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Breaking: President Buhari approves partial lifting of Twitter ban in Nigeria

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Two weeks after the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced that the Federal Government would soon lift the ban on Twitter, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the conditional lifting of the ban placed on the microblogging platform. The ban of Twitter in Nigeria has been since June.

The president made this announcement during a broadcast to mark Nigeria’s 61st Independence Anniversary today in the states house in Abuja.

According to him, the Presidential Committee constituted (along with its Technical Team) to engage Twitter to explore the possibility of resolving the issue that led to the suspension of Twitter’s activities in Nigeria had successfully addressed a number of key issues.

In his speech, President Buhari said:

“The Committee, along with its Technical Team, has engaged with Twitter and have addressed a number of key issues. These are National Security and Cohesion; Registration, Physical presence and Representation; Fair Taxation; Dispute Resolution; and Local Content.”

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“Following the extensive engagements, the issues are being addressed and I have directed that the suspension be lifted but only if the conditions are met to allow our citizens continue the use of the platform for business and positive engagements”, he concludes on that matter.

The committee, which was set up in July, is led by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. Other committee members include the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.

A bit of background
Recall that the Nigerian government suspended Twitter on June 4 after it removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists, and some telecoms companies had blocked access to users in Nigeria.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari suspends Twitter indefinitely
The tweet made by Buhari removed by Twitter on June 2nd made reference to the 1967-70 civil war in a way that the company said violated its “abusive behaviour” policy.

Subsequently, Attorney General, Abubakar Malami announced that citizens who breached the Twitter ban should be prosecuted, but that was not enforced. There are also reports that the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation asked media houses to shun the platform.

Observers believed that the non-action may be linked to a West African court ruling on June 22 that indicated that the Nigerian authorities could not prosecute people for using the service while it considered a suit seeking to overturn the ban.

The ban has been met with public outcry from Nigerians, foreign envoys, human rights organizations and other institutions. It has also been widely condemned as a violation of section 39 (1) of Nigeria’s constitution and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which Nigeria has ratified and domesticated into national law.

Although the government has boasted of the certainty of Twitter’s loss, reports have shown that the nation’s economy has been on the receiving end of the ban. According to NetBlocks, a watchdog organisation that tracks cyber-security and internet administration, each day of the Twitter ban costs Nigeria about N2.18 billion.

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