The suspension order placed on the microblogging platform, Twitter by the federal government since June may soon be lifted, Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, has said.
This is just as the social media giant in a statement on Wednesday reacted to the development, saying it was looking up to the restoration of its service in the west African country in the coming days.
The possible lifting of the suspension order, the Minister stressed, was sequel to agreement that he said has been reached between the organization and the federal government on most contentious issues. Mohammed made this known yesterday, while briefing newsmen at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the State House, Abuja.
Giving an update on government’s negotiation with the blogging site, the Minister said Twitter had complied with most of the conditions given to it for the suspension to be lifted.
He said pending issues such as Twitter setting up an office and having a Twitter staff of management cadre that would serve as the country representative, were still being discussed.
Mohammed stated that although Twitter has agreed to set up a Nigerian office, it is however maintaining that the earliest it could establish it would be 2022. Though the microblogging site did not confirm or deny Mohammed’s claim in a short statement it issue yesterday night following Lai Mohammed’s announcement.
The minister was optimistic that all outstanding issues would be sorted out with Twitter in a matter of days or weeks.
According to him, the government’s committee negotiating with Twitter would soon meet on the agreement and make necessary recommendations to government on the issue.
He further said: “The question I think has to do with the status of the conversation between us and Twitter. I want to say that the end for an amicable solution is very much in sight. We quite appreciate the anxiety of Nigerians who have been worried that two months after the suspension, we’ve not been able to finalise talks, but I just want to assure you that we have made tremendous progress. And when I say tremendous, really tremendous.
“We’ve engaged Twitter in writing. We set up a technical committee to engage Twitter, they set up their own committee too; they have met virtually and have exchanged correspondents about three times. Really, apart from dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, we’re actually almost there.
“I don’t want to say that the engagement has been extremely positive, devoid of any acrimony. As a matter of fact, it is to the credit of Twitter that they admitted that they’ve never received any kind of informed or detailed or professional communication from any country as they have received from us.
“Not only did they promise that they were going to look into it, but we made it very clear what we wanted from Twitter. Even though our report is not ready, even though we’re still expecting more clarifications around some conversation with Twitter, I think I can share with you some of our conditions for reopening for Twitter operations to resume in Nigeria.
“I’m glad that both the Minister of Works who is a member of the Ministerial Team and Tolu Ogunlesi who also serve on the technical committee, are here. So, if I’m wrong they’d correct me. But I know that one of the conditions that we set was that Twitter, in line with Nigeria’s Companies and Allied Matters Act, should establish presence in Nigeria with registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
“And we think it is the only thing, that if you want to do business in Nigeria, you must register first, a Nigerian company and of course, you must have an address. That’s one of the conditions we gave Twitter.”
Also, the minister said Twitter was mandated to employ a designated country representatives, noting that as of today, “we are not aware of any Twitter representative in Nigeria, and we say that that representative shall be a staff of Twitter so that he can have access to global management of Twitter. So that he can serve as a liaison between Nigeria and Twitter.”
Mohammed noted that the country representative should have a physical office in Nigeria as well as access to the global management of Twitter so that he can serve as a liaison between Nigeria and Twitter.
His words: “We also asked Twitter, in addition to registering the Nigerian company, must also register with relevant regulatory authorities like NITDA (National Information Technology Development Agency), like NCC (National Communications Commission), Broadcasting Commission of Nigeria.
“We also asked that Twitter shall be mandated to retain designated local agents to manage its engagement with federal government operations in Nigeria. We also asked Twitter to commit itself to working with the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
“Understand that if you make money from Nigeria, you pay taxes according to Nigeria’s laws. Of course, start paying VAT and other tax liabilities of any company resident in Nigeria.
“We also proposed to Twitter that we should agree on a charter of online conduct for content management so that this charter will guide both of us, we will agree on which content would be acceptable, what’s not acceptable because we are very concerned about contents that are liable to jeopardize the security, unity and safety of Nigeria.
“We also asked that we agree on what is libelous and when such is cited and brought to the attention of Twitter, Twitter to remove or delete such a publication.”
While noting that Twitter was also asked to have an ombudsman and a local compliance centre in Nigeria, he said the microblogging site has responded to the conditions but there are a few areas left to iron out.
Meanwhile, Reuters quoted a spokesman for Twitter to have stated yesterday: “We recently met with the Nigerian government to discuss why Twitter has been blocked and ways to resolve the matter.
“Our aim is to chart a path forward to the restoration of Twitter for everyone in Nigeria. We look forward to ongoing discussions with the Nigerian government and seeing the service restored very soon.”
Deji Elumoye in Abuja