Annoyed by SaharaReporters story, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, says the Muhammadu Buhari-led government will not rest until social media platforms are regulated.
SaharaReporters had exposed how Mohammed and Olusegun Adeyemi, Special Assistant to the President (Media), Office of the Minister of Information and Culture, traveled to the US to meet with top executives of the popular microblogging site, Twitter during the week.
The 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 the President.
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 was seen trying to disguise himself with a baseball cap.
A top source who disclosed the destination and the mission of the government team to SaharaReporters had said, "You can see Lai Mohammed trying to disguise with a 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."
Reacting in an interview with NAN, the minister admitted he traveled to the US.
He, however, claimed he went to the country to meet with international media organizations and think tanks on the achievements of Buhari’s administration, and has no planned meeting with Twitter top executives.
He said, “Can a minister sneak out of Nigeria without people knowing? When you say I sneaked out of Nigeria, are you saying I went to board at a terminal where nobody is, or I traveled to the Republic of Benin to fly out of the country?
“I was at an international airport, where I presented myself openly and I was checked in at the counter like every other traveler of the airline. I boarded and passed through the checks by the immigration service and customs.
“How can you say I sneaked out of the country? You and I have been here, have I met with any Twitter official?
“When you talk about fake news and its dangers, we need to take it seriously, and I am happy that the entire world is now seeing what we saw more than two years ago. I can assure you that we will not rest until we regulate social media. Otherwise, nobody will survive it.”