August 20, 2022

The promise by the Federal Government that the ban placed on the popular micro-blogging platform, Twitter, will be lifted soon appears to be fading away, as the suspension hits 100 days today.

The Federal Government had announced the suspension of Twitter operations in the country on June 4, after the social media giant deleted a post by President Muhammadu Buhari for “violation of the company’s abusive behaviour policy.”

By June 5, the suspension was effected by telecommunications companies as Nigerians woke up to a Twitter shutdown across all platforms.

Three months down the line, it appears no truce has been formally reached by the two parties or better still, they have been sluggish in agreeing on the way forward.

Though, on August 19, the Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, disclosed that from the 10 demands put forward to lift Twitter suspension, the social networking platform had acceded to seven.

Mohammed actually disclosed this in Washington DC during his engagement with various global media outlets, global think tanks, and influencers. He said his engagement was to put across the correct narratives about what is happening in Nigeria, showcase government achievements, and present challenges facing the country.

During his interactions with Reuters, Washington Post, and Bloomberg Quicktake, a live streaming news service, the minister said an amicable settlement of the ban was in sight.

“We believe that even the other three outstanding demands are not really about whether they agreed or not but about timing and scheduling. That is what gave me the confidence that we are getting nearer to an agreement,” he said.

The minister said among the demands made from Twitter was for the platform to register as a Nigerian company, pay taxes from revenue made from the country and ensure that harmful contents are regulated.

Though, he argued that the Twitter ban had been very effective in the country because they see less harmful and injurious content on social media.

But 25 days after the Minister disclosed the government’s readiness to lift the ban, Nigerians, who appeared to be anxious, have since been kept in the dark as there has been no further communication either from the government or the social media giant.

It, however, appears the administration is on course to continue the ban until the end of the year, despite signaling initially, that reversal was imminent.

But a source in the Presidency, who spoke confidentially, told The Guardian that the matter would be resolved anytime soonest.

The source said the FG wants to be double sure that Twitter would comply with the new terms and agreement, “some of which the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had enumerated weeks back.

“You know it is important to have these things in black and white so that parties involved in this matter would, going forward abide by the terms and conditions to avoid issues. I can assure you that any time soon, this ban will be lifted.

“Like the Minister had said, 70 per cent have been agreed to, but the remaining 30 per cent is also crucial. The 30 per cent include whether to set up an office in Nigeria this year or wait till 2022, or whether the office in Ghana can still serve Nigeria while we wait till next year and the issue of when there is an infraction, whom do you hold responsible. Those are the minor things remaining. The major ones have been addressed.

“So, right now, I will say they are closer to resolution today more than ever. If Twitter had cleared those doubts, the government is ready to lift the ban immediately. If Twitter continued to insist ‘we cannot set up an office in Nigeria this year because it was not part of our plan for 2021, we would have to wait till 2022, but while we are waiting, Ghana will oversee Nigeria,’ I don’t think the government will take that. But the truth be told, the ball is in Twitter’s court. The FG has said they will lift this ban if this is done. Twitter holds the aces right now!

“The Ghana hub serving Nigeria is their idea, but Nigeria’s own is that why not have a representative (an official) in the country that can account for your actions, even if you are not opening an office in Nigeria in 2021 but 2022. Twitter is yet to respond to that. If these knotty issues are resolved, I don’t see any reason why FG will not lift the ban immediately,” the source explained.

Efforts to get Twitter’s response at press time were not successful as there has not been official communication from the microblogging platform on the subject.

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