FG summons US, UK envoys, others, over statement on Twitter ban

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The envoys of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union in Nigeria have been summoned by the federal government  over their recent comments on the suspension of microblogging site Twitter.                        This was contained in an invitation to pressmen issued on Monday morning by Kimiebi Ebienfa of the Crisis Monitoring and Public Communications Division of the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.            “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,” the invite read.                      Canada, EU, UK, US, and the Republic of Ireland had in a joint statement on Saturday, condemned the action of the Nigerian government for banning the social media platform, saying banning systems of expression is not the way forward.          The joint statement stated: “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.”          Twitter had deleted a controversial civil war post by the Nigerian President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).    Consequently, the Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension of Twitter, citing the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.                                              Though mobile operators have blocked their customers in the country from using Twitter, many Nigerians have switched to the use of Virtual Private Networks to bypass the blockage.                          Nigeria’s Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had also ordered the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation to prosecute offenders contravening the government’s Twitter ban.                                                          Nigeria, with over 200 million people, had about 33 million active social media users as of January 2021. WhatsApp is the most popular platform used in the country, with over 90 million users according to Statista. Also according to Statista, about 61.4 per cent of Nigerian social media users use Twitter, 86.2 per cent use Facebook, 81.6 per cent use YouTube, 73.1 per cent use Instagram, and 67.2 per cent use Facebook Messenger.

Reported by Punch

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