Twitter ban a win-win for Nigeria and microblogging platform —Presidential aide, Tolu Ogunlesi



Tolu Ogunlesi, special assistant on digital/new media to President Muhammadu Buhari, says the ban on Twitter in Nigeria is a win-win situation for the country and the microblogging site.


The federal government had, in June, suspended the operations of Twitter indefinitely over “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.


The ban was announced two days after Twitter deleted Buhari’s tweet wherein he threatened to treat Nigerians “misbehaving” in “the language they understand”.


Speaking on Wednesday, in an interview on Cable News Network (CNN), Ogunlesi said a committee set up to negotiate with Twitter has made progress.


He said the ban will be lifted as soon as the conditions given by the federal government have been met.


“The ban is a win-win for Twitter and the government of Nigeria; that’s the view I get from the negotiations and I am happy about that,” he said.


“We are indeed very close to a resolution and you know one thing I must say is that the media seems to often paint a picture of some sort of adversarial negotiation or contest of sorts, but it has been a very amicable, very positive conversation.


 “I think both sides have benefited from listening to each other and then sharing their views, and I think we are very close. During the Independence Day speech of the president on the 1st of October, he did actually say he’s approved the lifting of the ban as long as the ministerial committee set up is happy that the conditions that have been outlined have been fulfilled by Twitter. So, we are very close, no doubt about that.


“I look at the conditions from short term, medium and long term. For example, with taxation, the condition is not that you must start paying taxes. The condition is that you must commit to having a conversation with the tax authorities about paying taxes. It’s not an insistence on paying taxes today; it’s more about commitment and timelines.”


When asked if the social networking service was suspended over Buhari’s tweet, Ogunlesi, who was a regular user of the microblogging site before the ban, said the president’s tweet didn’t violate Twitter’s terms.


“The context is a lot bigger than that, but of course, from a media point of view, you find that usually — and this is not just in Nigeria — there’s often an event or something that happens that kind of triggers something else,” he said. 


 “I do not believe that that tweet violated the terms of Twitter. The president spoke in his capacity as the president of Nigeria, and it was a law enforcement message. I think it’s perfectly valid for the president of Nigeria to speak, and he was contextual and specific. It was not a message to law-abiding Nigerians; it was a message to people who have chosen to inflict violence on other Nigerians.”


He also said the federal government is keen on welcoming technology and providing an enabling ground, adding that tech companies must ensure that their platforms are not used in ways that undermine democracy, peace and security.

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