BusinessDay

Nigeria government lifts ban on Twitter after securing agreements

The Nigerian government has lifted the ban it placed on microblogging platform, Twitter, after about 8 months of freezing its operations in the country. The platform’s operation is expected to come back at 12am, 13 January 2022.

The decision to lift the suspension was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari after the microblogging platform agreed to four resolutions requested by the Nigerian government.

Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the Chairman Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement and Director-General National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), in a statement in Abuja, said the approval was given following a memo written to the President by Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim.

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“The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) directs me to inform the public that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the lifting of the suspension of Twitter operation in Nigeria effective from 12am tonight, 13th January 2022,” Kashifu said in a statement.

He added that the approval was given following a memo written to the President by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami. In the said memo the minister had updated and requested the President’s approval for the lifting based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation.

Following the ban on June 4, 2021, the federal government had listed several demands which Twitter must agree to before it is allowed to operate again in Nigeria. The demands include employing a designated country representative. The company representative must also have a physical address in Abuja and outside the capital city as well as access to the global management so that it can serve as the liaison between Nigeria and Twitter.

Twitter is also expected to register with all relevant bodies and regulatory authorities like the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). The government also wants Twitter to commit itself to work with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to enable local tax collection from the company.

The ban impacted the businesses of many companies that rely on the platform for various marketing needs. Top10VPN, a British company that reviews VPN usage, estimated that the ban on Twitter impacted around 104.4 million internet users in Nigeria with around $366.9 million lost in revenue. The company also utilised Netblocks and Internet Society to arrive at the calculations. The revenue loss placed Nigeria in the top three positions of countries with the most cost to revenue for putting a restriction on the internet. Myanmar and India are in the top two positions in terms of their losses.

In November 2021, Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, said correspondence between the government and Twitter had reached an advanced stage. The President had constituted a seven-man Presidential Committee to engage Twitter Inc.

The following are the resolutions agreed with Twitter. Inc.:

Twitter committed to establishing a legal entity in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2022. The legal entity will register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). The establishment of the entity is Twitter’s first step in demonstrating its long-term commitment to Nigeria.

Twitter has agreed to appoint a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities. The Global Public Policy team is also directly available through a dedicated communication channel.
Twitter has agreed to comply with applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law.

Twitter has agreed to enrol Nigeria in its Partner Support and Law Enforcement Portals. The Partner Support Portal provides a direct channel for government officials and Twitter staff to manage prohibited content that violates Twitter community rules. At the same time, the Law Enforcement Portal provides a channel for the law enforcement agencies to submit a report with a legal justification where it suspects that content violates Nigerian Laws. Taken together, these represent a comprehensive compliance apparatus.

Twitter has agreed to act with a respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws and the national culture and history on which such legislation has been built and 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. 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. ”

The Nigerian government cautioned all users of the Twitter platform to maintain ethical behaviour and refrain from promoting divisive, dangerous, and distasteful information on the platform. As patriotic citizens, we need to be mindful that anything illegal offline is also illegal online and that committing a crime using a Nigerian Internet Protocol (IP) is synonymous with committing a crime within our jurisdiction.

 

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