The Nigerian government has vowed to shut down all social media sites that allow provocative words or posts to be used to spread division in the country.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, revealed this before the Joint Committee on Information, Justice, and Communication of the House of Representatives on Tuesday in Abuja, while answering concerns about the ban on Twitter, a microblogging site.
He claimed that anyone who wish to destabilize and promote divisiveness in Nigeria can use Twitter’s platform.
“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.
He added that if other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google Hangout, and others are found to be encouraging posts or utterances that could destabilize the country, the government will not hesitate to suspend them.
When the Convener of the Coalition in Defense of Nigerian Democracy, Ariyo Dare Atoye, who was present at the hearing, raised his hand to speak, the Chairman of the Committee, Olusegun Odebunmi, ruled him out of order and shut him down.
Only the minister would be authorized to make a presentation, according to Odebunmi.
Ariyo stated that he was a Nigerian and a Twitter user, and that the committee chairman was incorrect in ruling him out of order.
The activist went on to say that the National Assembly is for all Nigerians, and that he was there to see the investigation and ask questions as a Nigerian.
He claimed that the minister’s presentation was incorrect, and that when he was in opposition, he defended the necessity for Nigeria to have independent media.
He was perplexed as to how the same person could transform overnight into a proponent of social media regulation.
Meanwhile, several committee members raised alarm over the executive’s move to ban Twitter, claiming that the country was on the verge of dictatorship.