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THE United States has condemned the ongoing attempt by President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to gag the Nigerian media space.
The US Department of States Spokesperson Ned Price, who described the action as ‘unduly’ in a statement on Thursday, said it had no place in a democracy.
While saying that the US supported Nigeria’s quest for unity and peace, Price noted that the country must also respect the right to free speech.
He called for the reversal of the indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria by the Nigerian government.
“The United States condemns the ongoing suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government and subsequent threats to arrest and prosecute Nigerians who use Twitter,” he said.
“Unduly restricting the ability of Nigerians to report, gather, and disseminate opinions and information has no place in a democracy. Freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies.
“We support Nigeria as it works towards unity, peace, and prosperity. As its partner, we call on the government to respect its citizens’ right to freedom of expression by reversing this suspension.”
Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed had announced the ban, in a statement on Friday, shortly after Twitter deleted a controversial and violent tweet by President Buhari.
The Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) announced, in a statement on Saturday, that it had complied with the government directives. However, millions of Nigerians have continued to use the platform through Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
Although the Nigerian government had said it would lift the ban if only the platform could be used responsibly, Mohammed insisted on Wednesday, shortly after the weekly Federal Executive meeting at the State House in Abuja, that Twitter and other social media platforms must register and pay taxes in the country before they would be given any chance.
He said social media platforms were making billions of naira in Nigeria without remitting tax to the government.
“Whether it is Netflix, Iroko or Facebook, they are all doing business in Nigeria, making money and they are not paying taxes. This is in addition to being able to regulate them. They are making billions of naira out of this country and they are not paying tax. That cannot be allowed to go on,” Mohammed said.
Mohammed said social media outfits should also “refrain from using their platforms for activities that are inimical to the growth of Nigeria.”