The federal government has lifted the suspension slammed on US micro-blogging organisation, Twitter, in Nigeria following a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari to end the ban effective from today.
Director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, who also chaired the Technical Committee, Nigeria-Twitter Engagement, made the announcement yesterday in a statement made available to journalists.
He said the approval was given following a memo written to the president by the minister of communications and digital economy, Isa Ali Ibrahim.
We recall that the federal government suspended Twitter operations in Nigeria after it pulled down a statement by President Buhari which it considered offensive.
The government accused Twitter of allowing IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu to use its platform to broadcast hate messages to Nigerians, and its founder of sponsoring the EndSARS protest in October 2020.
But in the memo, the minister updated and requested the President’s approval for lifting the suspension based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation.
Part of the statement reads: “You may recall that on 5th June, 2021, the federal government suspended the operation of Twitter through an announcement made by the minister of information and culture, Alhaji 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.
According to the statement, 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, which bordered on national security and cohesion, adding that the effects of the abuse of the Twitter platform forced the federal government to suspend the operation of Twitter to address the direct and collateral issues around its operations in Nigeria.
It added that the new global reality was that digital platforms and their operators wield enormous influence over the fabric of society, social interaction and economic choices, hence these platforms can be used as tools or weapons.
The government said further in the statement that every nation is grappling with how to balance its usage efficiently, noting that 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,” the statement added.
According to the NITDA boss, the process of resolving this impasse between the Nigerian government and Twitter Inc. has helped to lay a foundation for a mutually beneficial future with endless possibilities, adding that Twitter is 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 federal 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,” the statement added.
While appreciating all Nigerians, especially the vibrant Nigerian youths who have borne with the long wait to resolve this impasse, the federal government expressed happiness that the gains made from this shared national sacrifice are immeasurable.
Some of the gains, it said, include: Ongoing economic and training opportunities as the company continues to consider expanding its presence in Nigeria; getting a better understanding of how to use the Twitter platform effectively to improve businesses; revenue generation from the operation of Twitter in Nigeria; smooth and coordinated relationship between Nigerian government and Twitter leading to mutual trust.
Others include reduction of cybercriminal activities such as terrorism, cyberstalking, hate speech, etc.; and working with Twitter and other global companies to build an acceptable code of conduct following global best practices.
The federal government also urged Twitter to fulfil some conditions before restoring its services, like legal registration of operations, pay taxes, and manage prohibited publication in line with Nigerian laws.
It added that Twitter had agreed to meet all the conditions set by the federal government and, consequently, the government and Twitter had 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,” the statement said.
According to the government, Twitter in the resolutions 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.
Twitter has also 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.
“Twitter has also agreed to comply with applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law. 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,” the statement said.
According to the Nigerian government, Twitter 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 federal government and the broader industry to develop a Code of Conduct in line with global best practices, applicable in almost all developed countries.
“Therefore, the federal government 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.
“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, not ban, Twitter. The federal government committed to working with Twitter to do anything possible to help Nigerians align and navigate Twitter algorithmic design to realise its potential while avoiding its perils,” the statement concluded.