The Federal Government of Nigeria has stated that the envoys of the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), Canada and the European Union (EU) in Nigeria have expressed their support for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari over its efforts in demanding for the use of social media “responsibly” in the country.
The New Diplomat had earlier reported that the FG summoned the envoys to a meeting in Abuja, over their recent reactions to the suspension of Twitter in the country.
Recall that the Federal Government had announced an indefinite suspension of the operations in the country, hinging the decision on “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
Reacting to the ban in a joint statement on Saturday, Canada, EU, UK, US, and the Republic of Ireland, condemned the action of the FG.
“The diplomatic missions of Canada, the European Union (Delegation to Nigeria), the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America convey our disappointment over the Government of Nigeria’s announcement suspending #Twitter and proposing registration requirements for other social media,” the statement partly reads.
Meanwhile, the Minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who addressed a press conference, stated that the meeting with the envoys yielded good fruits, as they have expressed their support for Nigeria.
According to the minister, the current security situation of the country was discussed in the meeting. He also stated that the role of social media was also discussed.
Onyeama stated that the Federal Government believes in democracy, however, the government has an obligation to protect its citizens.
Speaking on the Twitter ban, the Minister stated that social media in Nigeria had in recent times been used to divide the country.
According to him, the FG made the right decision by suspending the operations of Twitter in Nigeria, in order to allow peace and order in the country.
In his words, “These are countries that we consider close friends and partners of Nigeria, so we sat down and review the whole situation and we stated the security concerns of Mr President and of all Nigerians. We also discussed the strong steps that need to be taken to address the security challenges of the country. They (envoys) have all living in Nigeria and they have a first-hand view and experience of the security challenges we are facing.
“Of course, we also discussed the role of social media as a platform. Social media is good for communication and dissemination of information but like everything else, it can be used to do good and it can be used to do bad. Unfortunately, the bad social media is often used for has very dire consequences on human lives and properties and in our case also, it has threatened the unity of the country and so as the responsibility of the government to maintain law and order, to maintain security and preserve human lives, we have to take every measure to ensure that all those are preserved.
“Yes, we believe in democracy, the right to life, the right to property, ownership, we believe in human rights, freedom of speech, but all that also has to be used responsibly. The government obviously has the responsibility to take measures, in some cases, it might be emergency measures and others cases through legal steps.
“We have discussed and the partnership and solidarity with the five countries was reaffirmed. They have supported us, very strongly in our security crisis, humanitarian services, economic challenges. So we consider these countries as our partners and we are asking for them to also support us as we confront all these challenges.
“We also listened to their views on these issues and as friends and partners, we exchanged views and we are particularly gratified with the restatement and reassurance of their support towards Nigeria.”
Ambassador of the United States of America to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, who spoke on behalf of other western envoys said they remain firm in their position that free access to the ability to express self is very important for Nigerians.
“I thank the minister for inviting us here today because that is what partners do. Talk about shared goals. We did speak about the issues of social media and our concerns.
“We have to be very clear that we are Nigeria’s strong partners on issues of security and we recognise the daunting task on the issues of security that confronts Nigeria.
“While they are daunting, they are not insurmountable, and part of the way you surmount them is with the partnership of the people you see represented here.
“We recognise that there are issues of irresponsible use of social media, but we remain firm in our position that free access to the ability to express self is very important and perhaps more important in troubled times,’’ Ambassador Leonard said.