By Celestine Okafor (Editor-in-Chief)
After several months of appeals, assurances from the management of Twitter to comply with best practices and coupled with hard negotiations with the Nigerian authorities, President Muhammadu Buhari bent over on Wednesday and lifted the Federal Government's suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria.
The soft-landing on Twitter was contained in a statement on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, by Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, Chairman of the Technical Committee on Nigeria-Twitter Engagement and Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
Abdullahi stated that Buhari's approval came via a memo to the President by Prof Isa Ali Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, requesting a Presidential approval for the lifting of the suspension based on the recommendations of the Technical Committee on Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s.
Pantami disclosed that, ”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 operations in Nigeria effective from 12am tonight, 13th January 2022.
“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 updates and requests the President’s approval for the lifting based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation.
“You may recall that on 5th June 2021, the FGN suspended the operations of Twitter through an announcement made by the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alh Lai Mohammed. Thereafter, the President constituted a seven-man Presidential Committee to engage Twitter Inc. Subsequently, in its wisdom, the Presidential Committee set a 20-member Technical Committee comprising all relevant government agencies. The Technical Committee engaged and worked directly with the Twitter team.
“The immediate and remote cause of the suspension was the unceasing use of the platform by some unscrupulous elements for subversive purposes and criminal activities, propagating fake news, and polarising Nigerians along tribal and religious lines, among others. These issues bordering on National Security, Cohesion and the effects of the abuse of the Twitter platform forced the FGN to suspend the operation of Twitter to address the direct and collateral issues around its operations in Nigeria.
“The new global reality is that digital platforms and their operators wield enormous influence over the fabric of our society, social interaction and economic choices. These platforms can be used as either a tool or a weapon. Every nation is grappling with how to balance its usage efficiently. Without balancing, every citizen’s security, privacy, social well-being, and development are at stake.
"Therefore, our action is a deliberate attempt to recalibrate our relationship with Twitter to achieve the maximum mutual benefits for our nation without jeopardising the justified interests of the Company. Our engagement has been very respectful, cordial, and successful.
“The process of resolving this impasse between the FGN and Twitter Inc. has helped lay a foundation for a mutually beneficial future with endless possibilities.
"Twitter is a platform of choice for many Nigerians ranging from young innovators to public sector officials who find it helpful to engage their audience. Therefore, our engagement will help Twitter improve and develop more business models to cover a broader area in Nigeria. Furthermore, the FGN looks forward to providing a conducive environment for Twitter and other global tech companies to achieve their potential and be sustainably profitable in Nigeria.
“While appreciating all Nigerians, especially the vibrant Nigerian youths who have borne with the long wait to resolve this impasse, the FGN is happy to say that the gains made from this shared national sacrifice are immeasurable. Some of the gains include: a) Ongoing economic and training opportunities as the Company continues to consider expanding its presence in Nigeria;
b) Getting a better understanding of how to use the Twitter platform effectively to improve businesses;
c) Revenue generation from the operation of Twitter in Nigeria;
d) Smooth and coordinated relationship between Nigerian Government and Twitter leading to mutual trust;
e) Reduction of cybercriminal activities such as terrorism, cyberstalking, hate speech, etc.; and
f) Working with Twitter and other global companies to build an acceptable code of conduct following the global best practice.
“The FGN has asked Twitter to fulfil some conditions before restoring its services. These conditions addressed legal registration of operations, taxation, and managing prohibited publication in line with Nigerian laws. Twitter has agreed to meet all the conditions set by the FGN.
“Consequently, the FGN and Twitter have decided on an execution timeline, which has started this week. Our engagement with Twitter opens a new chapter in global digital diplomacy and sets a new operational template for Twitter to come back stronger for the benefit of Nigerians.
“The following are the resolutions agreed with Twitter. Inc.: i. 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 (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 FGN and the broader industry to develop a Code of Conduct Panel 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. We encourage 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.
“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.
However, according to the Director General of NITDA the President, in his approval, thanked the Presidential Committee led by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, for supervising and guiding the Technical Committee in the duration of their discussions and negotiations.
“Similarly, the Presidential Committee commends the Technical Committee for a professional, robust and productive engagement with Twitter Inc. It also appreciates Government Regulatory Agencies and Internet Service Providers who implemented the FGN’s directives during the suspension,” the NITDA DG said. NNL.