Friday, August 20, 2021

Nigeria Near Agreement to Resume Twitter Service

Twitter Inc. agreed to most of the conditions set by the Nigerian government to resume operations in the West African country, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said.

The social media giant “has met almost 70% of the government’s terms and conditions, many of them quite fundamental and important,” Mohammed said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Television. “We are working on a few more.”

A spokesman for the San Francisco-based company declined to comment.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration blocked access to Twitter’s services in Africa’s most populous country on June 5, after the company deleted one of his tweets for violating its rules. The dispute added to other controversies Twitter has faced with government leaders, including its decision in January to ban former U.S. President Donald Trump and a clash with Indian authorities over posts on its app.

Buhari, who was briefly a military dictator during the 1980s, ran afoul of Twitter’s rules when he issued a threat to crack down on separatists he accuses of waging a rebellion in the southeast of the country.

The Nigerian government didn’t shutter Twitter because of the removal of Buhari’s tweet, Mohammed said. Rather, it was because of the use of the U.S. microblogging site by the Indigenous People of Biafra, he said.

Buhari’s government has proscribed IPOB, which wants to establish an independent nation in southeastern Nigeria, as a terrorist organization and blames the group for a series of deadly attacks this year on security forces. The group’s leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was captured in June and returned to Nigeria to continue a treason trial he fled in 2017.

“Twitter became the platform of choice for a group that was targeting policemen, killing policemen, killing the military and promoting the interest of one ethnic group against another,” Mohammed said. “For national security, we suspended the operations.”

IPOB maintains that it’s a self-determination movement committed to creating its own state for the Igbo ethnic group through non-violent means. It accuses the government of “abducting” Kanu abroad in violation of international law.

Twitter officials last met with representatives of the Nigerian government “about a week ago,” according to Mohammed. “It’s been quite encouraging.

By Annmarie Hordern and William Clowes


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