The Nigerian government is threatening to shut down social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp if they are found to be promoting posts capable of destabilizing the country.
Nigeria’s Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed told the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Information, Justice, and Communication that they would not hesitate to suspend any apps that promote posts propagating division.
Mohammed cited Twitter as one of the social networks that had enabled disunity by allowing inflammatory posts. As a result, the Nigerian government set a condition requiring Twitter to register formally in the country before being allowed to operate.
“We want Twitter to be registered first in the country before they can operate,” he said.
In his opinion, Twitter had made investments in Ghana, even though Nigeria was their target market.
Mohammed further denied claims from a section of the committee members that the move was meant to stifle free speech. Some members had criticized the move, saying the country was taking a step towards autocracy
“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.
Twitter reportedly wrote to the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, seeking dialogue after the network was suspended two weeks ago. The president has since put together a team to lead in the reconciliatory discussion.
The announcement of the reconciliatory discussion came after the West African Regional union, ECOWAS issued an order prohibiting the arrest and prosecution of Nigerian citizens and corporate bodies who had bypassed the ban.