Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama has confirmed that the Nigerian government is in dialogue with Twitter on the best ways to resolve the the ban its placed on it and perhaps lift the ban. The Minister had earlier told the envoys at a meeting that the Nigerian government is not against the use of social media but want to see it used for global good and responsible communications. He said “we know the power of words and when you have that kind of power to manage and facilitate communication to billion of people; it has to come with responsibility. So, we are taking this measure to see to what extent we can rebalance this media as forces of good and stop them being used as a platform for destabilisation and facilitation of criminality.”
But The United States(US), the European Union (EU) the United Kingdom(UK) Canada, Norway and Republic of Ireland, have maintained their position that the ban on Twitter by the Nigerian government violates freedom of expression of Nigerians. Irrespective of the concerns by the government that the platform was being used to perpetrate hate speech and criminality. The ambassadors of these countries were invited by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, to explain the reason behind such criticism. The six countries in a joint statement issued on Saturday said, “the diplomatic missions of Canada, the European Union (Delegation to Nigeria), the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America convey our disappointment over the Government of Nigeria’s announcement suspending #Twitter and proposing registration requirements for other social media.
“We strongly support the fundamental human right of free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria as around the world and these rights apply online as well as offline. Banning systems of expression is not the answer.” The statement said further that “these measures inhibit access to information and commerce at precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue and expression of opinions, as well as share vital information in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic”. Speaking on behalf of the six envoys of the countries and their representatives on Monday, after a closed door meeting Onyeama, US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, told the Foreign Minister that access to social media by citizens is germane to freedom of speech which in turn is a prerequisite for democratic culture.
“We recognise the official position of Nigerian government on the responsible use of social media but we remain firm in our position that free access to information is very important and perhaps more important during troubled times.” She said further that it is actually in troubled times that there is the need for individual expression and open conversation and accountability. We are here as partners and we want to see Nigeria succeed. It’s very clear that we are Nigeria’s strongest partners on issues of security and we recognise the daunting times in the way of the security challenges that confront Nigeria. While they are daunting, they are not insurmountable and part of the way to surmount them is the partnership of the people you see represented here,” she said. Leonard is optimistic on the Federal government reaching a common ground as the Nigerian Government is locked in discussions with Twitter Inc.