The Nigerian Government has threatened to suspend all social media platforms that allow their apps to be used to propagate division of the country through inflammatory statements or posts. The Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed stated this before the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Information, Justice, and Communication on Tuesday at the National Assembly in Abuja while answering questions on the ban on Twitter, a microblogging site.
Lai Mohammed stated that Twitter made its platform available as a choice for people who want to destabilize and cause disunity in Nigeria. According to his words; “We want Twitter to be registered first in the country before they can operate,” he said.
On whether any channel of dialogue had been opened with Twitter, the minister said; “we tried to connect with them but they ignored us. They are not known to us. They are not registered, but we hope we will be able to engage them”, as he lamented that the organization had no investment in Nigeria, but in Ghana, while the target market was Nigeria.
The minister also denied the widely held opinion that the move was intended to stifle free speech and press freedom.
According to his words; “There was no intention of the federal government of Nigeria to stifle free speech in the country. The only reason we suspended Twitter is that it was promoting disunity in the country. Its activities are inimical to the unity of the country,” Lai Mohammed insisted.
He said the government would not hesitate to suspend other social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google hangout, and others social media if they are found to be promoting posts or statements capable of destabilizing the country’s unity.
There was a mild drama when the Convener for Coalition in Defence Of Nigerian Democracy, Ariyo Lai Mohammed Atoye who was at the venue of the hearing raised his hand to contribute but was ruled out of order and shut down by the Chairman of the Committee, Olusegun Odebunmi.
Mr. Odebunmi insisted that only the minister would be allowed to make a presentation. Ariyo Lai Mohammed said he was a Nigerian and a user of Twitter, noting that it was wrong for the committee chairman to rule him out of order.
The activist added that the National Assembly is meant for all Nigerians and that he was at the hearing to observe the investigative hearing and ask questions as a Nigerian.
He said the minister was wrong in his presentation, adding that he defended the need for Nigeria to have independent media when he was in the opposition. He wondered how the same person changed overnight to become an advocate of regulated social media.
Meanwhile, some of the committee members expressed concern at the decision and action of the executive arm of government to suspend Twitter, stating that the country was sliding into totalitarianism and suspending social media in Nigeria will cripple the economy and cause more poverty in the country.
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