But the Federal Government on Wednesday said Twitter must register as a business concern in Nigeria as part of conditions to be met before the suspension placed on its operations could be lifted.
The minister of information and Culture disclosed this at the Presidential Villa, Abuja after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by the President.
Mohammed accused the social media platform of suspicious activities in the country, adding that it paid no taxes to the Nigerian government despite the revenue it generated 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 (over-the-top) 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 licences.
He added, “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 explained that Twitter was suspended because it provided ample opportunity for elements who were 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.”
Mohammed also said Twitter had refused to censor tweets from the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, whom he said incited violence against law enforcement agencies from abroad.
He stated, “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 wilfully 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,”
The minister accused Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, of funding October’s #EndSARS protests while citing facts from an 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-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.”
He rebuffed claims that Twitter’s suspension was not effective, adding that the development did not stifle free speech as many claimed.
Meanwhile, The PUNCH on Wednesday learnt that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami; and his counterpart for Information and Culture, Mohammed, would lead the talks with Twitter.
Pantami himself had come under intense criticism on Twitter last month when an old material went viral on the social media platform which showed that he once had extremist views. The Presidency, however, came to his defence, stating that he was young when he made those comments.
A top source said long before the current suspension of Twitter, the Federal Government had been looking to partner the platform because it had a way of influencing young Nigerians.
The source stated that the NBC lacked the technology to regulate social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
“Pantami and Lai Mohammed will handle the talks with Twitter. In fact Pantami is the main person in charge of this because the NCC reports to him and it is the NCC that gives instructions to Internet service providers. It was Pantami that gave the NCC the order to block Twitter and the NCC passed the message to service providers.”
On Mohammed’s demand for Twitter, Facebook and others to be regulated by the NBC, the source said, “I don’t know how the NBC will regulate the OTTs because they lack the legal right and the infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, some activists have begun preparing suits which will be filed in court next Monday when courts resume.
A lawyer, Samuel Iheneskhien, who represents ‘One Love Foundation’, said he would be filing a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday even as he revealed that the foundation had already filed a lawsuit before the ECOWAS court praying the court to declare the suspension of Twitter as a breach of African Charter on Human Rights.
“I will be filing processes before a Federal High Court on Monday,” he said.
Another activist, Inibehe Effiong, confirmed to The PUNCH that he would be heading to court next week.
“Yes, I will be heading to court to challenge the suspension of Twitter and other issues. I know others will be doing the same now that court workers have called off the strike,” he said.