Hospitality industry recovering from COVID-19 effects — Lai Mohammed

…says microblogging platform funded EndSARS protests

…says facebook, WhatsApps, ohers will be suspended if…

…sets up team to meet with Twitter

…advises those using VPN to stop for personal security

… Twitter not food-Buhari’s Rep

…as Reps probe circumstances of Suspension

By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja

Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday, said that Nigeria as a sovereign country cannot be ruled by either the policies or laws of a multinational corporation not matter “how powerful” it may be.

He said that Nigeria also has a responsible to protect national security.

The Minister spoke at an interactive session with the members of the House of Representatives Joint Committees on Information, ICT and Justice, probing the circumstances of the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria.

It will be recalled that the federal government of Nigeria early this month suspended the activities of Twitter, citing national security as its chief reason.

READ ALSOBREAKING: ECOWAS Court stops Buhari govt from prosecuting people for using Twitter (UPDATED)

The suspension however came barely 48 hours after the microblogging platform deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, threatening a civil war treatment on miscreants in the southeast of the country.

Following the public outcry, the House mandated the joint Committees to investigate the matter.

Appearing before the Joint Committees chaired by Hon. Odebunmi, Lai Mohammed said that the action of the government was within the extant laws of the land.

He added that Twitter was not registered in Nigeria and so does not pay taxes as well.

The Minister however denied that Twitter was not suspended because it deleted Buhari’s tweet.

He said: “Who is Twitter? We are talking about a sovereign country. Nigeria will not be ruled by the laws of a multinational, no matter how powerful it is. So, for us, why did we act now? There is no time we took the decision that we will not have the kind of reaction we have now. But it has gone to a stage after a persistent appeal to Twitter, and we saw how policemen were being killed, soldiers and we said enough is enough. We owe no responsibility to Twitter. It’s not registered in Nigeria. It does not employ any Nigerians or pay taxes. There are other platforms available to Nigerians to make money.

“In the press release, we also said henceforth, all OTT must register first as Nigerian companies and be licensed by the Broadcasting Commission before they can carry out business as social media platforms. We realized that many of the OTT social media platforms operating in Nigeria today are not registered in Nigeria. They make billions of naira out of our country. They pay no taxes. They employed nobody. That’s why we said we are going to suspend Twitter and at the same time all other social media platforms that are not registered in Nigeria must register.

“I know it’s true that many Nigerians have accused the FG of an attempt to stifle the media and the free speech and we say no at all. There is absolutely no intention on the part of the government to stifle free speech or the media because as you will see, why it is true that section 37, 38, 39, 40, and 41of the constitution actually provide for freedom of speech, but it is actually qualified by Section 45 of the same constitution.

“Hon. Members, like I, said the only reason we suspended the operation of Twitter is that it was promoting disunity in Nigeria and it became a national security risk. As you can see the provision of the constitution leaves no one in doubt that the provisions on freedom of expression are not absolute.

“If you look at the circumstances of section 3 of the national security act which clothes the State Security Service with the powers to preserve the internal security of Nigeria is very instructive that any platforms that threaten the internal security of Nigeria will not be allowed to operate.

“This is a case where the federal government deemed it necessary that the activities of Twitter in Nigeria were inimical to the stability of the country.

“Hon members, may I remind you that during the unfortunate #EndSARS# protest, the same played a very unsacred role by making available its platform to retweet, not just the retweeting the messages of EndSARS protesters, but raising funds for the EndSARS protesters before it was hijacked by hoodlums. And Nigerians have forgotten that this particular EndSARS protests led to the death of 57 civilians, 37 policemen, 6 soldiers, 243 properties destroyed, 200 brand new buses belonging to Lagos State government, 83 warehouses were vandalized and yet Jack Dorsey crowd-funded the activities. That’s I said that the Twitter mission in Nigeria is suspect.

“Hon. Members, we all know that IPOB is proscribed by the high court of law in Nigeria and yet it is a platform of choice through which IPOB directs its people to kill soldiers, policemen, to burn correctional centers. So both in practice and common law, we had to suspend their operations.

“I will round up by even the position of Companies Allied Act also supports the suspension of Twitters operations in Nigeria because the primary laws governing businesses in Nigeria is the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020. Twitter is not licensed in Nigeria.

“We are within the law to suspend Twitter. Our position is also supported by cyber space security act.

“Article 19(2&3) of the International convention on civil and political rights of the Cyber crimes prohibitions act empowers the federal government of Nigeria to regulate and promote the security of the Nigerian cyberspace.

“I want to make two clarifications. The first is that we did not ban Twitter. We simply suspended indefinitely the activities of Twitter. The second, we did not suspend the activities of Twitter because they deleted Mr. President’s tweet. No at all. We were very unambiguous on why we suspended Twitter.

“Yes, we have taken into consideration Nigerians doing business on Twitter. It is because there is a country called Nigeria that people can do business on any platform. And this is very fundamental. There are other platforms. Facebook, google, WhatsApp for people to use. But in a matter of national security, individual interest will lag behind.

“We said the doors are not banned. We are ready to speak with twitter. Twitter has written a letter seeking for government dialogue and just today, I issued a statement which I announced the government team that is ready to meet Twitter chaired by my humble self with the Minister of Justice, Communication, Works and Housing, Labour and some agencies of government. We hope that the Commitee will move fast and have dialogue and understanding with Twitter.

“The OTT must be registered as Nigerian companies after which they will be licensed.”

The minister however hoped that the face-off will be resolved soon.

“Hopefully, if we were able to resolve this matter quickly, they will resume the use of Twitter”, he said.

Lai Mohammed also advised Nigerians using VPN to stop for their own personal security.

According to him, VPN would expose even their bank account and make it vulnerable.

The minister added that the government will also suspend any other social media platforms that may misbehave

“If any plaftorm does it, we will suspend their operations too because there is country called Nigeria that they can do business”, he said.

In his remarks earlier, a member of the Committee, Hon. Fatihu Mohammed who represents Daura Sandamu Baure federal constituency of Katsina State, while supporting the twitter ban asked Nigerians to jettison social media.

He said “My colleagues have spoken the minds of their Constituencies. If I will speak the mind of my Constituency, I will include the President himself inside because out of 360 of us, I am the only one voted by the president. Let’s put Nigeria first and lets call a spade a spade. The media is at war. We can see what is happening in social media. I have worked in NCC for 10 years. I know what the department, cybercrime. We should please, regulate the media. If that tweet was not brought down, the dirty things will happen in Nigeria will be less than what we are seeing now because if the minister did not ban Twitter by the instruction of Mr. President, the kind of insults the sovereignty of Nigeria will have by the users of tweet will be more dangerous than what we are facing now. Let’s tell ourselves the truth. Nigeria first. Sometimes, I am reading tweets, I am disappointed with the youths and the future.

“I went to a unity school, Federal Government College, Kwali. When south east are coming, we lined up shouting that they are coming with their buses. But that thing is missing. Why are we bringing issues, trying to cause confusion where there is no confusion? It’s just interest. For God’s sake, what is social media? Are we eating social media? Let’s go back to the resources and have it, my brothers. Let’s keep this thing outside and face the real problem we are facing in Nigeria.”

In his speech, the Chairman of the Committee said the investigation was necessary to know the circumstances of the suspension hence the interface with the Minister.

He promised further legislative action on the matter.

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