FG Releases ‘Proof’ of Negotiation with Twitter Before Lifting Ban Suspension

Alhaji Lai Mohammed
Minister of Information and Culture

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on December 19, 2022 said Twitter negotiated with the Nigerian Government in the wake of the June 2021 suspension of the microblogging site before the government lifted the suspension.

The Minister disclosed this in Abuja during the 13th edition of the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration Scorecard Series (2015-2023) which featured the Minister of Women Affairs, Ms Pauline Tallen.

Alhaji Mohammed made this clarification while reacting to the claim by a former senior Twitter official that there was no negotiation between the company and Nigeria to rescind its suspension of Twitter. Speaking at a news conference in Abuja, the minister described the attempt to deny what transpired between the two parties as “ludicrous”.

During the briefing, the Minister, not only projected the letter on the screens at the briefing but also made copies available to journalists. He said there was a long-drawn negotiation between Nigeria and Twitter, at the instance of the latter, following the suspension of the platform, contrary to the claim by the former Twitter worker.

On June 5, 2021, Twitter operation was suspended in Nigeria following government allegations that the micro-blogging site persistently allowed tweets that were capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.

The Minister said seven days after the suspension, precisely on June 11, 2021, the government received a letter, addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari from Twitter’s vice president in charge of Public Policy, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, Sinead McSweeney, seeking to meet with the government on the Twitter suspension.

According to the Minister, “That letter kick-started a number of activities that culminated in the extensive negotiation.”

Mohammed said after receiving the letter, the federal government announced its team to discuss with Twitter saying he chaired the team which comprised the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Ministers of Communications and Digital Economy and Foreign Affairs. He said other members of the team were the Minister of Works and Housing, Minister of State for Labour and Employment and the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency.

Mohammed said following the composition of the team, the government received another letter from a group, Albright Stonebridge Group, which was working at the behest of Twitter.

The minister said Twitter also set up a team headed by Sinead Sweeney, Twitter’s Vice President, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, to enter into discussion with the government. He said other members of the Twitter team included, Karen White, Senior Director, Public Policy, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa; Ronan Costello, Senior Public Policy Manager, Africa, Europe, and Middle East.

Also on the Twitter team were Emmanuel Lubanzadio, Head of Public Policy, Sub-Saharan Africa; Jim Baker, Deputy General Counsel, and Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Senior Adviser, Albright Stonebridge Group. Alhaji Mohammed said the back-and-forth negotiations culminated in a series of agreements that paved the way for the lifting of the Twitter suspension in January 2022.