By Babatunde Ajose DCOB.
In 2017, Farhad Manjoo, New York Times Tech Columnist warned that Tech companies are becoming more powerful than Government and might spell doom if nothing is done to curtail their activities.
The Nigerian Government just banned the operation of Twitter indefinitely and compatriots are complaining bitterly. Those complaining don’t want their freedom of speech trampled upon, I share their position and acknowledged that the Nigerian Government took an extreme position on Twitter no doubt but these Nigerians should also remember that there can only be a citizenship rights if there’s a country . Looking at the activities of these Tech Giants around the world, various governments will have no choice than to take unpopular position on their activities regardless of their benefits especially in Nigeria where Twitter was openly soliciting for funds for the Anti-Government movement called #EndSars , where the President’s Obituary was published and nothing was done, where millions upon millions suffers abuses and bully on daily basis and Twitter only cares about their profit. I was in the Manchester Court room when a man was sentenced for insulting Rooney’s Wife on Twitter and there was no mention of failed state in England but reverse is the case here, anything goes in our media space. We have forgotten that every right comes with an obligation.
I appreciate the fact that this Government failed on almost all the promises that brought them to power, the reasons for the failure is a topic for another day. But should we loose a country because a government failed ? Buhari will leave in 2023 but the damages we’re doing to our country will hunt us in decades to come. Is it not possible to see this country beyond Buhari and rally round our God’s given land or have gotten any other place we want to pass to our children unborn.
We all know that the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) is a proscribed organization in Nigeria and classified as a terrorist organization by Nigerian laws and even in some South-Eastern States of Nigeria as at the last time I checked. The fairness and legality of this proscription is left to the legal practitioners to argue in courts or the lawmakers from Biafra Region to lobby on the floor of the Parliament. What we have seen is that the Leader of a Proscribed IPOB has chosen Twitter as his mouthpiece which has brought about arson, carnage and killings on the streets of the supposedly Biafraland and Twitter doesn’t see anything wrong in it. It’s like an organization providing a platform for Al-Qaeda or ISIS to disseminate messages to their sympathisers in America….Who does that ? Yet, my people love and hail Twitter because a government failed us.
Few months ago, Twitter announced the opening of their office in Ghana citing Freedom of Speech for their reasons for shunning Nigeria and my people fell for it. All around the world, multinationals especially Tech Giants look for Tax Haven to do their businesses; my people forgot to investigate if freedom of speech is actually the reason Twitter went to Ghana as they told us ? The simple reason is the repatriation of profit and taxes which Nigerian Government is now taking serious. MTN the South African telecommunication giant had same issue, ShopRite, the South African stores is another multinational that tried to mess with our tax laws, thank God Egbon Tayo Amusan came to our rescue and I’m happy those cash they have collected from Nigerians over the years will remain in Nigeria.
Apple Inc. the makers of world most expensive gadgets moved their Head Office to Ireland in an attempt to avoid the American tax or are we saying there’s no freedom of speech in America ? Same Apple moved their factory to China because of cheap labour, should we then say American doesn’t not have the right infrastructure like Nigeria. Have you forgotten the legal war between the FBI and Apple in respect of privacy right over American security ? How about the court drama between EU/Ireland & Apple Inc. over unpaid €14 Billion taxes.
All notable and luxury clothing lines in the Western world moved their production outfits to Asian countries because of labour laws of the West or should we assumed they went there because of NEPA and Bad leadership in their home countries ? Nigerians should wake up please, we are the second largest English speakers in the world after United States of America; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc cannot afford to loose the Nigerian Market, they need us more than we need them but will develop a funny narrative to appease the their Nigerian followers as their reasons. That is the style of multinationals especially the Tech Giants
Egypt is the largest Twitter user in Africa, did Twitter establish in Egypt ? They will not because the Egyptian tax laws doesn’t permit their “Wayo Activities” By the way how many Ghanains will Twitter employ in their new Ghana office (I’m very sure, it’s less than 200) compare to the 5000 jobs Microsoft is creating with it’s partnership with Nigerian Government but Nigerians prefer to mourn the loss of 200 jobs over 5000 created here. I have the privilege to have worked in the Nigerian Embassy in London where I met several business delegation wanting to come to Nigeria and I know how robust some of our investment laws are. I acknowledge the fact that there are several rooms for improvement in these laws but we’re not doing badly as we’re being made to believe. The chat below shows you that your preferred Ghana is not as popular as Nigeria in the Foreign Direct Investment Market so guys learn to support your country against this tax evaders.
The simple truth is that Twitter wants to evade tax by being in Ghana and enjoy the biggest Market in Africa, Nigeria through ECOWAS Treaties and AFCTA Agreement and let’s be guided more multinationals will still do the same thing in future. Do you know much Twitter is making in Nigeria ? Are you aware Twitter is having similar problem in India ? Do you know Twitter and other social media company don’t pay any tax in Nigeria? Do you know they will prefer to go to Ghana because the Nigerian Government just came up with a tax reform that compelled them to pay our taxes they’ve been pocketing. Check the new Financial Act 2020 for details.
Finally, I want to submit that the Nigerian Government took this extreme decision at a wrong time and for wrong immediate reasons but we should not forget the remote reasons and the underlying factors. Twitter is just out to make profit and not to protect anybody right as portrayed in Nigeria; Twitter should realize that having a dominant share of 200million people Market comes with a lot of caution and decorum. The Nigerian Government should also have a legal framework to register and regulate these Tech Giants and institute a deterrent punitive measures like fines and the likes instead of outright ban.
Thank you for reading.
Babatunde Ajose DCOB is a Sustainable Development Strategist from Badagry with specialisation in Tourism, Foreign Investment, Microfinance. He is a Fellow of several professional bodies in the UK.