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A Glimmer of Hope as Twitter Meets the Nigerian Government’s Conditions

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Twitter users in Nigeria may soon have access to the microblogging site as the firm reportedly met six conditions imposed by the government.

An investigation by the Nations Newspaper, a Nigerian-based media outlet, revealed that the Technical Committee raised by the federal government to resolve the face-off between the two parties is now fine-tuning the offers by the social media giant before making a final recommendation to President Muhammadu Buhari.

It was also learnt that President Buhari is awaiting the report of the committee to lift the ban imposed on Twitter seven months ago.

The report says the president has agreed in principle that Twitter’s operation be restored in Nigeria.

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According to The Nation, Twitter has complied with all the terms the government gave for its restoration in Nigeria. The six conditions agreed to by the firm are as follows:

  • Open an office in Nigeria
  • Register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)/get National Broadcasting Commission’s licence
  • Have a country representative
  • Sensitive to national security and cohesion. It must not undermine the nation’s security.
  • Payment of fair taxes
  • Train Nigerian IT personnel and strategic intelligence officers on how to report Twitter abuse /infractions noticed by the government.

A source who spoke with the newspaper said: “From the records, Twitter has finally met six conditions set by the Federal Government for the lifting of the ban on its service in Nigeria as at the close of business in 2021.

“The operation of Twitter will now be fully regulated, including the opening of office and deployment of a Country Representative. We can now hold an officer responsible for any infraction.

“Twitter only requested that the Federal Government should allow it to open the office in 2022 because there was no provision for it in its last year’s budget. Since we are in a new year, we are expecting that the office will take off soon.

The Buhari-led administration announced the shutdown of Twitter Nigeria on June 4 after the company deleted a tweet by the president.

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His tweet was considered to have threatened the Biafra agitators from the southeastern part of Nigeria of a repeat of the 1967-1970 Biafra Civil War that killed an estimated 500,000 to 2 million civilians, mainly by starvation.

The microblogging platform, which flagged the tweet as a violation of its rule, first suspended the 78-year-old leader before deleting the tweet.

Though the government said it banned Twitter because it “has consistently made its platform available to those who are threatening Nigeria’s corporate existence,” the suspension was believed to have been a culmination of long-term running impasses between the Buhari administration and the platform.

During the October 2020 #EndSARS demonstrations against police brutality, Twitter was the major rallying point for organizers and protesters who used the platform to galvanize support for the campaign that argued for the dismantling of a Nigerian police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

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Twitter has also given Nigerian youths a voice on burning social and political matters affecting the country. In addition, separatist campaigners like Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu, as well as activists like Omoyele Sowore, use Twitter to organize protests and raise awareness for their movements. These are some of the cases believed to have rattled the government, which has considered regulating social media since the start of its administration in 2015.

There are also strong indications that the government plans to amend the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act to include Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and other social media platforms.

NBC had, in June 2021, asked all social media platforms and online broadcasting service providers in the country to apply for the broadcast licence.

A newspaper advertorial by NBC said: “The Commission shall have the responsibility of receiving, processing and considering applications for the establishment, ownership or operation of Radio & Television Stations including cable television services, Direct Satellite Broadcast (DSB), and ANY medium of Broadcasting.

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“The National Broadcasting Commission hereby directs every Online Broadcast Service provider and Social Media Platforms operating within the Nigerian State to apply and obtain broadcast Licence for their Service(s).”

Every past attempt by the government to regulate social media use had been met with backlash from Nigerians who fear it might impact their rights to freedom of speech.

After its failure to enact legislation through parliament to regulate social media use, the government seems to have resorted to using the existing broadcasting law and extending it to include social media operators.

The Twitter ban denied access to an estimated 40 million users and had a great impact on the country’s economy.

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Reports show that the ban cost Nigeria hundreds of millions of dollars within the few months it was in effect.

Though many Nigerian youths resorted to the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to bypass the blockage put in place by telecom and internet providers, the economic and social effects of the ban were still hugely burdensome on businesses and individuals.

Over seven months after the impasse, the two parties were said to have agreed on terms and conditions to have the social media giant restore its services in Nigeria.

Restoration of Twitter services is one of the news many Nigerians have been waiting for eagerly, and it will come as cheering news to start the year if both parties reach a final conclusion soon.

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Olusegun Akinfenwa writes for Birmingham Immigration Lawyer – a UK based law firm that offers immigration services globally, including the US citizenship and immigration process.

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