Nigerian government demands that social media firms obtain local operational licence

Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed speaks during a news conference on protests in Abuja, Nigeria.

Social media firms wanting to operate in Nigeria must register a local entity and be licensed, the country’s information minister said on Wednesday, 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.

“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.

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