The federal government has shelved plans to compel international social networking services and digital platforms to register and open offices in Nigeria, Saturday PUNCH has learned.
The government’s decision to ensure that all high-profile media services register with the National Broadcasting Corporation also hit a brick wall, as NBC failed to roll out six registration modalities. months after publishing an infomercial asking all online platforms to do this.
The Nigerian government in June last year suspended Twitter just days after the platform deleted a tweet from the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired).
The federal government later declared that Twitter and all other over-the-top media services must register and pay taxes in Nigeria and register with NBC.
Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed said, “What we are saying is that all platforms must register in Nigeria. You must be a legal person before you can do business in Nigeria.
“Whether it’s Netflix, Iroko or Facebook… they all do business in Nigeria, make money and pay no taxes. This in addition to being able to regulate them. They earn billions of naira with this country and they pay no taxes. This cannot go on.
Subsequently, in June, NBC required all social media platforms and online streaming service providers operating in Nigeria to apply for a broadcast license.
The commission said in an infomercial that the NBC Establishment Code empowers the commission to require companies to obtain a license.
Corn Saturday PUNCH learned that NBC does not have a framework for licensing social media platforms.
IPI Group Limited CEO Adamu Garba, who is also a co-founder of social media platform Crowwe, said that several attempts by his company to register with NBC turned out to be abortive.
Garba said that after six months of trying to register his platform with NBC, commission officials finally admitted to him that there was no framework for licensing platforms. of social media in Nigeria.
He said: “Frankly there is a problem because there is no framework to log social media based on what I have seen. It’s a challenge because we went to all the departments of the NBC. None of them were doing anything. Eventually they confessed that this is the current situation and they don’t have that kind of framework where we can register as social media operators.
A senior NBC official told our correspondent that Twitter’s suspension was a knee-jerk reaction and the government didn’t know how to go about lifting the suspension, so it had to introduce some policies.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “NBC has no authority or infrastructure in place to license or regulate social media except that the law establishing the commission is amended.
“The truth is that all the policies rolled out at the time were aimed at Twitter. Now that Twitter has agreed to open an office in Nigeria, the government is no longer talking about the others.
NBC spokesman Ekanem Antia did not return calls on Friday.
During this time, Saturday PUNCH also learned that other foreign social media and digital platforms were no longer required to open offices in Nigeria.
Instead, the government decided in the 2021 finance law to oblige all digital platforms to levy a value added tax of 7.5% on all advertisers and remit it to the federal government.
Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister Zainab Ahmed recently revealed on NTA’s Good Morning Nigeria that platforms like Twitter, Amazon and Facebook do not need to open an office in Nigeria.
Ahmed said, “Even international companies that operate and provide digital services in Nigeria; all the Amazons, Facebooks and Twitters in this world operate and have a very large following in Nigeria, but we don’t make any revenue from it.
“Thus, the 2021 finance law which has just been signed makes some additional changes. In the 2020 finance law, we made provisions to tax the digital economy, but we found that we could not implement this provision, so we had to strengthen this provision in the current finance law which will allow us to require these companies to provide VAT for the services they provide to Nigeria so that the customers they serve pay this consumption tax and then remit it to us.
“We are not asking them to register in Nigeria. We simply tell Nigerian customers to charge the Nigerian VAT rate of 7.5% and remit the funds to the government.
The federal government on Thursday lifted the seven-month ban on Twitter, saying the social media company should open an office in Nigeria and pay taxes by the end of March.
Meanwhile, the Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives criticized the federal government for saying it had lifted the ban on Twitter in Nigeria, saying it had always viewed the suspension of the micro-blogging site as illegal.
The Caucus, in a statement released by House Minority Leader Ndudi Elumelu, recalled how he declared the ban illegal and urged Nigerians to continue using Twitter.
The statement was titled “Twitter Ban Lift: FG has no right to regulate freedom of opinion – Representatives of minorities”.
The statement reads in part as follows: “The Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives describes the ‘declaration’ of the federal government led by the Congress of All Progressives that it has lifted its unconstitutional ban on the use of Twitter in Nigeria as a further demonstration of his desire to remove constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens in Nigeria.
APC urges supporters to flood the platform
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress urged its supporters to return to the platform and continue broadcasting what it called the president’s and the party’s achievements.
He also instructed Nigerians to create local social media apps that could compete with the microblogging platform.
The National Secretary of the APC Interim/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, John Akpanudoedehe, disclosed on Friday in a statement titled, “APC salutes President Buhari, Nigerians for standing up against Twitter interference “.
He said, “The APC salutes President Buhari and the patriotic citizens of our nation for their resistance to Twitter Inc.’s interference in Nigeria’s internal and national security affairs.
“We also commend Twitter for allowing good reason and the common interest to prevail in agreeing to open their office in Nigeria. This is a win-win for all parties and will create jobs and earning opportunities for Nigerians in the global digital space.
“We encourage our followers to return to the platform and continue to spread the achievements of President Buhari and our great party.”
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