The Nigerian government says Twitter suspension in Nigeria will end once the social media giant submits to local licensing, registration, and conditions, rejecting the criticism of the fact that, the ban had restrained freedom of expression.
Nigeria’s Minister for Information and culture, Lai Mohammed, lays out the conditions that the government is imposing for Twitter to be reinstated in the country.
Fridays’ decision to suspend the platform, days after Twitter deleted a remark from President Muhammed Buhari, has already provoked an international outcry over freedom of expression and calls for protests online and on the street.
“First and foremost, Twitter must register as a company in Nigeria,”the Minister said in an interview, when asked about lifting the ban.
“It will be licensed by the broadcasting commission and must agree not to allow its platform to be used by those who are promoting activities that are inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria”.
Twitter last week said it was deeply concerned about the block, calling access to free and open internet a basic right.
The Twitter ban decision came just two days after the platform had deleted a tweet from President Muhammed Buhari’s own account for violating its rules.
He made a reference to Nigeria’s civil war five decades ago when one million people died, in the context of a warning to those behind recent unrest in the country’s southeast, where separatist tensions are on the rise.
At the time, the government complained Twitter had not deleted violent remarks made by a separatist leader from the southeast and also referenced Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s support for anti-police brutality protests in Nigeria last year.
Mohammed said Twitter had become a platform for incitement for the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), an outlawed group agitating for a separate state for the Igbo people in Nigeria’s southeast.
The government has blamed them for a surge in attacks on police stations and election offices in the region, a charge the group denies.
“Anywhere in the world where Twitter becomes a platform of choice for insurrections or becomes a platform of choice to promote activities that will lead to the demise of any country, i think such country should ban them,” he said.
“Nobody in actual honesty can accuse Nigeria of stifling freedom of expression if anyone wants to be honest. But there’s one line you must not cross,” he added.
“I use Twitter too! But the point is in the hierarchy of priorities, which one is more important? To have a peaceful Nigeria, a stable Nigeria, or a Nigeria that would not be stable and allow whatever you call freedom of expression”.
More than 120 million Nigerians have access to the internet, and nearly 40 million of them have a Twitter account – 20 percent of the population, according to Lagos – based researcher NOI Polls.
Last October, the #EndSARS protest movement against brutality by the country’s SARS which expanded into a call for broader reform, first exploded on Twitter before taking to the streets.
Backed by Afropop icons with millions of subscribers, and then relayed by major international influencers, #EndSARS was the most shared hashtag in the world for two days.
The protest that followed was the largest in modern Nigerian history, raising fears of wider instability before security forces cracked down on demonstrations.
Some Nigerian broadcasters are concerned the move against Twitter is part of a more general crackdown on the media.
By Afia Owusu/Myxyzonline.com