The House of Representatives has resolved to give the federal government time to negotiate with Twitter over the suspension of the microblogging site from operating in Nigeria.
The lower chamber made the resolution, following the adoption of the report of the Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Value, Telecommunication, Information Technology, Justice, and National Security and Intelligence, on the ban.
Segun Odebunmi (APC, Osun), the chairman of the committee on information, national orientation, ethics and value, presented the report, which was adopted by the Committee of the Whole.
The consideration of the report was not without drama, as the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole, Deputy Speaker Idris Wase, condemned the report presented by Mr Odebunmi.
At first, Mr Wase said the committee failed to invite the National Security Adviser, Babangana Monguno, adding that the report was not properly done.
“Did you engage the national security adviser so that we don’t rush this? It is your recommendation that is making me somehow,” Mr Wase said.
The Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu, said the report failed to address the issues raised by the House on the ban. He therefore called for the report to be discarded.
At this point, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was on the floor to participate in the debate, intervened.
He said the report addressed the legal implication and the committees invited the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.
The House rules says the deputy speaker is the chairman of the committee of the whole. The speaker is allowed to step down and participate in debate if he/she wishes.
Mr Wase insisted that the committee should have invited the NSA, since the ban was for security reasons.
“We don’t want a situation where you (Gbajabiamila) will give him cover today so that tomorrow he will not do the same thing. The decision was made based on security. It has affected the work.”
Responding to the comment by his deputy, Mr Gbajabiamila said the assignment was time bound, hence, the committee was unable to exhaust the investigation.
Mr Okechukwu again faulted the report that it was not thorough, and moved an amendment that the government should lift the ban. The amendment was rejected by the House.
The adopted recommendations are as follows:
-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.
-That relevant Government Institutions such as National Broadcasting Commission, Nigeria Communication Satellite, etc. should be alive to their mandate by doing the proper thing to avoid future occurrence of this nature.
-That the Federal Government should take into cognisance the negative effect of the Twitter’s suspension on Nigerians who depend on the platform for their livelihood
-That Federal Government should be proactive in their interface with Twitter so as to come up with a timely resolution on the matter
-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. That Government should always have communicated better with Nigerians when critical decisions are to be made.
The government announced the ban on the microblogging site on June 4. According to the government, the ban was due to threats to national security.
Following the outcry, the House on June 8 mandated the joint committee to investigate the ban. Mr Mohammed appeared before the committee and gave the positionof the government.
The government recently announced the composition of a team that will meet with Twitter on the ban.