Nigeria Twitter ban scrapped after conditions met

The seven-month ban, which outraged free speech advocates and prompted international concern, was removed at midnight on Wednesday after Twitter agreed to open an office in the country.


Image : Kola Sulaimon/AFP

Nigeria lifted its ban on US social media giant Twitter after seven months, after the company agreed to establish an office in the country and meet other government conditions. 

The removal of the ban was initially confirmed in a statement on Wednesday by Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director general of the National Information Technology Development Agency, who said that the firm had “agreed to act with a respectful acknowledgment of Nigerian laws and the national culture and history on which such legislation has been built and work with the FGN [federal government of Nigeria] and the broader industry to develop a code of conduct in line with global best practices, applicable in almost all developed countries.”

Reports say that Twitter has agreed to open a local office, appoint a country head and pay domestic taxes. While not confirming the conditions it has met, Twitter lauded the end of the ban in a tweet from its Public Policy handle.

“We are pleased that Twitter has been restored for everyone in Nigeria. Our mission in Nigeria & around the world, is to serve the public conversation. We are deeply committed to Nigeria, where Twitter is used by people for commerce, cultural engagement, and civic participation.”

The move restores access to the platform for Nigerian internet users, estimated to number 140.41 million in November 2021, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The ban in early June sparked a local and international outcry, including condemnation from the United States and European diplomats. The decision, which came just a day after the platform removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari threatening punishment for regional secessionists blamed for attacks on government buildings, was announced by minister of information and culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed. 

The minister cited the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”. The government subsequently ordered mobile service providers in the country to block access to the website, cutting off access to millions of customers. 

The social media platform has engaged in several rounds of talks with the government since the ban in an effort to have it overturned. 

Legal efforts to overturn ban

Since the decision, the Nigerian government had also come under sustained legal pressure from activists.

In late June, a regional court restrained the government from prosecuting citizens or media outlets for using Twitter. The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States ordered the government and its agents “to refrain from imposing sanction on any media house or harassing, intimidating, arresting and prosecuting” Nigerians using the platform.

Nigerian legal advocacy organisation SERAP, which has been involved in legal efforts to overturn the ban, labelled it a “travesty” which “should never have happened in the first place,” and said it would be taking further action against the government. 

“We’ll see in court to seek orders for adequate compensation and guarantees of non-repetition for the Nigerian victims of the illegal Twitter ban. The Buhari administration has a legal obligation to effectively redress the consequences of the wrongful act of Twitter suspension,” the organisation said. 

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