The Nigerian authorities few days ago announced that a code of conduct has been handed over to Twitter and other social media companies. Prior to that, the Nigerian ruler, Muhammadu Buhari on the democracy day broadcast ordered the conditional lifting of the ban. The authorities of the West African country through the Minister of information, Mr. Lai Mohammed had hinted of a breakthrough in negotiations between Twitter and the Nigerian State.
With 61.4% of the approximately 33 million social media Nigerian users on Twitter, a large percentage of many business operations make use of the platform to advance their craft, the ban affected the economy negatively. The NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool had declared in August that it costs Nigeria’s economy N102.77m ($250,600) every hour to ban Twitter.
The impasse between Twitter and the Nigerian authorities began after the government on June 4 suspended the micro blogging platform, accusing the company of engaging in actions that sought ‘to undermine the corporate existence of the country, coincidentally few days after Twitter deleted the tweets of the country’s President warning those fanning embers of war to desist as the last Nigerian Civil war intrigues is not something to be want to emulate. The government authorities felt Twitter exhibited bias as it allowed inciting tweets by separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu and his foot soldiers hold sway on the platform, while it beamed his searchlight on the tweet of the Nigerian ruler.
Earlier in the year, there were scores of violent attacks by ‘unknown gunmen’ against instruments of the state, the police, the electoral offices in South-East Nigeria, with the government fingering members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Although the IPOB has many times denied involvement in the killings and attacks, the inciting comments of its foot soldiers on Twitter and that of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu appeared to have lent support to the anarchical situation in the South Eastern part of the country.
The President of Nigeria, while reacting to the attacks on government formations wrote on Twitter: : “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.”
The Tweet generated furore with some sections of the public believing that the tone of the tweet indicated intended genocide against the people of the South-East.
Twitter deleted the tweets, claiming it violated its rules but the country’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed while reacting to the action of Twitter said that “Twitter may have its own rules; it’s not the universal rule”, adding that if the president felt “concerned about a situation, he is free to express such views”.
Mohammed further added that Twitter had not banned incitement tweets from other groups.
Lai Mohammed had in August this year revealed that Twitter Inc. has met 70 percent of the government terms and conditions, part of them the setting up of a Twitter office in Nigeria and the payment of tax. He noted that the government’s terms and conditions are deemed fundamental and important.
“We are working on a few more,” he told Bloomberg Television on Wednesday, August 18, 2021.
He further added that the meeting between both parties have been ‘quite encouraging’, while maintaining that the Twitter platform was being used to target security agents, and promote ethnic interest over the nation’s unity. the government also accused Twitter of playing a dangerous role in the #EndSARS protests that led to destructions and deaths.
“For national security, we suspended the operations,” he said.
The Nigerian Information Minister hinted that the social media platform Twitter agreed to site an office in Nigeria but Twitter in a swift reaction denied reaching such an agreement, noting only that both parties are still talking to each other.
But Twitter began to clamp down on the Tweets of separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu and his foot soldiers, deleting the inciting tweets that were left unflagged for long.
It should be noted that Jack Dorsey, actively involved in the negotiations had shown his support for the Nigerian government fixed Democracy day on June 12 by tweeting the flag of the country as early as 12am. The present Nigerian government had few years back shifted the Democracy day from May 29 to June 12 to honour the annulled June 12, 1993 elections won by Mr. Moshood Abiola.
With many Nigerians planning on holding protests against bad governance and a call for the reversal of the Twitter restriction on June 12, Dorsey tweeted the Nigerian flag with an emoji of a handshake and “#bitcoin”.
— jack (@jack) June 12, 2021
Jack Dorsey not fazed with the criticism of his democracy day solidarity, retweeted an article calling for the Nigerian government to pursue a Bitcoin standard, and quoted a tweet with the caption “the people of Nigeria will lead #bitcoin”.
Public analysts opined that Mr. Dorsey as a businessman was just protecting his interests and he would probably align more with the government to be in their good books.
The internet world was shocked November 29, 2021 when Dorsey announced his resignation as the CEO of Twitter with immediate effect while announcing that the company’s former CTO, Parag Agrawal, will succeed him.
According to CFRA Research analyst Angelo Zino, 37 –year old Agrawal is a “‘safe’ pick who should be looked upon as favourably by investors”.
In a bid to keep the ground running, Agrawal had written in an email to employees:
“We recently updated our strategy to hit ambitious goals, and I believe that strategy to be bold and right. But our critical challenge is how we work to execute against it and deliver results.”
Twitter new CEO, Parag Agrawal was its Chief Technology Officer and has been with the company for at least ten years. It connotes he would be very conversant with major tech decisions of the company including the fallouts of restrictions various governments, but the question begging for answers will be if he would continue the policies and approaches of Jack Dorsey or chart a new course. If he decides on the latter, it may affect major financial decisions like the setting up of physical offices in developing countries or areas of security concern.
His ideas and inclinations on how to approach conflicts and in this case, the Twitter-Nigeria impasse may be different and this may stall the negotiating process.
But while we wait for new policy directions from the new Twitter helmsman, it is hoped that the negotiation between Nigeria reaches a favourable outcome, to allow the country’s teeming social media population have full access to the micro blogging platform.