Nigerian government says Twitter ban will end ‘very soon’

The suspension of the social media giant has hurt Nigerian businesses and generated widespread condemnation for its damaging effect on freedom of expression.

The Nigerian government has said it hopes to end the Twitter ban in “a few more days,” raising hope among users eager to return to the social media platform three months after the suspension took effect.

The ban, announced in June, has hurt Nigerian businesses and sparked backlash among social media users and human rights activists for its damaging effect on freedom of expression and the ease of doing business in the most populous nation. from Africa.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed said at a post-cabinet press conference on Wednesday that the government was aware of the anxiety the ban had created among Nigerians.

“If the operation has been suspended for about 100 days, I can tell you that we are actually talking about a few, just a few more days,” Mohammed said, without giving a deadline.

When pressed further, Mohammed said authorities and Twitter officials had to “mark I’s and cross T’s” before reaching a final agreement.

“It’s going to be very, very soon, just believe me,” he said.

A man looks at newspapers at a newsstand in Abuja, Nigeria [File: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters]

The government suspended Twitter in early June after the company removed a post by President Muhammadu Buhari threatening to punish regional secessionists, which the social media giant said violated its rules. Nigeria’s attorney general further said that those who defied the ban should be prosecuted.

In response, dozens of Nigerians and a local rights group filed a lawsuit in a regional court to lift the government’s ban on Twitter, describing the decision to suspend the operations of the popular social media platform as an attempt to silence criticism.

At the time of the suspension, Mohammed said that the government had acted due to “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”

It was the culmination of months of tension. Posts by Twitter boss Jack Dorsey encouraging donations to protests against police brutality last October and posts on Twitter by Nnamdi Kanu, a separatist leader from Biafra currently on trial in Abuja, angered authorities.

Last month, Mohammed told Reuters that the Twitter ban would be lifted before the end of this year, adding that the government was awaiting a response to the final three requests made to the social media platform.

The ban is just one area of ​​concern for free speech advocates. Nigeria fell five places, to 120, in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, which described Nigeria as one of the “most dangerous and difficult” countries in West Africa for journalists.

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