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War on Twitter: Nigeria summons U.S., U.K., Canada, EU envoys, order all broadcast stations off Twitter

The Nigerian government on Monday summoned the envoys of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union over their recent comments on the suspension of Twitter in the country.

The Federal Government has also directed all broadcast stations in Nigeria to go off Twitter.

The international community had in a joint statement described the ban on Twitter as a “disappointment.”

According to the joint statement: “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.

“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.

“The path to a more secure Nigeria lies in more, not less, communication to accompany the concerted efforts of Nigeria’s citizens in fulsome dialogue toward unity, peace and prosperity. As Nigeria’s partners, we stand ready to assist in achieving these goals.”

In a statement on Monday, Kimiebi Ebienfa of the Crisis Monitoring and Public Communications Division of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, summoned the heads of the diplomatic missions to attend an urgent meeting with Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, the Minister.

According to the diplomatic note summoning them: “I am directed to inform that following the recent ban on Twitter by the Federal Government and Press Statement issued by some Heads of Diplomatic Missions Accredited to Nigeria on the subject matter, the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency, Geoffrey Onyeama has invited the affected Ambassadors to a meeting today at 12 noon.

“The venue is Minister’s Conference Room, 8th Floor.

“You are hereby invited to cover the meeting. Thanks for your usual cooperation.”

Meanwhile, Armstong Idachaba, Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), said in a memo to broadcast stations to all television and radio stations in the country to de-install Twitter and desist from using it as a source of news.

“Consequent on the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria by the Federal Government over the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining the corporate existence of Nigeria, the National Broadcasting Commission directs all Broadcasting Stations in Nigeria to suspend the patronage of Twitter immediately.”

He quoted section 2(1) r of the NBC Act, which entrusts the commission with responsibility to ensure strict adherence to the national laws, rules and regulations to back up his directive.

“Also, section 3.11.2  of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code provides that “the broadcaster shall ensure that law enforcement is upheld at all times in a matter depicting that law and order are socially superior to or more desirable than Crime and Anarchy”, he added.

He equally drew the broadcasters’ attention to section 5.6.3 of the code which requires them to be mindful of materials that may cause disaffection, incite to panic or rift in the society in the use of a user generated Content (UGC).

He said it will be unpatriotic for any broadcaster in Nigeria to continue to patronise the suspended Twitter as a source of its information “therefore strict compliance is enjoined.”

Nigerians have been circumventing the ban through the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) but on Saturday, Abubakar Malami, Minister of Justice, threatened that those still making use of Twitter will be prosecuted.

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