The Nigerian government has lifted the controversial Twitter ban, ending access restrictions it had imposed on the microblogging platform since early last year.
The decision was announced in a statement by the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, on Wednesday evening.
The statement said the order to lift the suspension came after the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Mr. Isa Ali Ibrahim, sent a memo recommending the lifting, from the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement, to the president.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) directs me to inform the public that President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved the lifting of the suspension of Twitter operation in Nigeria effective from 12am tonight, 13th January 2022.
“The approval was given following a memo written to the President by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim.
“In the Memo, the Minister updated and requested the President’s approval for the lifting based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation,” the NITDA statement said in full.
The Twitter ban has been one of the most controversial decisions president Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has taken. It drew wide condemnation and was described as an attack on free speech, which is the core foundation of democracy.
Despite the condemnation, Buhari’s administration stood by its decision, prolonging the ban for as long as 222 days, costing Nigerians millions of dollars.
Late last year, during his Independence Day speech, Buhari outlined terms and conditions that Twitter must meet for the ban to be lifted. They include: National Security and Cohesion, Registration, Physical presence and Representation, Fair Taxation, Dispute Resolution and Local Content. The government has repeatedly claimed that Twitter has agreed to the terms and conditions.
Twitter was banned in Nigeria after it removed Buhari’s tweet for violating its policy. The social media app, who had earlier chosen Ghana over Nigeria to open its headquarters in Africa, admitted it has been in talks with the Nigerian government, but didn’t say it has agreed to the terms.
Twitter suspension is one of the major bans that have taken place under Buhari’s administration. In August 2019, Buhari ordered the closure of Nigerian land borders, a decision he said was aimed at boosting rice production and stopping arms smuggling into Nigeria. The land border closure, which lasted for about 15 months, stoked Nigeria’s inflation rate to over 15% and failed to meet its objective.
The government said Twitter has agreed to comply with applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law among other things.
However, It is believed that the decision to lift the suspension has been borne from the concern that it will impact the ruling party, All Progressive Congress (APC)’s chances in the 2023 presidential election.