The House of Representatives has rejected an appeal by one of its members seeking the lifting of Twitter suspension in Nigeria.
The rejection came on Thursday while the House was considering the report of its joint committee on the issue.
The Federal Government recently suspended the operations of Twitter in the country, alleging that the platform allows content capable of threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria.
The House had mandated its committees on Information, ICT, Intelligence, Justice, and Orientation to investigate the circumstances of the suspension by the Federal Government.
At the plenary on Thursday, the report of joint committee submitted by its Chairman, Olusegun Odebunmi, was conspicuously silent on whether the ban should be lifted or not.
It, however, recommended “that time be allowed for the Federal Government of Nigeria and Twitter to enter into the dialogue process that is already ongoing, to create room for amicable settlement on the matter”.
While calling on the relevant government institutions such as National Broadcasting Commission and Nigeria Communication Satellite to be alive to their mandate, the committee also said “the Federal Government should take into cognisance the negative effect of the Twitter suspension on Nigerians who depends on the platform for their livelihood”.
It also insisted that “the freedom of expression is not absolute anywhere in the world”, adding that “national security must be guaranteed at all times as much as the right to free speech must be protected”.
Drama, however, ensued when the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, who presided over the Committee of the Whole for consideration of the report, interrupted Odebunmi during the presentation, saying: “I’m sorry, I will beg that we step down this report.”
According to Wase, no member of the committee signed the report.
Odebunmi, however, said the original copy signed by members was not the one copied to members.
The Deputy Speaker was then provided with a copy of the signed version, but he asked if the panel engaged the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (retd.), on the matter.
Odebunmi, who did not answer the specific question, said all committees were represented during the exercise.
The Deputy Speaker was dissatisfied with the response, insisting that the committee did not explore all the avenues before we come back to the floor.
Toby Okechukwu, the House Deputy Minority Leader, also criticised the report, saying that the joint committee did not fulfil its terms of reference on determining the legal authority for the ban and questioning Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information.
But Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House, who sat on the floor, noted that the committee met with Mohammed, adding: “I think it is uncharitable, to try and lampoon the work done by the committee.”
Gbajabiamila asked those who were not satisfied with the report to amend the recommendations.
Following the Speaker’s statement, Okechukwu suggested an amendment to the second prayer.
The recommendation asked that “the Federal Government take into cognizance the negative effect of the Twitter suspension on Nigerians who depend on the platform for their livelihood” and lift the suspension.
The motion was supported by another member but was, however, rejected by the majority of the House when put to the vote.