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Lai Mohammed talks of lifting the Twitter ban by end of the year

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Image Credits: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images, REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis//File Photo.

Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed has told the international news agency, REUTERS, that Nigeria may lift its ban on Twitter before the end of the year,

Information Minister Lai Mohammed said on Thursday, that the government was awaiting a response on three final requests made of the social media platform.

FILE PHOTO: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey addresses students during a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, India, on November 12, 2018. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis//File Photo

Mohammed told the news agency that the government had reached agreements on seven of 10 requests made to Twitter but was awaiting the company’s response on final issues, including setting up a local office, paying tax locally and cooperating with the government to regulate content and harmful tweets.

He said, “We certainly want to put this behind us before the end of the year.”

But Reuters reports that Twitter declined to comment.

The government suspended Twitter on June 4 after it removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists even though the Information Minister denied this in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

It seemed to be the climax of months of hand-wringing.

The anger of the Nigerian authorities seemed to have stemmed from Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey’s posts encouraging donations to anti-police brutality protests last October and Twitter posts from Nnamdi Kanu, a Biafran separatist leader currently on trial in Abuja.

Mohammed said Twitter “made their platform the platform of choice for separatists”, and was suspended because it threatened national unity.

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The ban is one of many areas of concern for free speech advocates. Nigeria dropped five spots, to 120, in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, which described Nigeria as one of the most dangerous and difficult West African countries for journalists.

In July, Nigeria’s broadcasting regulator, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission asked TV stations to curb their reporting of security issues in the country by withholding details of incidents and victims.

Mohammed said concerns over deteriorating freedom of speech were the result of misinformation. He added he was currently in Washington, D.C. meeting with journalists and opinion leaders to counter such misunderstandings.

While U.S. lawmakers put on hold a proposal to sell almost $1 billion of weapons to Nigeria over concerns about possible human rights abuses by the government, Mohammed said the issue was the purview of the foreign affairs minister. He added that Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States had also led a team to meet some congressional aides to reestablish the channels for communication.

It has been reported that the ban, announced in June, has hurt Nigerian businesses and drawn widespread condemnation for its deleterious effect on freedom of expression and the ease of doing business in Africa’s most populous nation.

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