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Reps uphold Twitter suspension, say freedom of speech not absolute

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THE House of Representatives has upheld the suspension of the microblogging site, Twitter, in Nigeria, by the Federal Government.

During the plenary on Thursday, the lawmakers decided to adopt the report of its Joint Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, Telecommunications, Information and Technology, Justice, and National Security and Intelligence.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila had asked the committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the ban by the government.

Adopting the committee’s resolutions, the House asked the Federal Government to continue with the ongoing dialogue with Twitter over the suspension and reach an amicable settlement on the matter.

According to the lawmakers, freedom of expression was not absolute as it sometimes presented contending interests.

The Green Chamber further said that national security must be guaranteed at all times and that the right to free speech must be protected.

The House also advised the Federal Government to always communicate to Nigerians whenever such critical decisions would be taken.

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The lawmakers said the Federal Government should consider the negative effects of the Twitter suspension on Nigerians depending on the platform for their livelihood.

The ICIR had reported that Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Twitter in Nigeria a few days after his post was deleted on the platform.

However, the Nigerian government said the platform was suspended due to “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”

International communities, including the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK), condemned the suspension, saying it was an infringement on freedom of speech in the country.

Few weeks after the suspension, Buhari approved a team to lead negotiation with Twitter to reach an agreement.

The Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed heads the team alongside the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami and Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Ali Pantami.

Others include Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeanma; Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; and Minister of State for Labour and Employment Chris Ngige.

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