Nigeria demands social media firms get local licence


SOCIAL media firms wanting to operate in Nigeria must register a local entity and be licensed, the country’s information minister has said, the government’s latest move since it banned Twitter last week.

“We are insisting that for you to operate in Nigeria you must first be a Nigerian company and be licensed by the broadcasting commission,” said Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s information minister, of social media companies.

The new regulations will include conditions for continued operation, Mohammed said, without elaborating. The move comes amidst what critics say is a broader crackdown on freedom of expression in Africa’s most populous country that has drawn comparisons to Nigeria’s decades of military rule in the 20th century.

Nigeria’s government last week said it had suspended Twitter’s activities, two days after the platform removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish secessionists. Nigerian telecoms firms have since blocked access to Twitter.

Buhari is a former military ruler.

Mohammed did not give a deadline for registration and licensing, but said some firms were given notice, without naming the affected companies. He did not respond to calls and a message seeking details.

“Twitter has consistently made its platform available to those who are threatening Nigeria’s corporate existence,” said Mohammed, naming a separatist leader and anti-police brutality protesters.

The minister said Facebook and its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp had not been suspended, but did not say whether they would need to register and get a licence.

The government’s announcement came as Big Brother Naija contestant Tacha Akide has joined Nigerians in condemning the Nigerian president and government over the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria. 

Nigeria’s Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed, announced on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari, that Twitter had been suspended in the country, adding that any Nigerian found to be using the platform would be prosecuted. 

Mohammed cited the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence,” as the reason for suspending Twitter indefinitely. 

Akide took to Instagram to share her dustrations and condemn the Nigerian government, expressing that the actions taken were akin to abusing the fundamental human rights of Nigerians speaking up for themselves. 

“I really laugh at the people who think it’s just a Twitter them problem ‘ah nor be our wahala after all Instagram and Facebook is still loading.’ You guys don’t get the bigger picture. The bigger picture is getting the whole Internet controlled,” the A-lister wrote on an Instagram story. 

“The bigger picture is you not being able to speak, the bigger picture is you not being able to express yourself as a citizen of this country, you people don’t understand the gravity. 

“You guys do not get how bad this is…if I’ll ever leave Istanbul I don’t know because if some people do not understand how serious this is,” she further wrote. 

Akide joined the growing protests by Nigerian celebrities and the rest of its citizens who have been protesting the suspension on other social media platforms.

Musician Banky W, actress Adesua Etomi and prolific personality Toke Makinwa called out the government after the announcement, echoing the cries of Nigeria’s lack of protection over its people in what some call an  act of a dictator. 

Bank W wrote: “They can’t stop kidnapping, armed robbery and terrorism… the country is as unsafe as ever…  yet they can seize passports and block bank accounts of peaceful protesters. 

“They ban cryptocurrency. They ban Twitter. Completely out of touch with the plight of young people.

Adesua Etomi tweeted: “This can’t be the direction in which we are heading…In 2021? This?”

Media personality turned actress and businesswoman Toke Makinwe wrote “UAR members are there ????”

Many other Nigerians commented on the irony of President Buhari’s suspension of Twitter as the country prepares to celebrate Democracy Day across the state on June 12, with Nigerian musician Adekunle Gold summarising the act in one tweet. 

“Democracy in the mud once again.”


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