Friday, January 28, 2022

Twitter says engagement with Buhari regime respectful, productive

The statement comes a day after the controversial ban hit 100 days, with rights activists expressing fears that the regime was not in a hurry to rescind its action.

• September 13, 2021
President Muhammadu Buhari and Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey
President Muhammadu Buhari and Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey

Twitter on Monday said its talks with the Buhari administration to address the lingering statement over restoration of its services in Nigeria have been respectful and productive. 

“Discussions with the Nigerian government have been respectful and productive – we look forward to seeing the service restored very soon,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement to Peoples Gazette on Monday evening. “We continue to engage with the Nigerian government to discuss why Twitter has been blocked and ways to resolve the matter. We are committed to charting a path forward to the restoration of Twitter for everyone in Nigeria.”

The statement comes a day after the controversial ban hit 100 days, with rights activists expressing fears that the regime was not in a hurry to rescind its action and allow the constitutional rights of Nigerians prevail.

Lai Mohammed
Minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed (Photo Credit: Twitter)

Telecom operators were asked to block access to the microblogging platform with effect from June 4 in an announcement by information minister Lai Mohammed. Twitter initially criticised the move as repressive and incompatible with the modern times, Other Western diplomatic missions including the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, also registered their displeasure and demanded immediate reversal of the decision.

Mr Buhari however dug his heels in, with several of his political appointees claiming the social media giant erred substantially when it deleted the president’s tweets that apparently called for violence against ethnic Igbo citizens of Nigeria.

Administration officials also said Twitter must be registered in Nigeria before its services would be restored, a demand that Twitter insiders told The Gazette would be difficult to accept.

In July, the government raised a group of several ministers, including Mr Mohammed and Attorney-General Abubakar Malami, to interface with Twitter over the matter. Some of the officials traveled to the U.S., but did not disclose much as to the extent of their success.

Nigeria's Attorney General, Abubakar Malami
Nigeria’s Attorney General, Abubakar Malami [Photo Credit: The Guardian Nigeria]

At one point, Mr Mohammed claimed Twitter had accepted to register as a business and open offices in Nigeria, but a Twitter spokesperson swiftly debunked the minister’s claim in an email to The Gazette. 

The comments again cast Mr Mohammed in his notorious spectre of propaganda, with Nigerians saying he made the false announcement as a way to buy additional time for the government or safe face in the event that the ban was reluctantly lifted.

Pro-regime commentators have insisted that Twitter and other social media outlets must not be allowed to control what Nigerians can do online, and definitely shouldn’t be policing the president’s posts, which they described as innocuous and even reconciliatory towards the Igbos.

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