The federal government yesterday listed the conditions that must be met before lifting the ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria, saying the microblogging site must now be registered in the country.
It noted that apart from Twitter, other social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, must be registered in the country.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had announced the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria last Friday, a day after the tech giant had deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet it claimed suggested genocidal intentions against the people of the South East.
Speaking at a media briefing after a virtual federal executive council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Information minister said Twitter reached out to the federal government yesterday seeking high-level discussion to resolve the issue.
Setting the condition for lifting the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria, Mohammed said apart from being registered, the social media platform must also be licenced in the country and must stop using its platform for activities that hamper the growth and corporate existence of the country.
Ban: Twitter Already Seeking High-level Talks With Nigeria — Minister
“Our decision to suspend Twitter has been lauded by some; it has been decried by some. But we want to make it clear that what is important to us is the sovereignty of Nigeria.
“And until Twitter responds and the cardinal thing is that Twitter must be registered in Nigeria. Twitter must be licenced in Nigeria and Twitter must stop using its platform for activities that are inimical to the growth of Nigeria and its corporate existence,” he stated.
Mohammed insisted that the microblogging site was suspended because it provided an avenue for people that are threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria.
According to him, the owner of Twitter helped to fund the recent #EndSARS protest and allowed the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, to use the platform to call for the killing of policemen.
He said Twitter failed to take down Kanu’s tweets despite repeated requests to do so.
The minister noted: “As you are aware, last Friday the federal government suspended Twitter operations in Nigeria indefinitely. And the reason we gave was because of the persistent use of the Twitter platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
“On Friday, also the government directed the regulatory body, the National Broadcasting commission (NBC), to immediately commence the process of licencing all OTT, Over The Top social media operations in Nigeria.
“And I believe that you’ve done that. I think by today, that advert is out asking that all OTT, and social media coverage operating in Nigeria should apply for registration and licensing.
“I want to repeat that Twitter has consistently made its platform available to those who are threatening Nigeria’s corporate existence and that is the reason for suspending their operations in Nigeria.
“We found out that Twitter is actually the platform of choice for a particular separatist leader who resides outside the country and issues directives to its members to attack symbols of government authority, such as the police, the military, the electoral commission’s offices, correctional centres, etc.
“And this is being done willfully and consistently without any consequences from Twitter. You know, no country worth its name will tolerate that. And no company, no matter its self-importance, will force any nation to accept this.
“It may interest you to know that most of the OTT and social media platforms operating in Nigeria do not have any office in Nigeria and do not pay taxes to Nigerian government for the billions they earn here.
“That is not the best practice globally, and that is why we are insisting that for you to operate in Nigeria you must first be a Nigerian company and be licenced by the broadcasting commission.
“Therefore, any OTT or social media platform operating in Nigeria must do so legally. Register with Corporate affairs Commission, be licenced by National Broadcasting commission and then adhere to the conditions stipulated in their licences.
“We have already advertised the notice to the companies concerned to apply for registration of licence.”
Mohammed further maintained that freedom of speech has not been stifled by the suspension of Twitter, adding that Nigerians can still use other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
He also denied the claim that the suspension is not effective, arguing that Twitter is losing money as a result of the action.
He stated: “For those that have heard that the ban is not effective, to the best of my knowledge, I think the ban is very effective. Otherwise, how would they be complaining that they are losing billions of Naira everyday if the ban is not effective?
“But that is not the issue. For commentators that have said suspending the operation of Twitter is like stifling freedom of expression, I say no. Twitter is just one of the many platforms through which Nigerians can express themselves. There is Facebook, there is Instagram, there’s WhatsApp, there’s Google Hangout and others. They have not been suspended.
“And in any case, like I have said in several fora, it is because we have a country called Nigeria that we can start talking about free speech. And of course, there has to be a country before people are able to transact their businesses using social media platforms.
“When I addressed you on Wednesday, I said, among other things, that Twitter’s mission in Nigeria is suspect. And I went further to say yes that Twitter funded the EndSARS protests in Nigeria last year.
“And people have challenged it. And I’m glad that the Cable has done some fact finding and their conclusions are as follows: they said the truth is that fact checking showed that indeed Twitter played a prominent role in helping to raise funds for the #EndSARS protesters.
“Whether they paid directly, helped to pay or helped to raise funds, it’s a matter of semantics. And here is what the fact check by the online newspaper revealed: A, that on October 14 2020. ….. retweeted an article about the protests with the #EndSARS hashtag alongside a link to the feminist coalition, one of the groups providing support for the protesters at the time. B, that on the same date, he asked people to donate via bitcoins to support the movement. C, on October 16, Dussen launched a special emoji to give the protesters more visibility on the microblogging platform.
“So, whether donating money himself or helping to raise money, the tweeter owner is one of those who helped to fund the #EndSARS protest that was later hijacked leading to loss of lives and massive destruction of property.”
Trump Backs Government On Ban
Meanwhile, Former US president, Donald Trump, has declared support for the suspension of operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, by the Nigeria government.
In a statement he issued, Trump also called on more countries to follow suit.
He said, “Congratulations to the country of Nigeria, who just banned Twitter because they banned their President. More COUNTRIES should ban Twitter and Facebook for not allowing free and open speech — all voices should be heard.
“In the meantime, competitors will emerge and take hold. Who are they to dictate good and evil if they themselves are evil? Perhaps I should have done it while I was President, but Zuckerberg kept calling me and coming to the White House for dinner telling me how great I was. 2024?”
Trump was permanently banned from Twitter after the Capitol insurrection in early January.
He was also indefinitely suspended from Facebook after the Capitol attack.
Last Friday, Facebook said his suspension would last for at least another two years.
PDP Asks US, UK, Others To Impose Visa Ban On PMB, Malami, Mohammed
In another development, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday called on the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Saudi Arabia and other members of the international community to immediately impose visa ban on President Muhammadu Buhari and members of his cabinet involved in stifling free speech in Nigeria.
The PDP, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said its call for visa ban is predicated on the violation of UN international Charter on Human Rights by President Buhari by banning the use of Twitter in Nigeria.
PDP insisted that banning Twitter in Nigeria was a clear violation of Article 19 of the UN Charter as well as section 39 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which guaranteed freedom of expression to all Nigerians.
The party also urged world bodies to also sanction the minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the attorney-general and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, as well as certain leaders of the APC for their roles in the ban imposed on Twitter in addition to associated harassments and threats to Nigerians.
“The PDP urges the countries to bar President Buhari, Lai Mohammed, Abubakar Malami and their family members from entering their territories for any private purposes whatsoever.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Article 19 of the UN Charter on Human Rights provides that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impact information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” the party said.
We’ll Address Issue At Appropriate Time – Senate
Meanwhile, the Senate said yesterday that it will address the issue of the ban on Twitter in Nigeria at the appropriate time.
Senate spokesman, Basiru Ajibola, told journalists after plenary that the Red Chamber was yet to consider the issue of Twitter ban but added that the issue will be addressed.
He said, “If I express any opinion, it would be my personal opinion and there is the tendency that my opinion may be judged to be that of the Senate.
“So, I don’t have the mandate of the Nigerian Senate to talk on the issue of Twitter. I will exercise restraint and be on the cautionary note so that I will not be quoted as speaking for the Senate on the Twitter ban.
“However, journalists have access to the Attorney-general of the Federation to challenge him and come up with a legal basis for whatever action he has taken.
“When it comes to interpreting laws in Nigeria, the bulk stops at his table. To challenge his opinion, the way to go about it is to go to the court. I am not in a position to take him on his action.
“The basis for the Rule of Law is that there must be legal basis for the executive and legislative actions.
“It is when the Senate considers the issue at plenary that we will be able to have a full opinion that we can express to Nigerians. Senate will address the issue at the appropriate time.”