The Federal Government on Wednesday said the microblogging platform, Twitter, must register as a business concern in Nigeria as part of conditions to be met before the suspension placed on its operation can be lifted.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this at the Presidential Villa, Abuja after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Mohammed accused the microblogging and social media platform of suspicious activities in the country, adding that it pays no taxes to the Nigerian government despite the revenue it generates from Nigerians.
The minister said, “It may interest you to know that most of the Over The Top and social media platforms operating in Nigeria do not have any office in Nigeria and do not pay taxes to the 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.
“Therefore, any OTT or social media platform operating in Nigeria must do so legally.”
Mohammed recalled that the National Broadcasting Commission was last Friday directed to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT social media operations in Nigeria.
He said the first step was for them to register with the Corporate Affairs Commission and thereafter be licensed by the NBC and then adhere to the conditions stipulated in their licenses.
He added, “We have already advertised the notice to the companies concerned to apply for registration of license.
“The cardinal thing is that Twitter must be registered in Nigeria. Twitter must be licensed in Nigeria and Twitter must stop using its platform for activities that are inimical to the growth of Nigeria and its corporate existence.”
He explained that Twitter was suspended because it provides ample opportunity for elements who are bent on threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria.
The minister said, “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.
“I want to repeat that it is because Twitter has consistently made its platform available to those who are threatening Nigeria’s corporate existence that is the reason for suspending their operations in Nigeria.”
Mohammed also said Twitter has refused to censor tweets from the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, who he said incites violence against law enforcement agencies from abroad.
“Because, we’ve 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 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,” he added.
The minister accused Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, of funding October’s #EndSARS protests while citing facts from the online news platform, The Cable.
He explained, “I said 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 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, on the same date, he asked people to donate via bitcoins to support the movement.
“C, on October 16, Dorsey 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 Twitter owner is one of those who helped to fund the #EndSARS protests that was later hijacked leading to loss of lives and massive destruction of property.”
He rebuffed claims that Twitter’s suspension was not effective, adding that the development did not stifle free speech as many claims.
He said, “For those that have heard that, ‘Oh, 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 every day if the ban is not effective?
“But that is not the issue. Many of the commentators have said suspending the operation of Twitter is like stifling freedom of expression. And I said 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.”