Federal Government lifts Twitter ban after 222 days, N546.5b economic losses

After 222 days and economic losses of about N546.5 billion, the Federal Government has finally lifted the ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria.

The lifting of the suspension was announced yesterday, via a statement by the Chairman Technical Committee, Nigeria-Twitter Engagement and Director-General National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi.

Abdullahi said the Federal Government directed him to inform the public that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the lifting of the ban effective from 12:00 a.m. this morning.

He said the approval was given following a memo written to the President by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim. In the Memo, he said the Minister updated and requested the President’s approval for the lifting based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation.

Recall that the Federal Government had announced the suspension of Twitter operations on June 4, 2021, after the social media giant deleted a post by President Buhari for “violation of the company’s abusive behaviour policy.”

By June 5, 2021, the suspension was effected by telecommunications companies as Nigerians woke up to a Twitter shutdown across all platforms.

According to the NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool, Nigeria lost N104.02 million ($250,600) every hour to the ban, bringing the daily losses to N2.46 billion.

The implication of this is that Twitter’s penetration in the country is still very low compared to other platforms. Analytically, it equally means that it is unlikely that these 3.05 million adverts audience would be impacted by the American company.

While the ban lasted, some Nigerians, including government officials, were still tweeting. They circumvented the process by installing Virtual Private Network (VPN).

VPN is a technology that encrypts your Internet traffic on unsecured networks to protect your online identity and hide your details.

ACCORDING to the NITDA DG, yesterday, 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,” the statement reads.

While appreciating Nigerians, especially the vibrant youths, who have borne with the long wait to resolve this impasse, the government said it is happy to say that the gains made from the shared national sacrifice are immeasurable.

According to FG, some of the gains include, ongoing economic and training opportunities as the company continues to consider expanding its presence in Nigeria; getting a better understanding of how to use the Twitter platform effectively to improve businesses; revenue generation from the operation of Twitter in Nigeria; smooth and coordinated relationship between Nigerian government; and Twitter leading to mutual trust; reduction of cybercriminal activities such as terrorism, cyberstalking, hate speech, etc, and working with Twitter and other global companies to build an acceptable code of conduct following the global best practice.

FG said it asked Twitter to fulfill some conditions before restoring its services, stressing that these conditions addressed legal registration of operations, taxation, and managing prohibited publication in line with Nigerian laws.

According to FG, Twitter has agreed to meet all the conditions set for it. Consequently, the FGN and Twitter have decided on an execution timeline, which has started this week.

FG said its 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.

Based on the conditions above, FG encourages all users of the Twitter platform to maintain ethical behaviour and refrain from promoting divisive, dangerous and distasteful information on the platform.

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