Eighteen days after the micro-blogging platform, Twitter, was suspended in Nigeria, the Federal Government insists operation of Twitter in the country’s social media space “is not legally permissible.”
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this yesterday when he appeared before a House of Representatives investigative hearing. He said Twitter was used to disseminate information “that endangers the life and security” of Nigerians and cause disunity in the country.
Following the suspension, the green chamber had mandated its committees on communication, justice, information and culture, and national security and intelligence to investigate the circumstances behind the decision.
Speaking at the investigative hearing, Mohammed said the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020 does not permit foreign companies to do business in Nigeria if not registered. He said Twitter cannot be given the legitimate rights to operate until it is incorporated in Nigeria.
“As it regards operation of foreign companies in Nigeria, the law provides that a foreign company, which fails to take necessary steps to obtain incorporation as a separate entity in Nigeria for that purpose, but until so incorporated, the foreign company shall not carry on business in Nigeria or exercise any powers of a registered company,” he said.
“Hence, flowing from this background a foreign company as Twitter cannot be clothed with the legitimate rights to operate as a company registered in Nigeria, as they are not licensed, accordingly.
“Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is also observed that the operations of Twitter in the Nigerian social space is not legally permissible when it is used in airing of information that endangers the life and security of the majority of citizens of Nigeria.”
Mohammed said Twitter’s suspension is backed by international laws including articles 24, 25 and 26 of the African Union on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection (CCPR).
He said the government would not hesitate to suspend other social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google hangout, and others if they are found to be promoting posts or statements capable of destabilizing the country.
There was a mild drama when the Convener, Coalition in Defense of Nigerian Democracy, Ariyo Dare Atoye, who was at the venue of the hearing raised his hand to contribute but was ruled out of order and shut down by the Chairman of the Committee, Olusegun Odebunmi.
Odebunmi insisted that only the minister would be allowed to make a presentation. Ariyo said he was a Nigerian and a user of Twitter, noting that it was wrong for the committee chairman to rule him out of order.