“Nigerian Government May lift Twitter ban in a few days”- Information Minister
The Federal Government of Nigeria is concluding plans to lift its ban on social microblogging platform, Twitter. This was made known by the minister of information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed at a press briefing in Abuja this afternoon.
Alhaji Mohammed spoke to journalists after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting (a meeting of the president and the federal ministers) chaired by the Vice-President, Yemi Osibanjo at the country’s capital.
According to Reuters, Alhaji Lai Mohammed indicated that dialogue between the government and Twitter has reached an advanced stage with all points of the discussion agreed on but 3. According to him:
“The ban on Twitter will soon be lifted as we are getting close to reaching a full agreement. We have agreed on some areas. Hopefully in the next few days or weeks, we will conclude.”
Recall that the Nigerian government suspended Twitter on June 4 after it removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists, and some telecoms companies had blocked access to users in Nigeria.
The tweet made by Buhari removed by Twitter on June 2nd made reference to the 1967-70 civil war in a way that the company said violated its “abusive behaviour” policy.
According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the ban was due to “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
Subsequently, Attorney General, Abubakar Malami announced that citizens who breached the Twitter ban should be prosecuted, but that was not enforced. There are also reports that the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation asked media houses to shun the platform.
Observers believed that the non-action may be linked to a West African court ruling on June 22 that indicated that the Nigerian authorities could not prosecute people for using the service while it considered a suit seeking to overturn the ban.
The ban has been met with public outcry from Nigerians, foreign envoys, human rights organizations and other institutions. It has also been widely condemned as a violation of section 39 (1) of Nigeria’s constitution and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which Nigeria has ratified and domesticated into national law.
A few weeks after, the minister of information informed journalists that Twitter had contacted authorities in the country over the recent ban enforced on the platform. This laid the foundation for the possible resolution of the impasse that may have resulted in today’s announcement.
There are about 40 million Twitter users in Nigeria, with an estimated 10 million daily active users. Several users now utilise a VPN to access Twitter, therefore, there has perhaps been at least 1 million additional downloads of VPN apps after the ban.
Although the government has boasted of the certainty of Twitter’s loss, reports have shown that the nation’s economy has been on the receiving end of the ban. According to NetBlocks, a watchdog organisation that tracks cyber-security and internet administration, each day of the Twitter ban costs Nigeria about N2.18 billion.
The report indicated that the Nigerian economy has lost an estimated N6.5 billion in the three days since the Twitter ban took effect.
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