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FG Lifts Twitter Ban; Identifies Reasons for 7-Month Suspension

The federal government has lifted the ban imposed on Twitter in Nigeria. The Twitter suspension was lifted on 12 midnight on Wednesday, January 12, 2022. This will allow Nigerians to be able to access and use the micro-blogging social media site again rather than relying on Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Announcing the development, the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Abdullahi, said President Muhammadu Buhari lifted the ban after a request from the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim. Abdullahi, who is also the head of the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement, said his team worked closely with Twitter officials to resolve the impasse.

The suspension was in place for seven months after the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced the federal government ban on June 4, 2021. Abdullahi said the federal government imposed the ban due to certain infractions by Twitter, and that the ban has been removed following mutual negotiations between Twitter and the Nigerian government.

“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 12am tonight, 13th January 2022,” Abdullahi announced in Abuja.

“The approval was given following a memo written to the President by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim. In the Memo, the Minister updated and requested the President’s approval for the lifting based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation.”

He further revealed that the president instituted a presidential committee of seven persons to engage Twitter on resolving the issue, and that the committee further set up a 20-member technical committee which comprised of government agencies which interfaced with Twitter over the matter. The NITDA head identified the reasons for the initial ban on Twitter operations in the country.

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

Although the Nigeria and Twitter teams agreed to several negotiations, Abdullahi said it was necessary to initiate the suspension because digital platforms can be used as a weapon to disrupt a democratic society.

“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,” he said. “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.”