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US, Canada, others insist Nigeria violates citizen’s rights on Twitter’s ban

The United States (US) Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard on Monday insisted that the suspension of Twitter operations in the country violates the freedom of expression of Nigerians regardless of the concerns by the government that the platform was being used to perpetrate hate speech and criminality.

Leonard, who spoke after a meeting of the five envoys from the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, the US and EU with the minister of foreign affairs in Abuja, said the ambassadors maintained their earlier position on the ban.

“We recognise the official position of the Nigerian government on the responsible use of social media but we remain firm in our position that free access to information is very important and perhaps more important during troubled times,” she said.

“We are here as partners and we want to see Nigeria succeed. It’s very clear that we are Nigeria’s strongest partners on issues of security and we recognise the daunting times in the way of the security challenges that confront Nigeria.

“While they are daunting, they are not insurmountable and part of the way to surmount them is the partnership of the people you see represented here,” Leonard added.

The envoys were optimistic about the Federal government reaching a common ground as it was locked in discussions with Twitter.

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The representatives of the countries had in a joint statement on Saturday said the ban on Twitter by the government undermines Nigerians’ ability to exercise their fundamental freedom.

They said the government ban on Twitter sends “a poor message to its citizens, investors and businesses.”

“Banning social media and curbing every citizen’s ability to seek, receive, and impart information undermines fundamental freedoms,” the envoys said in the statement on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama said Nigeria is in talks with Twitter over the suspension of the micro-blogging site in Nigeria.

Onyeama, who spoke on Monday at press conference after his meeting with representatives of five foreign missions in Nigeria over their comments on the Twitter ban, said the micro-blogging platform remains suspended and there was still no date for the lifting of the suspension.

He told the envoys that the Nigerian government is not against the use of social media but wants to see it used for global good and responsible communications.

“We know the power of words and when you have that kind of power to manage and facilitate communication to billion of people; it has to come with responsibility.

“So, we are taking this measure to see to what extent we can rebalance this media as forces of good and stop them being used as a platform for destabilization and facilitation of criminality,” Onyeama said.

The minister of information, Lai Mohammed on Friday announced the federal government’s decision to suspend Twitter from operating in the country after a face-off between the authorities and the social media giant escalated earlier in the week.

On Saturday, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami said he has directed the prosecution of those who sidestepped the government ban on Twitter in the country.

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