We Are In Talks With Twitter Over Suspension – FG

FILE: The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama.

 

The Federal Government said it is in discussions with Twitter after it suspended the social media giant’s operations in the country, foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama told reporters Monday.

“There are discussions ongoing with Twitter, we will see how that progresses, so I cannot say for now the duration of the suspension,” Onyeama said after a meeting with diplomats on the issue.

The Government said it was suspending the platform on Friday, two days after Twitter deleted a comment from the president’s account for violating its rules.

The suspension came into effect on Saturday as many Nigerian users resorted to Virtual Private Networks to access Twitter.

Earlier on Monday, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) had directed all TV and radio stations to “suspend the patronage of Twitter immediately,” describing its use as unpatriotic.

“Broadcasting stations are hereby advised to de-install twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source… of information gathering for news,” NBC’s director Armstrong Idachaba wrote in a statement.

“It would be unpatriotic for any broadcaster in Nigeria to continue to patronise the suspended Twitter as a source of its information.”

More than 39 million Nigerians have a Twitter account, according to NOI polls, a public opinion and research organisation.

Some Nigerian broadcasters are concerned the clampdown on Twitter is part of more general crackdown against the media.

“It is very important we push back and fast, because they could go further. We need to talk to the different media houses and adopt a strong and common answer,” said a social media executive at a major TV station in Nigeria with several thousand followers on Twitter, who asked to remain anonymous considering the sensitivity of the issue.

“Twitter is a very important platform for us, and it brings a lot of viewers globally.”

Prosecution of offenders

Minister Onyeama insisted on the “responsible use of media” in remarks to reporters after the Monday meeting.

“We are not saying that Twitter is threatening Nigeria or any of such thing like that,” Onyeama said.

“Why we have taken such measure is to see whether we can rebalance the media as forces of good, and stop them from being used as platforms for destabilization and facilitation and encouragement of criminality.”

US Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard said the diplomatic community stood by its position.

“We recognise that there are issues of responsible use of social media but we remain firm on our position that free access to the ability to express oneself is actually very important,” she told reporters.

The government’s suspension came after Twitter on Wednesday deleted a remark on President Muhammadu Buhari’s account in which he referred to the country’s civil war five decades ago in a warning about recent unrest.

The presidency denied that the Twitter suspension was a response to the removal of that post.

“There has been 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,” a presidency spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.

Shehu said the removal of Buhari’s tweet was “disappointing” and that “major tech companies must be alive to their responsibilities.”

Twitter said it was “deeply concerned by the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria” and that it would work “to restore access for all”.

International human rights groups have also condemned the move, which followed previous attempts by the government to regulate social media.

“VPN app” was the second most searched trend Saturday on Google in Nigeria, as virtual private networks can enable Twitter users to bypass the ban.

Nigeria warned however that it would prosecute violators.

“Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has directed for immediate prosecution of offenders of the federal government ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria,” spokesman Umar Jibrilu Gwandu said.

The platform has played an important role in public discourse in the country, with hashtags #BringBackOurGirls after Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in 2014, and #EndSARS during anti-police brutality protests last year.

COVID-19: Over 4,000 Nigerians Need Evacuation Across The World

A file photo of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.

 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffery Onyeama says there are over four thousand (4,000) Nigerians from across the world needing evacuation in the face of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Onyeama made the remarks while fielding questions from journalists at the daily news briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) in Abuja.

He, however, noted that the lack of bed spaces to isolate the evacuees is the major challenge that the government is grappling with.

READ ALSO: Lockdown Relaxation: Nigeria’s Level Of Compliance Is Unsatisfactory – PTF

Although the minister had told journalists last week that the first set of evacuees from the United Arab Emirate will arrive the country on May 4th, he explained that measures are being put in place to see that the evacuation exercise commences latest on Wednesday 6th of May.

He noted that the government was in the process of repatriation of Nigerians abroad who were willing to return and Emirates Airline had indicated interest to bring them back to Nigeria.

The minister stressed that the airline would operate on May 6, to bring Nigerians abroad back to the country.

We’re In A Better Position To Bring Nigerians Outside The Country Back – Onyeama

 

The protocols for evacuating Nigerians in the Diaspora have been completed and the country is in a “stronger and better position” to bring Nigerians interested in return to the country back, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffery Onyeama, has said.

Mr Onyeama spoke about the plans for Nigerians outside the country in reaction to a question about letters and reports about Nigerians being stuck outside the country during the daily briefings by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

“We have started to get greater number of Nigerians, especially in the United States, where almost 200 have now indicated their willingness to return,” the minister said.

“We are engaging with our embassy in China and our High Commissioners in London and also in France to work out all the logistics but things are now beginning to fall in place and we are getting the sense of what needs to be done.”

Several countries, including Canada, Israel, and the United States, have evacuated citizens of different countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Nigeria has commenced major evacuations.

The government has, however, since announced plans do bring those interested in returning back and asked its foreign missions to compile names.

Mr Onyeama, stressing that the evacuations had been part of the government’s plans since the international airports were closed, explained that the process was delayed to enable the government to sort out the logistics involved.

He said, “The response is not as a result of letters or whatever that has been coming in from Nigerians in the Diaspora as has been mentioned in some media houses but actually something that was taken up by the task force right from the beginning.

“Of course, at that time we didn’t have all the isolation centres in place and all the other logistical arrangements in place. So for that reason, we kept it in abeyance while we are putting those things in place. And hence now that we have all those things in place, we are in a stronger and better position to bring Nigerians outside the country back.”

Mr Onyeama directed all Nigerians interested in returning into the country to work with Nigeria’s embassies and high commissions where the are.

“What is important to get out to all Nigerians is that their engagement and communication should be with the embassies, high commissions and not with any other parallel agency, department of government or anything like that,” he said.

“It should be channelled through them because it is with them that we are collating the names and making all the arrangements.”

Although Nigeria has not commenced full-scale evacuations, the country is working with neighbouring countries and is facilitating the return of many Nigerians who got caught up in the COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed by countries.

Mr Onyeama gave examples of some instances during the briefing, adding that all those who are returning will observe the mandatory 14-day isolation.

He said, “There was a doctor that was part of the team that was caught outside the country. He made his way to Benin Republic and we were able to engage with the government of the Republic of Benin to give him passage through and he came into the country yesterday.

“We have 67 Nigerians, including children, men and women, that were in Cote d I’voire and we needed to engage the government of Togo, the government of Benin for them to be able to go through. They are now at the Nigerian border and we got the authorisation of the government of Benin for them to come into the country. They will be in isolation for the mandatory 14 days once they have come in.

“We have another 24 Nigerians in Togo in a hotel. They are going to be tested. We’ve also got the government of Benin’s approval for them to travel through Beninoise territory to come into Nigeria, possibly by tomorrow.

“We’ve arranged also where they will also be confined when they come into the country. We are extremely grateful to the government of Togo and the government of Benin who have cooperated with us and made this possible.”

Why Xenophobic Attacks Will Not Be Discussed At UNGA – Onyeama

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Geoffery Onyeama says the xenophobic attacks will not be on the nation’s agenda at United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) because he believes both Nigeria and South Africa will be able to sort out their differences.

Onyeama disclosed this on Tuesday at a media briefing on Nigeria’s participation at the 74th UNGA holding in New York.

The Minister further said that the issues of non-renewal of work permits of Nigerians in South Africa and the reports around the cancellation of the residency of the returnees will be discussed by both President Muhammadu Buhari and Cyril Ramaphosa during their meeting on October 3.

READ ALSO: Xenophobia: Buhari Pledges ‘Solidified’ Nigeria-South Africa Ties As Ramaphosa Apologises

Speaking concerning the compensation of Nigerians who were victims of the xenophobic attacks and lost their goods to the looting of shops owned by foreigners, he said the South African government promised that businesses that were insured will be compensated.

Onyeama said insurance should cover any damage done and added that talks are ongoing on how other forms of compensation can be done via an investor protection agreement.

The Minister, while giving further information on the 74th UNGA said President Buhari will be the 5th on the list of presidents to address the assembly.

President Buhari, according to him, will use the opportunity to articulate to the world, priorities of the Nigerian government.

Side events to be organised by Nigeria will include SDG integration and promotion of international cooperation to tackle illicit cash flows and recovery of stolen assets.

Nigeria is hoping to partake in engagements at the UNGA, which will help the country have seats in several organisations such as the International Maritime Organisation, the World Heritage Committee, and the International Civil Aviation Council.

Nigeria will also be pushing for UN support in the war on terror, the humane treatment of migrants as well as Nigeria’s quest to recharge lake Chad.

VIDEO: We Will Not Give In On This Occasion, Onyeama Reveals Nigeria’s Position On Xenophobia

 

 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, has revealed the Federal Government’s position regarding the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

While giving updates on the government’s stance on the issue, Mr Onyeama said the government at every level has condemned the attacks and described it as unacceptable.

Mr Onyeama told newsmen in Abuja that the government will not accept the attacks on its citizens, stressing that “enough is enough”.

He said the Nigerian government will address the issue once and for all this time.

The minister said whatever measures needs to be taken to ensure the safety of Nigerians in South Africa will be taken.

Mr Onyeama said the Federal Government has been in touch with the South African Government, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari has dispatched a special envoy to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa.

He stressed that the government has a clear directives about the commitments and guarantees that is required of the South African Government.

Fake reports distorting matters… No lives lost

Mr Onyeama also said that so much has been circulating over social media, many of which are not factual, and as such the situation has somewhat been distorted.

“A lot of things have been circulating all over social media which has not helped matters and some of them have really distorted the situation and because of that it has impacted the government’s response.

“Number one is that the information that we have from the High Commission and the Consul General in South Africa is that no lives have been lost during this crisis,” Mr Onyeama said.

He added that stories about Nigerians being killed and being burnt are not the case, stressing that what the government knows is that premises and shops of Nigerians have been looted and properties have been destroyed.

READ ALSO: Xenophobia: Nigerian Government Boycotts World Economic Forum In South Africa

Nigeria boycotts WEF

The Minister of Foreign Affairs also confirmed that Nigeria will not be participation at the World Economic Forum on Africa to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, from September 4 to 6.

He revealed that  the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was delegated by Buhari to attend the summit, but explained that the President later asked Osinbajo to withdraw, following the xenophobic attacks.

Buhari is distraught over reprisal attacks

Mr Onyeama in his interaction with newsmen also revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari is worried over the vandalism that has taken place in Nigeria in reaction to the issue.

He said, “Mr President is particularly distraught at the acts of vandalism that have taken place here in Nigeria in retaliation to what is happening in South Africa.

“He believes that we have to take the moral high ground on this matter. we are victims here and we are making that position clear to the international community and the South African Government.

“We here in Nigeria must not fall into the temptation of also resorting to the acts that we are condemning in others. Mr President has pleaded and is likely to make a statement on this addressing the Nigerian people to please desist from acts of vandalism and aggression,”Onyeama stated.

He went on to stress that the acts of vandalism only harms Nigerians who own most of the business being destroyed, adding that beyond who will suffer the brunt, the acts of vandalism is morally wrong.

Onyeama assured Nigerians that the Federal Government is determined, noting that the red line has been drawn and the government will not give in.

South Africa’s High Commissioner To Nigeria Denies Xenophobic Attacks

South Africa’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Monroe (extreme right) during a press briefing with Nigeria’s foreign affairs ministry headed by Geoffery Onyeama in Abuja on Tuesday.

 

South Africa’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Monroe, has denied reports of Xenophobic attacks in his country.

Monroe denied that the attacks in South Africa are xenophobic and targeted at Nigerians.

The Commissioner made the comments at a media briefing with Nigeria’s foreign affairs ministry headed by Geoffery Onyeama.

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He described the attacks as ‘sporadic acts of violence’ adding that businesses belonging to other South Africans were also affected in the violence.

The Federal Government had earlier on Monday summoned South Africa over the recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Onyeama summoned the South African envoy after the recent xenophobic attacks.

 

Nigeria To Boost Bilateral Ties With Angola, Says Foreign Affairs Minister

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama

 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, says Nigeria will boost bilateral ties with Angola.

Speaking at a meeting with Manuel Augustus, the Angolan Minister of External Relations, Onyeama explained that other partnerships by both countries will be in the areas of peace and security, especially in the Gulf of Guinea.

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“We share the golf of Guinea and this is again an area we will be looking at. The issue of security at the Gulf of Guinea. We will look at other areas of cooperation.

“We have a joint commission which is the framework for bilateral cooperation between our two countries. We obviously need to look at how we will re-ignite which has not met for a number of years,” he stated.

The minister also thanked the Angolan officials and the delegation for the visit to the country.

Lake Chad Basin Commission To Uphold Security Summit Recommendations

Lake-Chad-Basin-Commission-SummitA second Regional Security Summit of countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and their foreign allies has come to an end, with the Heads of State and government pledging to uphold the recommendations.

Heads of State of Republic of Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Equatorial Guinea, met on Saturday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital with the French President, Francois Hollande, and held talks that would strengthen efforts to kick the Boko Haram out of the region.

The Summit ended with a resounding call on member states to consolidate the gains already made against the Boko Haram terrorist group in the region since the first similar summit was held in Paris in 2014.

Presenting the recommendations of the summit to the Heads of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, stressed the need for funding of the Multi-National Joint Task Force.

Stabilising Lives Of Returnees

The document put together after series of security experts meetings that started on Thursday also recommendeds that member states should re-double their efforts to ensure the release of the adopted Chibok girls.

The host, President Muhamadu Buhari, reiterated the commitment of his administration to ridding the last vestige of Boko Haram from the region and also ensure the safe rescue of the Chibok girls.

Lake-Chad-Basin-Commission-Summit2
President Hollande, former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo and President Buhari having a chat on the sideline of the Summit

Addressing the gathering in French, both the President of France and presidents of member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission pledge their support for the recommendations of the summit.

Meanwhile, both the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the United Kingdom, Philip Hammond, and the United States Deputy Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, present at the meeting urge governments of the region to work at stabilising lives of returnees in the liberated communities.

Mr Hammond also held talks with President Buhari focused on economic development, anti-corruption and security support to tackle Boko Haram.

Having recorded much success in the counter insurgency crusade in the region, citizens from member countries and especially Nigeria hope that the meeting will not only help to stamp out insurgency from the region but also lead to the rescue of the Chibok girls.

The girls were abducted from their schools dormitory in Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, 2014.

A latest video of the girls was released on April 13 by the terrorists group pushing for the establishment of an Islamic State and an end to Western education in the region.

Brewing Insecurity

While the troops have continued to increase counter-terrorism operations in the north-east, another level of insecurity is brewing in different states of the nation – herdsmen attacking communities.

They have killed scores of recent and President Buhari has ordered security forces to tackle the increasing threat to lives of farmers and communities.

The President also gave an assurance that he would fish out the herdsmen attacking communities.

He had linked the arms proliferation by herders to the crisis in Libya and the training of some personnel in the Sahel by Gaddafi.

There have been insinuations that the herders were armed bandits fleeing the northeast in the heat of counter-terrorism operations, but Mr Onyeama, had asked citizens to desist from linking recent attacks by cattle herdsmen to the Boko Haram insurgents.

Mr Onyeama stressed on Friday that there was no evidence available to security operatives suggest any linkages.