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Nigerian govt lifts ban on Twitter after seven months suspension

Nigerian government announced on Wednesday that it had lifted its Twitter ban, which had been in place for seven months due to a disagreement over a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigeria shut down Twitter in June after a comment by Buhari was deleted, sparking an international outcry over freedom of expression.

Since then, the government and Twitter have been in talks about restoring the service on the basis of a set of conditions, one of which is that Twitter registers its operations in Nigeria.

According to a statement from the country’s information technology development agency, “the Federal Government of Nigeria 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.”

Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the agency’s director general, who was also on the committee negotiating with Twitter, said the social media giant had agreed to regulations to restore service.

Establishing a legal entity in Nigeria, appointing a country representative, and adhering to tax obligations were among them.

A request for comment from Twitter was not immediately returned.

However, it has stated that the block is extremely concerning and that free and open internet access is a fundamental right.

The ban surprised many in Nigeria, where Twitter played an important role in political discourse, with hashtags like #BringBackOurGirls after Boko Haram abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls in 2014 and #EndSARS during anti-police brutality protests in 2020.

‘Untrustworthy elements’

Nigerian officials chastised Twitter for deleting Buhari’s remark, accusing the social media platform of allowing activities that endanger the country’s existence.

That was a reference to comments made on social media by separatist agitators from the country’s southeast, where a civil war killed one million people five decades ago.

“The continuous use of the platform by some unscrupulous elements for subversive purposes and criminal activities, propagating fake news, and polarising Nigerians was the immediate and remote cause of the suspension,” Abdullahi said.

When Buhari mentioned Nigeria’s civil war in the context of a warning to those responsible for recent unrest in the country’s southeast, Twitter deleted a comment.

Following the ban, officials also mentioned then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s support for the #EndSARS anti-police brutality protests in Nigeria last year.

According to local researchers, about 40 million Nigerians, or about 20% of the population, have a Twitter account, and many of them use the platform for business.

The United States, the European Union, and Canada were among those who joined human rights organisations in condemning the ban as a threat to freedom of expression in Africa’s most populous country.

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