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The Nigerian Government has insisted that the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria would continue until the social media platform registers in the country and obtains a licence to operate in the country.
The Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed gave this warning when he appeared 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.
He said this as a justification to the ongoing suspension of Twitter operations in the country; citing that Twitter made its platform available as a choice for people who want to destabilise and cause disunity in Nigeria.
“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 but they rebuffed 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 organisation 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.
“There was no intention of the federal government to stifle free speech in the country. The only reason we suspended Twitter is that it was promoting disunity. Its activities are inimical to the unity of the country,” Mohammed insisted.
According to the minister, the government “discovered 476 online platforms devoted to bring down this country (Nigeria). They are always faster than us (government), so the only way out is to regulate them”, adding that the move was not peculiar to Nigeria, naming Australia and Singapore among countries where regulation of the social media space were in place.
Responding to a question on whether the move was not directed at certain groups, coming at this time, the minister said the current government’s bid to rid Nigeria of fake news began in 2017, explaining that there have been instances where the government approached Twitter to take down certain posts which were not in the interest of Nigeria to no avail.
The minister also cautioned Nigerians using the Virtual Personal Network (VPN) to access Twitter to desist because of its possible security implications, including access to personal bank account information. “For those using VPN, if you think you’re hurting Lai Mohammed, you’re hurting yourselves”, he said.