The federal government of Nigeria on Wednesday insisted that all Over The Top (OTT) platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, must register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and be licensed by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to continue operating in the country.
It also rolled out conditions that Twitter must fulfill before the suspension of its operations in Nigeria could be lifted.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while briefing State House correspondents after a Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, also said Twitter had reached out to the federal government for talks on resolving the issues that led to the suspension of its operations in Nigeria.
However, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) doubled down on mobilising pressure on the federal government to reverse the suspension with a plea to the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Saudi Arabia and others to impose a visa ban on President Muhammadu Buhari and Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and other cabinet members involved in stifling free speech in Nigeria.
A day after Mohammed announced the suspension, Malami, in a statement last Saturday had directed the prosecution of those still tweeting after the suspension.
Also, the Minority Caucuses of the two chambers of the National Assembly rallied defiance of the federal government’s directive stopping Nigerians from tweeting.
Also, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has urged Nigeria to immediately reverse the suspension of Twitter, saying it is tantamount to opposing free speech.
Mohammed said Twitter yesterday morning reached out to the federal government, calling for a high-level discussion to resolve its operation suspension issue.
His words: “Yes, it is true they’ve made, reached…only this morning I got, you know, communication that yes, they are now ready to hold senior-level discussions with us. Just now, I just confirmed with my colleague now. Yes, we just got the information now.“
Asked whether the government will hold the discussion with Twitter, Mohammed replied: “Why not? We will. But our conditions are already laid out to you. One, to do business in Nigeria, they must register as a Nigerian company. Two, they must be licensed and three, they will have to refrain from using the platform for activities that are inimical to the growth of Nigeria, to the corporate existence of Nigeria.
“From there, any other issue can come up. We already talked to them.”
He stated that the microblogging platform was suspended because it provided an avenue for people threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria.
He also accused Twitter founder, Mr. Jack Dorsey, of helping to fund last October’s #EndSARS protest while allowing the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, to use the platform to call for the killing of policemen.
He said Twitter failed to take down Kanu’s tweets despite repeated requests to do so.
He listed conditions that must be met even if there is a discussion with Twitter to include that it must now be registered in Nigeria as a business concern.
Apart from Twitter, he said other social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram must now be registered in the country.
According to him, there is no infringement on freedom of speech with the suspension of Twitter because Nigerians can still use other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
He also denied that the suspension is not effective as Twitter is losing money as a result of the action.
He said: “For those that have heard that Oh, the ban is not effective, to the best of my knowledge, I think the ban is very effective. Otherwise, how would they be complaining that they are losing billions of naira every day if the ban is not effective? But that is not the issue.”
On the circumstances that led to the suspension of Twitter, Mohammed said all social media groups would have to be registered like they did in other countries, for them to function now in Nigeria.