Nigeria’s Showdown With Twitter May Soon End as Ban Could Be Lifted by Year’s End, Says Minister

Nigeria may soon wind up lifting its ban against social media giant Twitter before the end of the year if the company manages to deliver on a few requests from the Nigerian government, it was recently revealed.

Lai Mohammed, who serves as Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, made the revelation in

comments

to Reuters on Thursday, while adding that the Nigerian government was just waiting for the company to deliver on three concerns that had been raised by officials.

The outlet specified that a total of 10 requests had been made of the platform, three of which

still needed to be settled

. Those three snags stemmed from the establishment of a local Twitter office, the payment of local taxes and the company’s cooperation on the regulation of content and tweets it considers to be harmful.

“We certainly want to put this behind us before the end of the year,” Mohammed said, largely

echoing statements

he made during an early August cabinet meeting in which he indicated negotiations were “getting close” to wrapping up.


©
REUTERS / Siphiwe Sibeko

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari speaks during a news conference after a meeting with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa, in Pretoria, South Africa, October 3, 2019

The Nigerian minister previously detailed that talks had hit a bump after Twitter representatives indicated officials could set up an office in the West African nation, but that it would not be done until

2022

.

The showdown between government officials and the tech giant

unfolded

in early June, shortly after Twitter removed a post by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that had violated that company’s abusive behavior policy. The singled-out post was deemed by many as threatening violence against separatists within Nigeria. Buhari’s account was also suspended for a period of 12 hours.

Buhari’s suspension came on the heels of months’ worth of growing tensions between the two parties, especially as government officials took note of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey using his platform to encourage donations to the #EndSars demonstrations. The platform was also widely used to

organize

anti-police brutality protests that emerged in 2020.


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REUTERS / ANUSHREE FADNAVIS

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey addresses students during a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, India, November 12, 2018

At the time, the government stated that actions were taken against Twitter because the company had been repeatedly used to “undermine Nigeria’s corporate existence.” Buhari expanded on the decision and informed Reuters during the Thursday interview that Twitter had become the “

platform of choice for separatists

,” and that it had been threatening Nigeria’s national unity.

It remains uncertain whether the ban will in fact be lifted by year’s end. Twitter, although it initially blasted Nigeria’s suspension as “deeply concerning,” has not yet commented on Mohammed’s latest remarks.

The information minister is presently in Washington, DC, as part of his efforts to “counter misunderstandings” about reports of deteriorating freedom of speech in Nigeria, which ranks 120 in the

2021 World Press Freedom Index

.