…say we ‘ll continue to tweet
…As PDP Reps stage walkout
By Christiana Ekpa
The House Representatives on Tuesday summoned the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed to appear before it and explain to the lawmakers the reasons for the ban on Twitter.
This was just as the members of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus staged a walkout from the chambers over rejection of a point of order by the speaker to immediately allow for rescission of the ban decision.
In his welcome address to welcome the members on the resumption of plenary after the zonal public hearing on the constitution review exercise, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila announced the decisions.
Gbajabiamila said it was the role of the Legislature to unravel the circumstances of the ban, saying that the House has been bombarded with calls by Nigerians to intervene in the matter.
Why Reps must investigate circumstances of Twitter ban-Gbajabimila
The speaker said that Twitter has become a significant tool for Communication and Commerce in Nigeria, and therefore cannot be ignored.
He said that the parliament will listen to Nigerians as well as the government on the matter.
He saddled the Committees on Communication, Information, Justice and Legal Matters with the task of the conducting the investigation, giving them 10 days to expeditiously conclude the assignment and report back to the House for further legislative action.
He said: “On Friday the 4th of June 2021, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture announced the immediate suspension of the operations of the social media network, Twitter in Nigeria.
“The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in his statement announcing the suspension, cited “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence” as the reason for the decision to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria.
“The suspension on Twitter in Nigeria has generated fierce debate. The House of Representatives has since the announcement been inundated with comments about the decision, requests for intervention and criticism.
“The House of Representatives recognizes that Twitter, like other social media networks, is an important tool for communication and commerce in Nigeria, particularly amongst the younger generation who have used these networks for enterprise and innovation with great success. The House also recognizes that as social media has been a tool for good, it can also be a tool for bad actors. As such, the government has a legitimate interest in ensuring that these platforms are not used to commit vile actions against individuals and the State.
“The proper role of the legislature in circumstances like this is first to peel back the layers of the decision-making process to unravel the issues until we develop an understanding of the why and the how of executive decisions. Following that, the legislature must make sure that regulatory and enforcement actions by the government are in accordance with the laws of the land, that due process of law has been followed to the latter and that the outcomes of regulatory decisions do not result in adverse consequences for the country and all our people.
“Fidelity to our responsibilities in situations like this requires the legislature and legislators to as in the words of Rudyard Kipling, “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs”. We listen to the agitation of the people, but we also hear from the government so that from the abundance of information, we reach the level of awareness that allows us to discharge our role dispassionately.
“It is in service of our obligations under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and our moral duty to the Nigerian people, that the leadership of the House has decided to mandate the House Committees on Communication, Justice, Information and Culture, and National Security and Intelligence to immediately commence an investigation to determine: The circumstances of the decision by the Federal Government of Nigeria to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria; and The legal authority for the ban on the operations of Twitter in Nigeria.
“The Committees are additionally mandated to Invite the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to brief the House of Representatives on the objectives, intent, and duration of the suspension on the operations of Twitter in Nigeria, and to report to the House within ten (10) days. The report of the Committees will guide further action by the House of Representatives on this matter. Therefore, I urge the Committees to act with speed and sound judgment to address this issue that has animated our national conversations over the last few days.”