ABUJA – Twitter was accessible in Nigeria on Thursday after the government lifted a seven-month ban on the social media giant for deleting a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Nigeria halted Twitter operations in June, sparking an international outcry against free speech.
The government and Twitter have since been negotiating to restore the service on the basis of a number of conditions, including registration of Twitter for its activities in Nigeria.
“President Muhammadu Buhari (…) has authorized the lifting of the suspension of operations of Twitter in Nigeria effective from 12 noon this evening,” the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) said in a statement. communicated.
Twitter was accessible in the Nigerian capital Lagos from 06:00 GMT, an AFP reporter said.
“We are delighted that Twitter has been restored for everyone in Nigeria. Our mission in Nigeria – and globally – is to serve the public conversation,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.
“We are deeply committed to Nigeria, where people use Twitter for commerce, cultural engagement and civic engagement.”
In Africa’s biggest economy, three quarters of the 200 million people are under 24 – a generation that is also heavily connected to social media.
The ban shocked many in Nigeria, where Twitter played a major role in political discourse with the hashtags #BringBackOurGirls after Boko Haram abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls in 2014.
Last year, young activists took to Twitter to organize the #EndSARS protests against police brutality, which eventually became the biggest protests in Nigeria’s modern history before being put down.
NITDA chief executive Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi said the social media giant had agreed to regulations to restore the service.
These included setting up a legal entity in Nigeria, appointing a representative in the country, and meeting tax obligations.
Abdullahi participated in the negotiations with Twitter.
Nigerian officials had criticized Twitter for deleting Buhari’s comment and accused the platform of allowing activities that threatened the country’s existence.
It was a reference to statements on social media by separatist agitators in the southeast of the country, where a civil war killed a million people five decades ago.
“The immediate and remote reason for the suspension was the incessant use of the platform by some unscrupulous elements for subversive purposes and criminal activities, spreading fake news and polarizing Nigerians,” Abdullahi said.
Twitter deleted a comment when Buhari brought up the civil war in Nigeria as part of a warning to those responsible for the recent unrest in the southeast of the country.
Following the ban, officials also cited Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s support for last year’s #EndSARS protests in Nigeria against police brutality.
According to local researchers, around 40 million people, or around 20% of the Nigerian population, have a Twitter account, and many use the platform for business.
The United States, the European Union and Canada were among those who joined rights groups in condemning the ban as damaging to free speech in Africa’s most populous country.