Rowdy session as reps reject motion to lift Twitter suspension

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The house of representatives has rejected a motion to lift the indefinite suspension of the operations of Twitter in Nigeria.

The lower legislative chamber, however, endorsed the decision of the federal government to dialogue with Twitter.

The decision of the lawmakers was taken after Olusegun Odebunmi, chairman of the house committee on information, national orientation, ethics and values, moved a motion for the consideration of the committee’s report.

Following the suspension of the operations of the microblogging platform in the country, the green chamber mandated four of its committees to summon Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, to explain the circumstances behind the restriction on Twitter’s operations.

But when he appeared before the panel on June 22, Mohammed said the operation of Twitter in the country “is not legally permissible”.

As the report was considered on Thursday, the house was thrown into a rowdy session.

Idris Wase, deputy speaker of the house and chairman of committee of the whole, who presided over the session, tackled Odebunmi over the report.

He said the national security adviser (NSA) was not invited to participate at the investigative hearing.

But responding, Odebunmi said all the stakeholders were available at the hearing, adding that the NSA was represented.

Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house, while contributing to the motion, said the hearing was conducted publicly.

“I will address the salient points. The reasons have been addressed. Lai Mohammed was invited. It wasn’t done in secret. It was well covered by radio, TV, papers. Whatever side we are on, the committee invited the minister,” he said.

But Toby Okechuchwu, deputy minority leader of the house, kicked against the recommendations, adding that the report should not be considered.

“The committee has not done a prudent work, and because they have not asked the parliament to take a resolution on this, it speaks to no issue,” he said.

“I will say that this report should not be considered. Why is there no legal angle to the decision on these other social media groups? They should go back and do a thorough job.”

He demanded that the recommendations be amended to include that the “federal government should take into cognisance the hardship on Nigerians and lift the ban”.

His demand was, however, rejected.

The lawmakers adopted the recommendations of the report after it was put to a voice vote.

Below are the six recommendations as adopted by the house:

(i) That time be allowed for the federal government of Nigeria and Twitter to enter into the dialogue process that is already ongoing, so as to create room for amicable settlement on the matter;

(ii) That relevant government institutions such as the National Broadcasting Commission, Nigeria
Communication Satellite, etc., should be alive to their mandate by doing the needful to avoid future occurrence of this nature;

(iii) That the federal government should take into cognizance the negative effects of the Twitter suspension on Nigerians who depends on the platform for their livelihood;

vi) That the federal government should be pro-active in their interface with Twitter so as to come up with timely resolution on the matter;

(v) That freedom of expression is not absolute anywhere in the world. This is because security and freedom of expression sometimes present contending interests. Therefore, national
security must be guaranteed at all times as much as the right to free speech must be protected;

(vi) That government should always have communicated better with Nigerians when critical decisions are to be made.

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