In response to criticism that the Twitter ban had stifled freedom of expression, the government said on Wednesday that Twitter’s suspension in Nigeria will end once the US social media giant submits to local licencing, registration and conditions.
Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed told AFP Twitter had sought talks with the government, which last week suspended the platform’s operations in the country, saying it was used for activities threatening the country’s stability.
The Twitter ban on Friday has provoked outcry from the United Nations, foreign governments and rights groups who are concerned about repression of media freedoms.
“First and foremost, Twitter must register as a company in Nigeria,” the minister said in an interview, when asked about lifting the ban.
“It will be licenced by the broadcasting commission, and must agree not to allow its platform to be used by those who are promoting activities that are inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria.”
Twitter last week said it was deeply concerned about the block, calling access to free and open internet a basic right.
According to Twitter, the company is engaged with the Nigerian government as part of its commitment to a safe service for its users.
The Twitter ban decision came just two days after the platform had deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari’s own account for violating its rules.
He had made a reference to Nigeria’s civil war five decades ago when one million people died, in the context of a warning to those behind recent unrest in the country’s southeast, where separatist tensions are on the rise.
At the time, the government complained Twitter had not deleted violent remarks made by a separatist leader from the southeast and also referenced Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s support for anti-police brutality protests in Nigeria last year.
Mohammed said Twitter had became a platform for incitement for the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), an outlawed group agitating for a separate state for the Igbo people in Nigeria’s southeast.
The government has blamed them for a surge in attacks on police stations and election offices in the region, a charge the group denies.
“Anywhere in the world where Twitter becomes a platform of choice for insurrection or becomes a platform of choice to promote activities that will lead to the demise of any country, I think such country should ban them,” he said.
Mohammed said few countries tolerated freedom of expression like Nigeria, with its wide range of television channels, radio stations and social media platforms.
“Nobody in actual honesty can accuse Nigeria of stifling freedom of expression, if anyone wants to be honest. But there’s one line you must not cross,” he said.
“I use Twitter too! But the point is in the hierarchy of priorities, which one is more important? To have a peaceful Nigeria, a stable Nigeria, or a Nigeria that would not be stable and allow whatever you call freedom of expression.”