In the midst of the furore surrounding the ban on Twitter and other moves to regulate social media, President Muhammadu Buhari has declined to appoint Armstrong Idachaba as the substantive Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

Mr Idachaba was appointed acting Director-General of the commission, replacing Modibbo Kawu, who was suspended for alleged financial impropriety in February 2020.

However, on Friday, the ministry of information and culture announced the appointment of Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, a broadcaster, as the substantive Director-General of the NBC, contrary to the expectation by many that the President would confirm Mr Idachaba as the substantive head of the agency.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced the appointment in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday.

He said Mr Ilelah’s appointment is for a tenure of five years in the first instance.

He was, however, silent on the reasons the president did not consider Mr Idachaba for the position in a substantive capacity.

The announcement comes amid the moves by the regulatory body to censor social media and the reportage of broadcast media organisations.

The government had earlier banned the operations of Twitter in the country and threatened to prosecute citizens who still use the social media platform despite the ban.

The Nigerian government, through the NBC, ordered radio and television stations to deactivate their Twitter accounts.

In a newspaper advertorial, the NBC asked all social media platforms and online broadcasting service providers in Nigeria to apply for the broadcast licence.

The announcement was placed in the TheNation newspaper and signed by Mr Idachaba.

Mr Idachaba said the application is in line with the provision of the National Broadcasting Act CAP N11, Laws of the Federation 2004, section 2(1)(b)).

“The Commission shall have responsibility of receiving, processing and considering applications for the establishment, ownership or operation of Radio & Television Stations including cable television services, Direct Satellite Broadcast (DSB), and ANY medium of Broadcasting.

“The National Broadcasting Commission hereby directs every Online Broadcast Service provider and Social Media Platforms operating within the Nigerian State to apply and obtain broadcast Licence for their Service(s),” the official said.

The Twitter suspension and the moves to censor social media have been criticised by many Nigerians, civil society organisations and the international community as stifling freedom of expression and shrinking the Nigerian civic space.

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