Onyeama holds meeting with US, UK, EU, Canada envoys, gives condition to lift ban on Twitter

Nigeria's minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, on Monday held a meeting with envoys of US, UK, Canada and the European Union in Abuja.

The minister had invited the the countries’ envoys over their comment on the suspension Twitter operations in Nigeria.

In a joint statement issued on Saturday, the missions did not mince words in condemning the “indefinite” suspension of the social media network in their host country.

"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,” they had said.
At the meeting in Abuja, Onyeama said it is important for the federal government to discuss the suspension with the missions “in our usual friendly way.”

He said the federal government takes “very seriously” the statement issued by the countries' representatives in Nigeria.

The minister said before the meeting continued behind closed doors that it is important for Nigeria to “share opinions” with the missions “out of respect.”

“Out of respect and in view of the relationship that we have with your countries, I felt it was absolutely right and appropriate to take your comments very seriously and to meet with you for us to, in our usual friendly way, discuss and share opinions with respect to that and clarify certain things,” he said.

“It is for that reason that we have invited you here, not summoned, invited, to discuss some of these issues.”

Onyeama then added that Twitter’s operations in Nigeria will be restored only if the platform can be used “responsibly.”

Asked when the ban will be lifted, Onyeama said there is no definite timeline for that, but added: “The condition would be responsible use of the social media and that really has to be it.”

“We are not saying that Twitter is threatening the country or any such thing; why we have taken this measure is to stop them to be used as platforms for destabilisation and facilitation of criminality or encouragement of criminalities,” he also said.

Despite the government’s claim that Twitter is being used to undermine the existence of Nigeria, some have argued the suspension may be connected to the company’s decision to delete President Muhammadu Buhari tweet recently.

The microblogging platform had said it is “deeply concerned” over the suspension, adding that “access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential human right in modern society.”

“We will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world,” it had also said.

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