In its latest move since the June 4 announcement of the ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria, the federal government said social media firms wanting to operate in Nigeria must register as a local entity and be licensed.
The minister of information and culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed who stated this at the Presidential Villa after the weekly federal executive council meeting yesterday said Twitter must register as a business concern in the country as part of conditions to be met before the suspension placed on its operations could be lifted.
“We are insisting that for you to operate in Nigeria you must first be a Nigerian company and be licensed by the broadcasting commission,” Mohammed said.
He said the micro-blogging social media site had called for a ‘high-level’ discussion.
The minister accused Twitter of suspicious activities in the country, adding that it paid no taxes to the Nigerian government despite the revenue it generated from Nigerians.
“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 (over-the-top) or social media platform operating in Nigeria must do so legally,” he said.
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 licences.
“We are insisting that for you to operate in Nigeria you must first be a Nigerian company and be licensed by the broadcasting commission,” said Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s information minister, of social media companies.
“We have already advertised the notice to the companies concerned to apply for registration of licence.
“The cardinal thing is that Twitter must be registered in Nigeria. Twitter must stop using its platform for activities that are inimical to the growth of Nigeria and its corporate existence,” he said.
He explained that Twitter was suspended because it provided ample opportunity for elements who were bent on threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria.
“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,” he said.
Mohammed also said Twitter had refused to censor tweets from the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, whom he said incited violence against law enforcement agencies from abroad.
“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 chief executive officer, Mr. Jack Dorsey, of funding October’s #EndSARS protests while citing facts from an online news platform, The Cable.
“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-findings 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,” Mohammed said.
He rebuffed claims that Twitter’s suspension was not effective, adding that the development did not stifle free speech as many claimed.
Meanwhile, a joint minority caucus of the senate and the house of representatives has told Nigerians to ignore the Twitter ban.
The opposition lawmakers stated this in a statement by the Senate Minority leader, Mr. Enyinnaya Abaribe and his counterpart in the house of representatives, Mr. Ndudi Elumelu.
The group condemned the ban on Twitter by the All Progressives Congress-led federal government, saying it was draconian and unacceptable.
It called on Nigerians to go ahead and use their Twitter as they would not be contravening any law in Nigeria or any international.