Nigeria will lift a ban on Twitter from midnight after the social media platform agreed to open a local office, among other agreements, with Nigerian authorities, a senior government official said on Wednesday.
In a statement issued by the Chairman Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement and Director-General National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, said he had been directed to inform Nigerians about the lifting of the ban.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) directs me to inform the public that President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved the lifting of the suspension of Twitter operation in Nigeria effective from 12 am tonight, 13th January 2022,” he said.
Abdullahi said, “The approval was given following a memo written to the President by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim. In the Memo, the Minister updated and requested the President’s approval for the lifting based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation.”
“Twitter has committed to establishing a legal entity in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2022. The legal entity will register with the Corporate Affairs Commission,” he said.
The establishment of the entity is Twitter’s first step in demonstrating its long-term commitment to Nigeria.
Abdullahi said, “Twitter has agreed to appoint a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities. Twitter has agreed to comply with applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law.”
He revealed that Twitter had agreed to act with a respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws as well as the national culture and history on which such legislation had been built.
Also, Twitter agreed to work with the Federal Government and the broader industry to develop a Code of Conduct in line with global best practices applicable in almost all developed countries.
“Therefore, the FGN lifts the suspension of the Twitter operations in Nigeria from midnight of 13th January, 2022,” the statement quoted Abdullahi as saying.
He encouraged users of the platform to maintain ethical behaviour and refrain from promoting divisive, dangerous, and distasteful information on the platform.
“Considering Twitter’s influence on our democracy, our economy and the very fabric of our corporate existence as a nation, our priority is to adapt, not ban Twitter. The FGN is committed to working with Twitter to do anything possible to help Nigerians align and navigate Twitter algorithmic design to realise its potentials while avoiding its perils,” Abdullahi said.
He said that in the period of the negotiations, the Federal Government had discovered better ways of navigating the platform.
The ban, announced in June 2021, has hurt Nigerian businesses and drawn widespread condemnation for its damaging effect on freedom of expression and the ease of doing business in Africa’s most populous nation.
But Information Minister Lai Mohammed told a post-cabinet media briefing in September 2021 that the government was aware of the anxiety the ban had created among Nigerians.
“If the operation has been suspended for about 100 days now, I can tell you that we’re just actually talking about a few, just a few more days now,” Mohammed said without giving a time frame.
The government suspended Twitter after it removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists.
It was a culmination of months of tension. 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, infuriated authorities.
The ban is just one area 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.