Nigeria: Hope arises on Twitter suspension

MINA Blog- Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on Wednesday said that issues surrounding the suspension of the operations of the micro-blogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria will be resolved soon.


The Federal Government had in June, suspended indefinitely, the operations of Twitter in Nigeria, citing persistent use of the platform for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.


Mohammed while fielding questions from State House correspondents on Wednesday after the virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja said, “I want to say that the end for an amicable solution is very much in sight; we quite appreciate the anxiety of Nigerians who have been worried that, two months after the suspension, we have not been able to finalise talks.


“But I just want to assure you that we have made tremendous progress and when I say tremendous, I mean tremendous.


“We have engaged Twitter both in writing; we have engaged Twitter; we set up a technical committee to engage Twitter; they set up their own committee too.


“They have met virtually and they have exchanged correspondence about three times; and really, apart from dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘ts’ we are actually almost there, almost there.’’


He said that engagements with Twitter had been positive and devoid of any acrimony.


According to him, Twitter admitted that it had never received any kind of informed or detailed or professional communication from any country as they received in Nigeria.


The minister said that Twitter promised that it was going to look into the issues while Nigeria made very clear what it wanted from Twitter.

“Even though our report is not ready; even though we are expecting more clarifications around some conversations with Twitter;  I think I can share with you that some of our conditions for Twitter operations to resume in Nigeria.


 “And I’m glad that both the Minister of Works, who is a member of the Ministerial Team, and Tolu, who is a member of the technical team are here.


“ If I am wrong they will correct me; I know that one of that we set is that Twitter must first, in line with the Companies and Allied Matters Act, establish legal presence in Nigeria, with registration of Nigerian office with the Corporate Affairs Commission.


“We think this is only fair that if you want to do business in Nigeria, you must first register as a Nigerian company, and of course if you want to register, you must have an address. That is one of the conditions we gave Twitter; we also asked that Twitter shall be mandated to employ a designated country representative.


“ As of today, we are not aware of any Twitter representative in Nigeria; we say that representative shall be a staff of Twitter, but must be one that has access to the global management of Twitter so that he can serve as a liaison between Nigeria and Twitter.’’


The minister said that the country representative should also have a physical office address in Nigeria with its head office in Abuja and could also have, if he wanted, offices outside the capital.


He said that Twitter, in addition to registering in Nigeria, must also register with relevant regulatory authorities like National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).


“Fourthly, we asked that Twitter would be mandated to retain designated local agent to manage its engagement with government on its operations in Nigeria.


“We also asked that Twitter should commit itself to working with the FIRS on its tax liability because we believe that if you make money in Nigeria, the law says that you must pay taxes according to Nigerian laws.


“Of course, we also asked that they should immediately also start paying VAT and other tax liabilities of any company resident in Nigeria.


“We propose to Twitter that we should agree on a Charter on Online Conduct for content management;  this charter will guide both of us.  We will agree on what content will be acceptable and which content will not be acceptable.’’


Mohammed said that the Ministerial Team was concerned about contents that would be liable to jeopardise the security, unity and sovereignty of Nigeria.


He said that the team also asked for an agreement on what amounted to prohibited publication and when such was cited and brought to the attention of Twitter, it would delete or remove such publication.


 “We also proposed an ombudsman between both Twitter and Nigeria, and it is this ombudsman to whom we can report harmful accounts or suspected troll to and then he will act accordingly.


“Finally, we asked that Twitter should immediately establish a local compliance and grievance redress mechanism to be domiciled in Nigeria and to be staffed by persons who understand local content and our culture,’’ he said.


According to him, Twitter has responded, but there are still areas that both parties have yet to agree on.


He said that he was hopeful that Twitter would comply with all the demands, adding that the platform was considering having an office in Nigeria by 2022.

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