Finally, FG Lifts Ban On Twitter Operations In Nigeria

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The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has finally lifted the suspension it slammed on microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, after over seven months.

Communicating President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, said the ban lift which is effective from midnight tonight, January 13, 2022, is sequel to the network’s agreement to meet laid down requirements of the Nigerian government.

According to Pantami, the approval was given, following a memo written to the president by him which updates and requests the president’s approval for the lifting based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation.

“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 FGN to suspend the operation of the network 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 wellbeing 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,” the memo said.

Pantami pointed out that the process of resolving the impasse has laid the foundation for a mutually beneficial future with endless possibilities.

He averred that Twitter remained 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. Furthermore, the 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.”

Pantami further said the government has asked Twitter to fulfil some conditions before restoring its services. These conditions addressed legal registration of operations, taxation and managing prohibited publications in line with Nigerian laws.

“Twitter has agreed to meet all the conditions set by the FGN. Consequently, the FGN and Twitter have decided on an execution timeline, which has started this week.

“Our engagement with Twitter opens a new chapter in global digital diplomacy and sets a new operational template for Twitter to come back stronger for the benefit of Nigerians.”

Pantami listed the resolutions arrived with Twitter. Inc as follows; “i. Twitter has committed to establishing a legal entity in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2022. The legal entity will register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). The establishment of the entity is Twitter’s first step in demonstrating its long-term commitment to Nigeria.

ii. 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.

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

iv. Twitter has agreed to enrol Nigeria in its Partner Support and Law Enforcement Portals. The Partner Support 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.

v. 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 FGN and the broader industry to develop. a Code of Conduct in line with global best practices, applicable in almost all developed countries.”

He further encouraged all users of the platform to maintain ethical behaviour and refrain from promoting divisive, dangerous and distasteful information.

“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 to – not ban – Twitter. The FGN 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,” he added.

A statement by the chairman, Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement, the director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, said in his approval, President Buhari appreciates the Presidential Committee led by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, 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’s regulatory agencies and Internet service providers who implemented the FGN’s directives during the suspension,” it added.

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