Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has travelled to the US to meet with top executives of the popular microblogging site, Twitter.
SaharaReporters on Tuesday exclusively obtained a video showing the minister and Olusegun Adeyemi, Special Assistant to the President (Media), Office of the Minister of Information and Culture, in a Delta Airline heading to the US.
The Muhammadu Buhari-led government on June 5, 2021 indefinitely banned Twitter, restricting it from operating in Nigeria after the social media platform deleted tweets posted by Buhari.
Buhari’s tweets, which many Nigerians found distasteful, had warned the Southeastern people of Nigeria against secession agenda, threatening to deal with them “in the language they understand”. His comments referenced the Nigeria Civil War (1967-1970) in which an estimated 2 million South-Easterners died of starvation.
However, the Nigerian government claimed the ban was ultimately based on “a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real-world violent consequences”.
It also accused Twitter of threatening the corporate unity of Nigeria.
In the video obtained by SaharaReporters, Mohammed is seen trying to disguise with a baseball cap.
A top source who disclosed the destination and the mission of the government team to SaharaReporters, said, “You can see Lai Mohammed trying to disguise with a face cap, he flew on seat 8A in the business class section of Delta Airline from Lagos to New York.
“He flew with his Special Assistant, Olusegun Adeyemi who took seat 8C in the business class.”
This comes after a statement by Mohammed last Wednesday that Nigeria would soon lift its ban on Twitter after resolving some of its differences with the social media platform, signalling the end of a policy widely condemned as an affront to freedom of expression.
The ban was condemned by Amnesty International, Swedish Embassy and the British and Canadian missions in Nigeria.
Domestic organisations including the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have challenged the ban in court.
Sadly, though many Nigerians have bypassed the ban by using Virtual Private Network (VPN), the already battered economy of the country loses a fortune every day to the ban.
For instance, as at August 6, British firm, Top10VPN estimated that the ban had affected around 104.4 million internet users in the country, and cost the country around $366.9 million. The firm made the calculations using a tool developed by internet governance watchdog organisation, Netblocks, and Internet Society, a US advocacy nonprofit.