The Nigerian government continued its controversial move to regulate social media platforms on Thursday as it asked Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others to apply for broadcast licenses.
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), in a newspaper advertorial, 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 the NBC’s director-general, Armstrong 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.
Mr Idachaba said the application should be sent to his Abuja office.
He also noted that any online broadcast service provider that fails to obtain a licence will be considered an illegal entity.
War on Freedom of Expression
The announcement by the NBC shows the Nigerian government is proceeding with regulating the use of social media despite the opposition by many Nigerians and civil society groups. Previous efforts by lawmakers from Nigeria’s ruling party, APC, to get a law through the parliament to regulate social media failed based on the massive opposition by Nigerians, who fear the clampdown on free speech and freedom of expression by a government notorious for human rights abuses.
Apparently seeing that its move to get a clear social media law has failed, the government now appears determined to use the existing broadcast regulations and expand its scope to include social media.
The announcement by the NBC also occurs a few days after the ban on Twitter’s activities in Nigeria and the federal government’s announcement that social media platforms must be registered in the country.
An estimated 40 million Nigerians have been denied access to Twitter and can only access by bypassing domain restrictions through alternative mediums.
The suspension followed Twitter’s deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s controversial tweet about the civil war after some Nigerian users flagged it.
The government, in its response, accused the platform of bias against President Buhari and undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
Although the presidency says the ban is temporary and an attempt to curb fake news, human rights and foreign missions have criticised the President Buhari-led administration for censorship, calling for a reversal of the suspension.