The House of Representatives has summoned the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, to appear before it over the controversial suspension of Twitter.
Mr Mohammed is to appear before a joint committee on Justice, Commerce and Information.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, announced this in his speech during the plenary on Tuesday.
He said the joint committee will investigate the process that led to the suspension of the platform.
Mr Gbajabiamila said the House will have to listen to the government before taking any action.
The joint committee has 10 days to conduct the investigation and report back to the House.
Read the full remarks by Mr Gbajabiamila below:
REMARKS BY THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, REP. FEMI GBAJABIAMAILA AT THE RESUMPTION OF THE PLENARY SESSION OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ON TUESDAY, 8TH JUNE 2021.
Good morning honourable colleagues. I welcome you all back to the chamber of the House of Representatives.
1. Over the last couple of weeks, across our country, there has been a marked increase in the incidents and severity of violent outbreaks, kidnapping, banditry, and murder in broad daylight.
From Owerri in Imo State to Igangan in Oyo State. From Niger to Kaduna, and across the states of the Northeast, we are witnessing bloodshed and violence of the sort usually associated with war. These are trying times for all our nation’s people. Families are in mourning; communities are under siege and even those who have thus far escaped the direct impact of the escalating violence cannot help but feel as if they are living on borrowed time.
We are reminded of the urgent need for coordinated and targeted action by all governments at all levels to address this menace and save our nation.
2. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives hosted a Special Summit on National Security to harness the views of citizens and stakeholders, experts from within and outside, to define a new strategy for combating the different manifestations of insecurity in our country.
The contributions we received from across the country and the recommendations made therein have already begun to inform legislative action in the House of Representatives. Tomorrow, the House will begin consideration of a slate of Bills intended to reform our national security statutory framework. We are seeking through legislation to address the issues of overlapping mandates resulting in inter-agency rivalry and lack of cooperation amongst the security agencies.
We are seeking to make community policing operational so that communities and the police can work together to protect our people across the country.
3. We intend to change the way the Armed Forces conduct operations so that the three arms of our military can work more effectively together to overcome shared challenges. And we want to change the nature of interactions between the civilian population and the military so that the conflicts that breed resentment and undermine national security can be eliminated once and forevermore.
These Bills are only the first of the legislative interventions relating to national security that we will be considering. Also, the final report of the Summit, including the recommendations for legislative action will shortly be presented to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.
I have his assurance that the painstaking recommendations made by the House will receive his full attention and accelerated action.
4. Last week the Special House Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution held a series of public hearings across the country to allow citizens to contribute their voices to the ongoing efforts to reform the constitution of our country.
At the public hearing in Lagos, I assured Nigerians that for us in the House of Representatives, this ongoing constitutional review presents a generational opportunity to “devise a constitution that resolves the issues of identity and political structure, of human rights and the administration of government, resource control, national security and so much else, that have fractured our nation and hindered our progress and prosperity.”
5. Let me re-emphasise that we will not restrict ourselves to tinkering around the edges of the constitution or be subject to redlines that mitigate against optimal outcomes. We have it now in our power to deliver a truly democratic constitution that allows us to overcome the challenges of today and puts us in good stead for the future.
Honourable colleagues, bearing in mind our history, and cognisant of our present circumstances, it is all too clear that the future is all we have. Let us do the work necessary to ensure that our tomorrow is better than all our yesterdays.
6. 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.
7. The suspension of 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 recognises 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 recognises 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.
8. 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.
9. 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:
a. The circumstances of the decision by the Federal Government of Nigeria to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria; and
b. The legal authority for the ban on the operations of Twitter in Nigeria.
10. 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.
11. As we approach the halfway mark of our term in the House of Representatives, we must present a record of our activities over the last two years to the Nigerian people. As part of those efforts, I have requested the House Committee on Monitoring and Implementation of the Legislative Agenda to work with all the standing committees of the House of Representatives to assemble a record of the oversight activities of the House Committees.
The Chairman of the Committee on Monitoring and Implementation of the Legislative Agenda will share a reporting template that has been developed in collaboration with the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies for this purpose. I ask all the Chairmen of Committees to see to it that these reports are produced in good time and are of the highest quality.
12. Honourable colleagues, I look forward to the important work that we will be doing over the rest of this session. I welcome you back to the House of Representatives and I thank you all once more for your presence here this morning.