FG may lift Twitter suspension soon

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The Federal Government has hinted that the over two months suspension of Twitter’s activities in Nigeria will soon be lifted following agreement that has been reached in most areas of contention with the platform.

The government had, on June 5, 2021, officially put an indefinite ban on Twitter, restricting it from operating in Nigeria after the social media platform deleted tweets made by President Muhammadu Buhari warning the Indigenous People of Biafra that they will be treated in the language they understand.

The government said the deletion of the president’s tweets was based on “a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real world violent consequences.”

Minister of Information and Culture, Lal Mohammed, while responding to questions to give update on the face off, told State House Correspondents at the end of a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that progress has been made in resolving the impasse following series of meetings.

Mohammed gave more details of the conditions given to the platform, saying most of them have been accepted.

He said the areas still pending such as Twitter setting up an office, and having a Twitter staff of management cadre that will serve as the country representative, are still being discussed.

The minister revealed that in the area of a Nigerian office, even though Twitter has agreed to the condition, it is, however, maintaining that the earliest it can establish it is 2022.

The minister expressed confidence that everything will be ironed out with Twitter within a few days or weeks, noting the anxiety that has been shown by Nigerians.

He said the Federal Government’s committee negotiating with Twitter will meet on the agreement soon to make recommendations.

“The question I think has to do with the status of the conversation between us and the Twitter company. I want to say the end for an amicable solution is very much insight. We quite appreciate the anxiety of Nigerians who have been worried that two months after the suspension, we’ve not been able to finalise talks, but I just want to assure you we have made tremendous progress. And when I say tremendous, I really mean tremendous. We’ve engaged Twitter both in writing. We’ve engaged Twitter, we set up a technical committee to engage Twitter, they set up their own committee too. They have met virtually, and have exchanged correspondents about three times.

“Apart from dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s, we’re actually almost there. I don’t want to say the engagement has been extremely positive, devoid of any acrimony. As a matter of fact, is to the credit of Twitter that they admitted they’ve never received any kind of informed or detailed or professional communication from any country as they have received from us. Not only did they promise they were going to look into it, but we made it very clear what we wanted from Twitter.

“Even though our report is not ready, even though we’re still expecting more clarifications around some conversation with Twitter, I think I can share with you some of our conditions for Twitter operations to resume in Nigeria. I’m glad both the Minister of Works, who is a member of the ministerial team, Tolu Ogunlesi, who also serves on the technical committee, are here. So, if I’m wrong they’d correct me. But I know one of the conditions we set was that Twitter, in line with Nigeria’s Companies and Allied Matters Act, should establish presence in Nigeria with registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission. And we think that it is only thing if you want to do business in Nigeria, you must register first, a Nigerian company and of course, you must have an address. That’s one of the conditions we gave Twitter.

“We also asked that Twitter should be mandated to employ a designated country representative. As of today, we are not aware of any Twitter representative in Nigeria, and we say representative shall be a staff of Twitter so that he can have access to global management of Twitter. So that he can serve as a liaison between Nigeria and Twitter. The company representative should also have a physical office address in Nigeria.

“We also asked Twitter, in addition to registering the Nigerian company, to register with relevant regulatory authorities like  National Information Technology Development Agency, Nigeria Communications Commission and National Broadcasting Commission.

“We asked that Twitter shall be mandated to retain designated local agents to manage its engagement with the Federal Government operations in Nigeria. We also asked Twitter to commit itself to working with the Federal Inland Revenue Service, you know if you make money from Nigeria, you pay taxes according to Nigerian laws. Of course, start paying VAT and other tax liabilities of any company resident in Nigeria. We also proposed to Twitter that we should agree on a charter of online conduct for content management. So that this charter will guide both of us, we will agree on which content would be acceptable, what’s not acceptable.”

 

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