FG talks tough, insists Twitter ban is indefinite

Despite widespread anger over the ban on Twitter use in the country, indications emerged, yesterday, that the Federal Government is not ready to shift grounds.

Coming a day after the government met with some envoys, which ended in both parties sticking to their guns and some very influential clerics continuing the use of the popular micro-blogging platform, a top government functionary, last night, told The Guardian that the ban remains indefinite for now as the administration insists on going tough on social media regulation.

“In fact, there will be a public communication today or tomorrow asking all foreign social media companies to register before they can be allowed to operate in the country.”

The source further confided that the outcome of Monday’s meeting of the Minister of Foreign Affairs with envoys of the United State, United Kingdom, European Union, Canada and Ireland may not have the blessing of the presidency.

“The government may have regretted the meeting with envoys, giving the impression the Minister may have acted without the full backing of the full house, that is the Presidency. This is because it is believed Twitter has two standards; one for Nigeria and one for other countries. So, for now, the government is not backing down.”

The inkling of the government’s hard stance on maintaining its position despite public criticism emerged when the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), restated his stand on the ban of Twitter by deactivating his account yesterday.

Only the President’s wife, Aisha Buhari, had similarly deactivated her Twitter account as soon as the ban was announced on Friday. Many top government functionaries and institutions are still maintaining their Twitter accounts.

Many have described the ban as an attempt to gag the media, an attack on press freedom, freedom of expression and an attempt to pass the controversial Social Media Bill.

And adding to the voice of disent, Benue state Governor, Samuel Ortom twitted Tuesday, “The ban on Twitter is not only illegal but it is also an ill-advised move to divert the attention of Nigerians from the FG’s failure to tackle insecurity in parts of the country.”

Ortom’s tweet comes less than 24-hours after Enoch Adeboye, general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church Of God (RCCG), also expressed his opposition to the government’s action.

Malami had on Saturday ordered the prosecution of Nigerians defying the Federal Government’s last Friday’s ban on Twitter as a result of the platform’s deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet even though no Nigerian law makes it illegal to tweet. Sharing a screenshot of his deactivated account on Facebook, Malami wrote: “My Twitter account deactivated.”

The Federal Government banned the use of Twitter for what it described as “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining the nation’s corporate existence.”

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in the country. NBC as part of implementing the directive has also asked all broadcast stations to suspend usage of their Twitter accounts with immediate effect.

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