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Why Nigerian govt lifted Twitter suspension — Lai Mohammed



The Nigerian government has again explained the major reason for the suspension of a ban imposed on the microblogging site, Twitter, for June 2021 to January 2021.

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at a news conference in Abuja on Monday, said the suspension followed robust negotiations between the Nigerian government and Twitter’s executive members.

This was to clarify a claim traced to American programmer, Peiter Zatko, that the platform begged Nigerian government to lift the ban and agreed to operate within some conditions it outlined.

Zatko in a report submitted to the US Federal Trade Commission under Whistleblower Aid alleged the Nigerian government went ahead to claim to be in negotiations with Twitter executive members following the suspension in June last year.

“Twitter’s failure to correct the false record on many reported non-existent discussions with the Nigerian government permitted Nigeria to negotiate unilaterally through media and dictate unfavourable terms for final resolutions,” the report read.

However, Mohammed who reacted to the report on Monday branded Zatko’s claim as ridiculous.

The minister insisted there were robust negotiations between the Nigerian government and Twitter executive members at the instance of the latter before the ban was lifted in January.

“This claim is so ludicrous that one could just have ignored it. But the claim has continued to make the rounds online, hence our decision to clarify things, After all, it is said that if a lie is repeated often enough, people will believe it”, the minister clarified.

“Without mincing words, let me say that there was a long-drawn negotiation between Nigeria and Twitter, at the instance of the latter, following the suspension of the platform on June 4th 2021 because of its persistent use for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.

“Seven days after the suspension, precisely on June 11th 2021, we received a letter, addressed to Mr. President, from Twitter’s Vice President in charge of Public Policy, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Sinead McSweeney, seeking to meet with us on the Twitter suspension. That letter kick-started a number of activities that culminated in extensive negotiation.

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“After the letter, the Federal Government announced its team to discuss with Twitter. The team, chaired by the Minister of Information and Culture, also comprised the Attorney General of the Federation and Honourable Minister of Justice, Honourable Ministers of Communications and Digital Economy; Foreign Affairs as well as Works and Housing, Honourable Minister of State for Labour and Employment and the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency.

“Following the composition of our team, we received another letter from a group, Albright Stonebridge Group, which apparently was working at the behest of Twitter. The letter named the Twitter team to enter into a discussion with Nigeria. The team was headed by Sinead Sweeney, Twitter’s Vice President, Europe, Middle East and Africa, whom I mentioned earlier; Karen White, Senior Director, Public Policy, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa; Ronan Costello, Senior Public Policy Manager, Africa, Europe, Middle East; Emmanuel Lubanzadio, Head of Public Policy, Sub-Saharan Africa; Jim Baker, Deputy General Counsel and Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Senior Adviser, Albright Stonebridge Group.

“The back-and-forth negotiation culminated in a series of agreements that paved the way for the lifting of the Twitter suspension in January this year.

“With the facts that we have supplied, you can now see that the fellow who reportedly alleged that Twitter did not negotiate with Nigeria is either being economical with the truth or didn’t even understand the workings of the company where he worked”, he concluded.

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