There are strong indications that the Federal Government might not be in a hurry to lift the ban placed on Twitter, the micro blogging and social networking platform, whose operations were suspended on June 4, 2021.
Barely two months after the Federal Government assembled a team to engage with Twitter over the suspension of its operations in Nigeria and to explore ways of resolving the crisis and returning to the status quo ante, nothing has been heard about the activities of the team.
It would be recalled that following the outrage that greeted the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari had approved a high powered ministerial committee to discuss with the micro blogging firm the concerns of the government and explore ways of reaching an amicable resolution of the conflict of interests.
The negotiation team, which is headed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, included the Attorney General of the Federation and Honourable Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami; Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola; Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo as well as other relevant government agencies.
When the team was unveiled on June 21, 2021, there were indications that its members were going to carry out the assignment expeditiously by finding a common ground for Twitter to resume operations in the country.
However, New Telegraph learnt that the team has been reluctant to open talks with Twitter because the government was not keen on resolving the matter.
A source familiar with the workings of the current administration told New Telegraph that the team may have deliberately adopted delay tactics in order to prolong the suspension and possibly push Twitter users in Nigeria to forget it entirely.
This attitude has persisted in spite of the revelations that Nigeria lost $243million in the first 51 days of the ban on Twitter in the country.
New Telegraph contacted the Office of the Minister of Information and Culture to ascertain the current position of the team, but met a brick wall. Special Assistant to the Minister on Media, Segun Adeyemi neither answered calls made to his mobile phone nor responded to the text message sent to the same phone, seeking clarifications on the issue.
The government had hinged the suspension of Twitter, on the allegation that its activities were undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence. But global human rights group, Amnesty International as well as the international community have labelled the action of the Nigerian government an attack on citizens’ right to free speech and an incursion on press freedom.
The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria followed the pulling down of a controversial tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari’s post on the platform. In that tweet, President Buhari had threatened to “deal with those causing trouble”
in the country in the language they understand,” referencing the experience of the 1967-1970 civil war where millions of Nigerians got killed.
The Nigerian authorities have since set plans to force social media platforms to register in Nigeria and comply with local regulations before they are licensed to operate. The ban on Twitter and the push for more draconian legislations, are the latest symptoms of the alarming backsliding on human rights across Nigeria.