Lai Mohammed, the minister of information and culture, said on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, that the Federal Government took the decision to suspend the Twitter operation in Nigeria indefinitely because the social media platform was being used to undermine the sovereignty of the nation.
He said the platform allowed itself to be used to promote disunity in the country and became a platform of first choice to all those undermining the growth of the Nigerian nation, adding that Twitter became a security risk to the country.
He however said that those criticizing the decision of government on the ground that they were using twitter to promote their business must realise that you must have a country before you can do anything.
Speaking at an investigative hearing on the suspension of Twitter organized by a joint committee of the House of Representatives made up of Committees on Information, National Orientation, Ethics, and Value; Justice, Telecommunication, and National Security, the Minister warned that the government will not hesitate to extend the action to any other social media handle that allowed itself to be used against the national security
The Minister alleged the social media platform funded the #ENDSARS campaign in Nigeria by helping the organisers raise funds for the protest before it was hijacked by hoodlums, leading to the death of several Nigerians and loss of property.
He cited several laws, including the Anti-Terrorism law, the Cyber Crime Act, the Companies and Allied Matters Act among others to back his argument, while insisting that Twitter must first be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission before the suspension is lifted.
He denied claims by Nigerians that the government wants to stifle the media and free speech in the country, saying the Nigerian government does not have the intention of doing so, saying there is absolutely no attempt on the part of government to stifle free speech and the media.
He said further that “why it is true that section 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of the constitution actually provide for freedom of speech, it is actually qualified by section 45 of the same constitution which is to the effect that nothing in these sections shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other people”.
“The provisions of section 45 of the constitution leave no one in doubt that the provisions of section 39 of the constitution on freedom of expression is not absolute. The right of freedom of expression within the contemplation of section 39 makes it a qualified right in line with section 45 which permits restriction of civil liberty in the public interest.
“The only reason why we suspended the operation of Twitter was that it was promoting disunity in Nigeria and therefore became a national security risk.
“If you look at section 3 of the National Security Act which cloth the State Security Service with the powers to preserve the internal security of Nigerians, it is very instructive that any platform that threatens the internal security of Nigeria will not be allowed to operate.
“The section states that the State Security Service shall be charged with the responsibility for prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria; the protection and preservation of all classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria; and such other responsibilities affecting internal security within Nigeria as the National Assembly or the President as the case may be may deem necessary.
“This is a case where the federal government deemed it necessary that the activities of twitter in Nigeria in particular are inimical to stability in the country.”
While accusing social media platform of helping dissident activities against the Nigerian government, the Minister accused Twitter of playing a “very unsavory” role in the ENDSARS protest saying “during the unfortunate #ENDSARS protest, the same Twitter played a very unsavory role by making available its platform to retweet the messages of the #ENDSARS protesters and also raised funds for the #ENDSARS protesters before it was hijacked by hoodlums?
“This particular #ENDSARS protest led to the death of 57 civilians, 37 policemen, 6 soldiers, we had about 243 public property destroyed, 200 brand new buses belong to the Lagos state government were burnt and 83 warehouses were vandalized. So, we had course to believe that the mission of twitter in Nigeria was suspect.”
He explained that “the right to freedom of expression on the Twitter platform is further qualified by section 45 of the constitution in light to the provisions of section 5 (1) and (2) of the Terrorism Act 2011 which states that any person who knowingly, in any manner directly or indirectly solicits or render support or the commission of an act of terrorism or to a terrorist group commits an offence under this act.
“We all know that IPOB is proscribed by a High Court in Nigeria and yet, Twitter is the platform of choice through which IPOB direct its people to kill soldiers, kill policemen and burn public institutions.
“So, it is clear that Twitter operations in Nigeria is inimical to our growth, both in common law and national security and so, we had to suspend their operations.”
Source: The Nation