As part of its new move to regulate social media, the Federal Government has said Twitter, Facebook and other social media giants doing business in Nigeria must register in the country before being allowed to operate unhindered.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, yesterday also disclosed that Twitter, which was last week suspended, has called for a ‘high-level’ discussion.
Mohammed made this known in Abuja while briefing journalists after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
Mohammed said he got the message yesterday morning and repeated government’s stance that Twitter was suspended because it provided an avenue for people threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria. He claimed that the owner of Twitter helped to fund the recent #EndSARS protest and is also allowing the leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, to use the platform to call for the killing of security operatives. He added that Twitter failed to take down Kanu’s tweets despite repeated requests to do so.
The minister said he has already directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in the country. The NBC as part of implementing the directive has also asked all broadcast stations to suspend usage of their Twitter accounts with immediate effect.
Mohammed listed conditions that must be met even if there is a discussion with Twitter, including that it must now be registered in Nigeria as a business concern. According to the government spokesman, freedom of speech has not been stifled by the suspension of Twitter as he maintained that Nigerians can still use other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
“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, military, electoral commission offices, correctional centers, etc. And this is being done willfully and consistently without any consequences from Twitter.
“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 licensed by the broadcasting commission,” he said.
MEANWHILE, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has 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 predicated its demand on the violation of UN international Charter on Human Rights by banning the use of Twitter in Nigeria.
In a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP insisted that banning Twitter in Nigeria is 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 the world bodies to also sanction Mohammed, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, as well as “certain leaders of the APC for their individual roles in the ban imposed on Twitter in addition to associated harassments and threats to Nigerians.”
The party submitted that “the trio of President Buhari, Lai Mohammed and Abubakar Malami and their agents cannot continue to enjoy diplomatic privileges and rights extended by virtue of their offices in Nigeria, while at the same time blatantly flouting the UN Charter, which Nigeria is a signatory to, as well as the 1999 Constitution (as amended) upon which provisions they hold office.”
It would be recalled that the present government had moved the traditional Democracy Day from May 29 of every year to June 12, in honor of the late Chief MKO Abiola, presumed winner of the June 12 presidential election, which was annulled by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida.
In a statement yesterday in Lagos, Adegboruwa said it would be hypocritical of the government to claim to celebrate the ideals of the June 12 mandate, when the same government is in gross violation of the freedom of expression by people it claims to govern, through its illegal ban of Twitter and the unwarranted censorship of all media organizations.
He stated further that June 12 represents total freedom, the free expression of the will of the people, justice, equality and respect for human rights. The decision of the government to suspend the operations of Twitter and to force media organizations to comply therewith, are contrary to the spirit of June 12.