There was a mild drama on the floor of the House of Representatives as members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus staged a walkout in protest against the Federal Government ban on the operations of microblogging and social networking service, Twitter in Nigeria.
The PDP Caucus led by Hon. Kingsley Chinda left the chamber en-masse, after the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila announced the leadership’s decision to investigate Federal Government’s decision to ban the Twitter service and prosecute any citizen who uses the Twitter service.
The Caucus expressed grave concern over the present administration’s dictatorial posture, alleging that the ban may compound the lingering insecurity and unemployment.
Hon. Chinda who volunteered to submit themselves for the prosecution at any court argued that all the PDP members will continue to tweet without restraint, adding that there is no other means of communicating with their constituents.
Speaking earlier during his welcome address, the Speaker who affirmed that the suspension on Twitter in Nigeria has generated fierce debate, mandated the House Committees on Communication, Justice, Information & 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.
He also mandated the Committees 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 10 days.
Gbajabiamila said: “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.
“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 10 days.”
According to him, 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.
“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.”
In a related development, the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Anti-Corruption, Hon. Dachung Musa Bagos called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately rescind the ban placed on Twitter to save the nation’s democracy and economy.
He said apart from the fact that it will adversely impact on the nation’s democratic advancement and the ailing economy, it will fast-track the worsening insecurity in the country.
Bagos, in a statement issued on Tuesday in Abuja said: “I wish to on behalf of my constituents, other patriotic Nigerians and horde of Nigerian youths who make a living out of Twitter and other social media platforms call on President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency lift the ban on Twitter.
“This ban has immediate and long term negative economic and political effects on the nation and should be reversed in the interest of the generality of Nigerians and our international friends and partners.”
He argued that the “ban is already affecting the income of many Nigerian youths who rely on Twitter for their daily income by attracting investments for technological start-up businesses.
“In this age when Nigeria is battling with widespread unemployment and unprecedented security challenges, it will be wrong to throw more hardworking youths into the unemployment market and make them susceptible for recruitment by terrorists groups.”
Hon. Bagos noted that the ban is an indirect way of regulating the social media thereby infringing on the rights of Nigerians to freely express themselves and engage in exchange of ideas as well as access information.
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