Nigerian President Muhammadu BuharI forms team to negotiate with Twitter, two weeks after ban

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari assembled a reconciliation team to lead negotiations with Twitter, more than two weeks after banning the social media company’s operation indefinitely.

The move came about after Twitter wrote to the President “seeking to engage with the Federal Government over the suspension,” according to a statement on Tuesday.

The team comprises some of Buhari’s top ministers, including Minister of Information Lai Mohammed who accused Twitter of “double standards,” when he first announced the suspension.

The announcement also coincided with a ruling by West African regional bloc ECOWAS barring the Nigerian government from arresting and prosecuting Nigerians and corporate bodies for circumventing the Twitter ban.

Nigerian authorities had ordered federal prosecutors to commence legal action against violators of the ban after many Nigerians continued to send tweets using a virtual private network (VPN).

Twitter’s suspension and the planned government crackdown on users of the social media platform were swiftly challenged at a local court by a human rights body, SERAP.

SERAP, a group of journalists and non-governmental organizations also approached the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, describing Twitter’s suspension as well as threats to prosecute Twitter users as “arbitrary” and “unjustified.”

In a ruling Tuesday, Justice Keikura Bangura of the ECOWAS Court ordered “the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and its agents to refrain from imposing sanction on any media house or harassing, intimidating, arresting and prosecuting the Applicants, concerned Nigerians for the use of Twitter and other social media platforms,” pending conclusion of the suit filed before the court by the applicants, according to a statement by the ECOWAS.

However Justice Bangura fell short of lifting the ban on Twitter.

SERAP’s lawyer, Femi Falana, has described the ruling as “a timely relief for millions of Nigerians using Twitter who have been threatened with prosecution…”

Twitter’s suspension came two days after the microblogging company deleted a tweet by President Buhari that was widely perceived as offensive.