Nigerian Govt gives condition to lift ban on Twitter

The federal government of Nigeria has said the operations of Twitter in Nigeria will be restored only when “responsible communication” can be assured on the platform.

Foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama, who spoke after a meeting with some envoys Monday, said while there is no definite timeline for this, “the condition (for lifting the suspension) would be responsible use of social media and that really has to be it,” he said.

“When you have the power to communicate, it has to come with responsibilities,” he told journalists.

“We are not saying that Twitter is threatening the country or any such thing; why we have taken this measure is to stop them from being used as platforms for destabilisation and facilitation of criminality or encouragement of criminalities.”

He added that this decision was key to maintaining security in the country, because “without security, everything else fails. We will all be losers. What we do today will define the future of the country.”

The federal government had on Friday suspended the operations of Twitter in the country after the social media platform deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari which it deemed as inciting violence.

The government claimed that the suspension of Twitter was to protect the sovereignty of the country, but digital rights advocates said it was censorship.

Despite public outcry and international condemnations, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, doubled down on the crackdown saying violators of the directive risked being charged to court.

While he could not cite the law which these alleged defaulters would be breaching, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation would later direct television and radio stations to deactivate their Twitter handles.

Amid this, the envoys of the U.S., UK, Canada and the European Union, issued a joint statement to condemn the Nigerian government’s crackdown on Twitter, prompting the government to summon the envoys for a behind-closed-door parley.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Mr Onyeama said the Buhari administration was committed to protecting the lives and properties of Nigerians.

“Nigerian lives matter and we have to do everything we can to preserve Nigerian lives. And when we feel our goals are threatened, actions need to be taken,” he said.

“It’s to see to what extent this media can be a force of good and not for the facilitation of criminalities or the destabilization of the country. We can disagree, but Nigerians’ lives matter.”

“Differences of opinion is not a problem; everybody will not think alike,” he added. “But we want to use social media for good. There is a lot of good that can come out of communication today. Part of the conversation will be how to use them for global good.”

Asked if the government is seeking Chinese advice on how to place a firewall around the internet in the country, the minister said, “I’m not aware of any meeting with the Chinese authorities in respect of social media.”

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