FG To Unban Twitter Soon
The Federal Government on Wednesday hinted that the suspension on Twitter’s activities in Nigeria will soon be lifted, following agreement that has been reached in most areas of contention with the platform.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this while briefing correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja.
Providing update on the government’s negotiation with the microblogging site, the minister gave more details of the conditions given to the platform, saying that most of them have been accepted. He said the areas still pending, such as Twitter setting up an office and having staff of management cadre that will serve as the country representative, are still being discussed.
Mohammed revealed that in the area of a Nigerian office, 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 would be sorted out with Twitter within a few days or weeks, noting the anxiety already shown by Nigerians. He said the government’s committee negotiating with Twitter will meet on the agreement soon to make recommendations.
When asked to give an update, the minister stated: “We’ve engaged Twitter in writing. 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. Really, apart from dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, we’re actually almost there.
“I don’t want to say that the engagement has been extremely positive, devoid of any acrimony. As a matter of fact, it is to the credit of Twitter that they admitted that they’ve never received any kind of informed or detailed or professional communica- tion from any country as they have received from us.
“Not only did they promise that 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, as we’re still expecting more clarifications around some conversation with Twitter, I think I can share with you some of our conditions for reopening for Twitter operations to resume in Nigeria.
“I’m glad that both the Minister of Works, who is a member of the ministerial team and Tolu (Ogunlesi), who also serves on the technical committee, are both here. So, if I’m wrong they’d correct me.
“But I know that one of the conditions that 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.
“We also asked that Twitter shall be mandated to employ a designated country representatives. As of today, we are not aware of any Twitter representative in Nigeria and we say that 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.”
He added: “But we believe that it’s important that Twitter should have a company representative who is high up so that he can take directly complaints from Nigeria to Twitter. We also asked Twitter, in addition to registering the Nigerian company, must also register with relevant regulatory authorities like NITDA (National Information Technology Development Agency), like NCC (National Communications Commission), Broadcasting Commission of Nigeria.
“Fourthly, we asked that Twitter shall be mandated to retain designated local agents to manage its engagement with Federal Government operations in Nigeria. We also asked Twitter to commit itself to working with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
“Understand that if you make money from Nigeria, you pay taxes according to Nigeria 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 because we are very concerned about contents that are liable to jeopardise the security, unity and safety of Nigeria.”
He, therefore, assured that: “In a few weeks time, we will be able to reach an agreement, I think we just have about three areas where there is disagreement and even in these areas, it’s not disagreement, its more about when will they do it.”