitter improve and develop more business models to cover a broader area in Nigeria, adding government looks forward to providing a conducive environment for Twitter and other global tech companies to achieve their potential and be sustainably profitable in Nigeria.

Abdulahi noted that given Twitter’s influence on the country’s democracy, its economy, and the very fabric of its corporate existence as a nation, government’s priority is to adapt, not ban, Twitter, adding the country 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.

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