Nigerian Government to lift Twitter suspension soon

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja

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The dispute between Nigeria and Twitter that led suspension of the microblogging site in the country will soon end as engagement between the parties over the issue is yielding positive results.

It would be recalled that the Nigerian government announced an indefinite suspension of Twitter operations in the country in June over allegations that the platform engaged in activities that were capable of undermining the country’s corporate existence.

Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed told State House correspondents on Wednesday that “an amicable solution is very much in sight.”

Mohammed said that the government was aware of the anxiety of Nigeria over the suspension and worried that two months after the suspension talks had not been finalized.

“But I just want to assure you that we have made tremendous progress and when I say tremendous, I 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 they have exchanged correspondence about three times, and really, apart from dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘t’s we are actually almost there, almost there. 

“And I want to say that our engagements have been extremely positive.  It has been devoid of any acrimony. 

“As a matter of fact, it is to the credit of Twitter that they admitted that they have never received any kind of informed or detailed or professional communication from any country as they received in Nigeria. 

“Not only did they promise that they were going to look into it, but we made very clear what we wanted from Twitter.”

READ ALSO: Nigeria sets up Twitter negotiation team

Twitter flexibility

According to the minister, Twitter has responded and shown flexibility over the issues raised by Nigeria.

“As opposed to what is being reported the conversation has not been acrimonious at all.  I think we are encouraged that today India says Twitter has complied with all its demands. 

“So, we are very hopeful too that Twitter will also comply with all our demands.  But I must say it is a matter of days, rather than weeks hopefully. 

“In a few weeks’ time or few days’ time we should be able to reach an agreement with Twitter.”

List of Conditions
Mohammed listed conditions that the Nigerian government presented during its engagement with Twitter, including the registration of the company in Nigeria, the appointment of a country representative, meeting tax obligations, among others.

“I know that one of the conditions that we set is that Twitter must first, in line with the Companies and Allied Matters Act, establish legal presence in Nigeria, with the registration of Nigerian office with the Corporate Affairs Commission. 

“We think this is only fair that if you want to do business in Nigeria, you must first register as a Nigerian company, and of course if you want to register, you must have an address.   That is one of the conditions we gave Twitter. 

“We also asked that Twitter shall be mandated to employ a designated Country Representative.  As of today, we are not aware of any Twitter representative in Nigeria. 

“We say that representative shall be a staff of Twitter, but must be one that has access to the global management of Twitter so that he can serve as a liaison between Nigeria and Twitter. 

“The country representative should also have a physical office address in Nigeria with its head office in Abuja and can also have if they want, offices outside the capital. 

“But we believe that Twitter should have a country representative who is high up in the Twitter administration that he can take directly complains from Nigeria to Twitter.

“We also asked that Twitter, in addition to registering Nigerian company, must also register with relevant regulatory authorities like NITDA, like the NCC, like the NBC.

“Fourthly, we asked that Twitter would be mandated to retain a designated local agent to manage its engagement with government on its operations in Nigeria. 

“We also asked that Twitter should commit itself to work with the FIRS on its tax liability because we believe that if you make money in Nigeria, the law says that you must pay taxes according to Nigerian laws. 

“Of course, we also asked that they should immediately also start paying VAT and other tax liabilities of any company resident in Nigeria. 

“We propose to Twitter that we should agree on a Charter on Online Conduct for content management.  This Charter will guide both of us. 

“We will agree on what content will be acceptable and which content will not be acceptable. 

“We are concerned about contents that will be liable to jeopardize the security, unity and sovereignty of Nigeria.  We believe that it is only fair in any country that this has to be done. 

“We also asked that we agree on what is prohibited publication and when such is cited and brought to the attention of Twitter, Twitter will delete or remove such publication.

“We also proposed an ombudsman between both Twitter and Nigeria and it is this ombudsman to whom we can report harmful accounts or suspected nets or troll booths to and then he will act accordingly. 

“Finally, we asked that Twitter should immediately establish a local compliance and grievance redress mechanism to be domiciled in Nigeria and to be staffed by persons who understand local content and our culture.”

Grey areas
Mohammed pointed out that there are three grey areas that needed to be cleared to before the final decision would be taken to lift the suspension.

“I think we have about three areas where we have a disagreement and even those areas are not real disagreement.  It is more about when well they do it. 

“For instance, look at the issue of office. They are saying probably between 2022 that they can have an office in Nigeria. Those are the small grey areas we are working on. 

“Until and when we get the full reaction of Twitter, discuss also at the committee level, and we also inform government we will not be in a position to give you the full outcome.  But that will be very soon, I can assure you,” he stated.

 

Nnenna.O

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