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Twitter reacts as MTN, Glo, Airtel, others implement ban in Nigeria, says it received “formal instructions” from NCC

Twitter has formally reacted to the federal government decision to ban its operations in Nigeria with Sarah Hart, Twitter’s senior policy communications manager for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, saying it is “deeply concerning.”

According to an email response to inquiries, Ms Hart said: “The announcement made by the Nigerian Government that they have suspended Twitter’s operations in Nigeria is deeply concerning. We’re investigating and will provide updates when we know more.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s telecommunication operators said they have started blocking access to Twitter after the federal government placed an indefinite ban on the social media platform on Friday.

The telcos, under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) said there has been a directive from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to block Nigerians from accessing the platform.

A statement jointly signed by ALTON Chairman and Executive Secretary, Gbenga Adebayo and Gbolahan Awonuga confirmed this.

“We, the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) wish to confirm that our members have received formal instructions from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry regulator to suspend access to Twitter,” ALTON said in the statement.

“ALTON has conducted a robust assessment of the request in accordance with internationally accepted principles.

 “Based on national interest provisions in the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, and within the licence terms under which the industry operates; our members have acted in compliance with the directives of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) the industry regulator.

“We will continue to engage all the relevant authorities and stakeholders and will act as may be further directed by the NCC.

 “We remain committed to supporting the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and upholding the rights of citizens.

“As an industry, we endorse the position of the United Nations that the rights held by people offline must also be protected online. This includes respecting and protecting the rights of all people to communicate, to share information freely and responsibly, and to enjoy privacy and security regarding their data and their use of digital communications.”

In a statement titled, ‘FG Suspends Twitter’s Operations in Nigeria,” Segun Adeyemi, Special Assistant To The President (Media), Office of the Minister of Information and Culture, said: “The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria.

“The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday, citing the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.

“The Minister said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.”

But as at Saturday morning, Twitter was still up and running in Nigeria.

The federal government’s decision to ban Twitter operations in Nigeria came two days after the microblogging giant on Wednesday deleted a controversial tweet posted by President Muhammadu Buhari on the Biafran war of 1967-1970 during which many lives were lost.

Buhari’s tweet, which was in reaction to ongoing unrest in the South-East, had read in part, “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”

But the statement did not go down well with many Nigerians who felt Buhari’s comments were insensitive, particularly as his regime had not spoken hard on northern elements causing trouble in the country.×280&×280&correlator=751557867057&frm=20&pv=1&ga_vid=275240276.1588143203&ga_sid=1622873415&ga_hid=955716756&ga_fc=0&u_tz=60&u_his=5&u_java=0&u_h=768&u_w=1366&u_ah=728&u_aw=1366&u_cd=24&u_nplug=0&u_nmime=0&adx=5&ady=2438&biw=1349&bih=643&scr_x=0&scr_y=0&eid=31060839&oid=3&pvsid=3594593495122218&pem=24&!2&btvi=2&fsb=1&xpc=C7IB1UPeXg&p=https%3A// Following widespread complaints, Twitter took down Buhari’s post for violating the platform’s “abusive behaviour” policy.

But the deletion of Buhari’s tweet displeased the Nigerian government, with its spokesman, Mohammed, accusing the micro-blogging platform of double standard.

Mohammed, who on Wednesday addressed the State House correspondents, accused Twitter of complicity in the polarisation of Nigerians.

“Twitter may have its own rules but it’s not the universal rule.

“If Mr President feels very bad and concerned about a situation, he is free to express such views,” Mohammed had said.

A member of the ruling All Progressives Congress had last year sued Twitter’s Chief Executive Officer, Jack Dorsey, for $1bn, for supporting last October’s nationwide #EndSARS protests by Nigerians youths, seeking an end to police brutality.

In a move many interpreted as spiteful of Nigeria, Twitter in April announced it had picked Ghana as the base of its African headquarters. Mohammed had then blamed Nigerian youths for Twitter’s decision to choose Ghana over Nigeria to site its African headquarters, saying it should be a lesson that the country would continue to lose economic opportunities if citizens don’t desist to paint the country in bad light.

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