PDP lawmakers protest after Gbajabiamila shuts down motion to reverse Buhari's suspension of Twitter

Gbajabiamila believes the walk-out was a political scheme to undermine his leadership.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila [NASS]

Some members of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) staged a walkout during plenary at the green chamber over President Muhammadu Buhari's suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.

The Federal Government last week announced the indefinite suspension of the American microblogging and social networking service because it was being used for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence.

Many critics, including foreign governments, have strongly opposed the suspension as a violation of the rights of Nigerians, but the Buhari-led government has doubled down on its position.

In his opening speech during plenary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, House Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the legislature must ensure that due process of law was followed by the Federal Government.

The leadership of the House mandated the House Committees on Communication, Justice, Information and Culture, and National Security and Intelligence to immediately commence an investigation into the suspension, and report back in 10 days.

Later during plenary, Honourable Kingsley Chinda, raised a point of order to demand immediate reversal of the suspension

He said the 10-day mandate was too long as the breach of the rights of Nigerians would continue in that time.

"We should urge the executive arm, in the interim, to reverse this order, pending the outcome of our interaction," he said.

Gbajabiamila ruled him out of order, noting the matter had been concluded, and that his request would affect the mandate passed to the investigative committee already set up.

Chinda refused to immediately comply with directives from the Speaker and some of his colleagues to sit down.

He then proceeded to walk out of the green chamber with over a dozen other PDP lawmakers, while plenary continued.

Honourable Yusuf Gagdi raised a point of order to slam the protesting lawmakers for disrespecting Nigerians and the Speaker with their walkout protest.

He said it was pre-planned and urged the House Ethics Committee to investigate their conduct and possibly punish them.

However, Gbajabiamila said there was no need to pursue the issue any further as he has no regrets, and noted that he was happy not all PDP lawmakers joined the protest.

Speaking to journalists outside the chamber, Chinda said an official motion regarding his position will be presented to the House during plenary on Wednesday, June 9.

However, the Speaker had said during their earlier exchange that even a proper motion on the issue would not be entertained due to the constitution of the committee.

Last week's suspension announcement came just days after Twitter deleted a tweet from President Buhari's official account after it was deemed to have violated its rules.

The tweet had been widely reported by Nigerians as harmful after the president appeared to threaten separatist agitators in the south east region with a repeat of the civil war that killed millions between 1967 and 1970.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the action made Twitter's mission in Nigeria suspicious, especially in light of its past actions considered an affront to the Nigerian government.

Millions of Nigerians are now cut off from accessing Twitter within the country's borders after network operators were directed by the government to shut down access at 12 am on Saturday, June 5.

Other users have been skirting around the restriction by using Virtual Private Network to conceal their IP addresses, and disguise their Nigerian location.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, has threatened Nigerians using VPNs to access the social media platform with prosecution, but has failed to clearly outline the crime committed.

The decision to suspend Twitter has been considered by many as a backdoor policy to finally enforce a social media regulation that Nigerians have been pushing hard against especially under President Buhari.

Following the announcement of the ban, Mohammed said the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has been directed to immediately commence the process of licensing all over-the-top media service and social media operations in the country.

This will affect the Nigerian operations of giants like Netflix, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Zoom, YouTube, and many more.

This development is expected to significantly impact the tech eco-system in Nigeria, considered one of the country's shining lights in the midst of years of escalating poverty, ballooning unemployment rate, and struggling economy.

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