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SANs fault FG’s move to register Twitter, Facebook, others

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Nina Nelly |

• Why OTTs must register in Nigeria –Lai Mohammed

Senior lawyers on Friday faulted the conditions set by the Federal Government before the suspension placed on the operations of the microblogging platform, Twitter, could be lifted.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had announced that henceforth, Twitter and other social media platforms must register with the Corporate Affairs Commission and pay taxes in Nigeria.

Reacting to the development, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Remi Olatubora, said the government had the right to impose taxes, but expressed disapproval of any attempt to limit the people’s right to freedom of expression.

He said, “I am against any requirements that will limit the right of the citizens to freedom of expression. Consequently, any requirement that will serve to restrict the citizens’ access to information or their ability to put their views across to the world or transact legitimate business through any electronic platform is objectionable.

“Having said that, I should also mention that we must concede to our government the right to impose taxation on all taxable natural and artificial persons, and these include all Internet-based platforms and microblogging apps.”

Mike Ozekhome (SAN) agreed with Olatubora.

According to Ozekhome, the government is within its rights to ask for the payment of tax. However, he disagreed with the move to ask social media platforms to register with the CAC.

He said, “There is nothing wrong with telling Twitter to pay tax as a going business concern. But telling it to register with the CAC is a step away from total regulation and control of social media, a pet project of this clueless anti-people government.

“Nigerians must resist it using all available legal and judicial means. We are not in a military dictatorship. We are supposed to be practising constitutional democracy, where the government’s actions are circumscribed by and subjected to the rule of law, and not to sheer might and arbitrary, whimsical and capricious rule of the thumb.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said its directive that over-the-top and social media platforms operating in Nigeria must register and obtain licences to operate is in conformity with global trends.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said this on Friday when he was featured on a Nigerian Television Authority programme, ‘Good Morning Nigeria.’

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Mohammed said if the platforms were registered and licensed, their operations would be regulated within the terms of their registrations.

He added it was unfortunate that most of the OTT and social media platforms had no offices in Nigeria while making “billions of dollars” without paying taxes.

He said, “Singapore regulates social media, Australia has done so. Even the European Union that does not have any particular laws on social media has made recommendations in a white paper.

“The EU says if social media platforms publish contents that are harmful to the security of a nation, such contents should be removed.”

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