The Nigerian Twitter suspension controversy took a new turn last week as the country’s government decided to initiate talks with Twitter – or at least to name a team that will be asked to do so.
According to CNN, the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, has assembled a team to lead negotiations with Twitter. This followed the announcement in early June from the ministry of information and culture that the Nigerian government had ‘indefinitely suspended’ Twitter's operations in the country. The negotiating team will including the minister of information Lai Mohammed.
The suspension saga began with a tweet from the Nigerian leader threatening to 'deal with' people in the country's southeast, whom he blames for attacks on public infrastructure in the region. The tweet was deleted by Twitter, to the government's irritation.
Twitter has already written to the president “seeking”, as the social media giant put it, “to engage with the Federal Government over the suspension”.
In addition, Nigeria’s threat to prosecute Twitter users has been undermined by a ruling by West African regional bloc ECOWAS. The Nigerian government, said the ruling, may not arrest and prosecute Nigerians and businesses for trying to get round the ban – apparently many are using virtual private networks to do so – though Justice Keikura Bangura of the ECOWAS Court did not directly tell Nigerian authorities to lift the Twitter ban.
The action against Twitter has already had a strong response from human rights bodies, journalists and NGOs.
There are also, as we pointed out last week, economic consequences to the suspension, with some estimates suggesting a loss to the Nigerian economy of more than $6 million a day from the Twitter ban.