Twitter users intensify civic engagement, accountability as service is restored

Twitter

• Platform pleased to return to Nigeria as telcos open network gateways
• SERAP seeks compensation for affected Nigerians

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With the lifting of the seven months ban on micro blogging platform, Twitter, yesterday, by the Federal Government, many government agencies, parastatals, corporate Nigeria and users returned to the platform amid intensified calls for accountability and civic engagements.
  
In the 222 days of Twitter ban, especially from June 5, 2021, when the suspension became effective, many users of the platform have been unable to express displeasure or call out sub-par services rendered by some government agencies and corporate entities.
  
With the return of Twitter, many users are hoping to explore the platform to address issues of poor customer service and also to demand government accountability.
  
This is even as more reactions continued to trail the lifting of the suspension as announced in a statement signed by the Chairman Technical Committee, Nigeria-Twitter Engagement and Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi.  

From Twitter, the firm said it was pleased to restore service for everyone in Nigeria. The company wrote on its public policy account that it was delighted with the restoration of its services in Nigeria.

“We are pleased that Twitter has been restored for everyone in Nigeria,” the tweet early Thursday reads. It added, “Our mission in Nigeria and around the world is to serve the public conversation.”

The Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has described the lifting as strategic. The Chairman, ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, told The Guardian that members have complied with the directive as the network gateways have been opened. “Members have complied with the directive. We expect the service to get better in the course of the week.”

Checks showed that against the 12 a.m. (Thursday) timing the Federal Government statement claimed Twitter operations will become functional in the country, the service was fully restored by 4 a.m.

The President Muhammadu Buhari-led government had suspended Twitter in Nigeria on June 4, 2021. It took effect on June 5, 2021, and lasted for seven months with attendant effects on the country’s reputation, economy and development.

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MEANWHILE, the American Government through the US mission in Nigeria, also reacted to the restoration of Twitter’s services in Nigeria by the Federal Government.
    
Speaking on the ban, the U.S. mission tweeted: “We welcome the restoration of Twitter’s services by @NigeriaGov. Social media remains a vital tool for expression, information sharing, and economic growth.”
  
“We are pleased that access for Nigerians is #BackOn & look forward to continuing to engage and grow with you here.”
   
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, said that social media “plays a valuable role in boosting a free economy and allowing the exchange of ideas — essential components of any open society.”
  
Amnesty International has equally welcomed the lifting of the ban on Twitter in the country.
  
“Amnesty International welcomes the lifting of Twitter ban by Nigerian authorities, after seven–months of depriving Nigerians from exercising their right to freedom of expression on a social media platform that facilitates dialogue and empowers everyone to communicate, hold useful debates and conversations, and demand accountability from the Nigerian authorities.

“The Twitter ban was illegal — in the first place — and an attack on the right to freedom of expression, including online, access to information and media freedom. Nigerian authorities must end all acts that violate rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and freedom of the press,” the rights group said.

Paradigm Initiative, an organisation, which works to connect underserved young Africans with digital opportunities, and ensures protection of their rights, is also happy that the ban has been lifted and access to the microblogging platform has been restored.
  
Nonetheless, Paradigm Initiative insisted that the arbitrary suspension was a gross violation of the people’s fundamental rights to freedom of expression and association enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.
  
The body said these rights are also protected by international instruments and highlighted in the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, adopted by the African Commission in November 2019, at its 65th Ordinary Session, which provides in Principle 38 (1) and (2) that “States shall not interfere with the right of individuals to seek, receive and impart information through any means of communication and digital technologies, through measures such as the removal, blocking or filtering of content, unless such interference is justifiable and compatible with international human rights law and standards” and that “States shall not engage in or condone any disruption of access to the internet and other digital technologies for segments of the public or an entire population.”
  
Paradigm Initiative said although it considered the reverse of the ban long overdue, “its effects were detrimental to the nation and cannot be overlooked. As such, we demand an explanation and clarification of the action in the first place. It remains pertinent that the courts of law interpret the law on this matter to ensure that actions such as this do not become commonplace in the country.  Paradigm Initiative in association with other CSOs will continue to follow up and monitor its cases filed against the Federal Government, and some telecommunication stakeholders that have been adjourned.”
ON his part, former Governor of Lagos state, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, observed that “Social media – indeed all media – including Twitter, are a means for us to all communicate, report, share and engage with stories and each other; to enable economic and social empowerment for Nigerians. But they can be and sometime are misused.
  
According to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Media Office with the handle#BAT2023 @ekometa,” he added: “ I commend the FG for recognising these aspects and most importantly, concluding negotiations for the safe return of access to Twitter to the millions of Nigerians who use it, daily. Welcome back one and all!”

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The former lawmaker and Human Rights Activist, Senator Shehu Sani argued that,” If Twitter must open an office in Nigeria, same rule should apply to other Social Media handles for fairness.”

For former presidential aide, Reno Omokri, the lifting of the Twitter suspension in Nigeria by the Federal Government was due to the forthcoming 2023 general elections.

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THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability (SERAP), said the ban was a travesty in the first place. The organisation urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately pay reparations to the victims of the illegal ban.
  
In a statement issued by SERAP yesterday, the body pledged to file a law suit against the President to seek orders for adequate compensation and guarantees of non-repetition for the Nigerian victims of the illegal Twitter ban.
    
“We’ll pursue the suit for adequate compensation on behalf of all interested persons absolutely free of charge.
 
“Buhari’s administration has a legal obligation to effectively redress the consequences of the wrongful act of Twitter suspension,” SERAP said.

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