We recognize the official position of 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 – Mary Beth
After a closed door meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, delegates from the diplomatic missions of Canada, European Union, Republic of Ireland, United States of America, and the United Kingdom have maintained their stand on Twitter ban.
The minister of Foreign Affairs had earlier invited the delegates for a closed door meeting to clarify the Federal Government stand on the indefinite suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria.
In a Joint statement by the delegates, the envoys had condemned the Federal Government’s decision. They said:
“We strongly support the fundamental human right of free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria as around the world and these rights apply online as well as offline.
“Banning systems of expression is not the answer. These measures inhibit access to information and commerce at precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue and expression of opinions, as well as share vital information in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The path to a more secure Nigeria lies in more, not less, communication to accompany the concerted efforts of Nigeria’s citizens in fulsome dialogue toward unity, peace and prosperity.”
After the closed door meeting with the delegates, Onyeama clarifies that the Nigerian Government is not against social media.
He said: “We know the power of words and when you have that kind of power to manage and facilitate communication to billions 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.”
While reacting to the Federal Government’s clarification, US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, some on behalf of the envoys. She maintained that citizens’ access to social media is essential to the freedom of speech in a democratic nation such as Nigeria.
“We recognize the official position of 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.”
“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 recognize 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,” Mary added.
Onyeama assured that Nigeria is in talks with Twitter Inc., stating that the condition to lift the ban is the assurance that the company ensures responsible use of its platform.