Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed has stated that social media firms must register a local unit and obtain a licence if they wish to offer services in the market.
The edict comes hot on the heels of the government ordering telecoms firms to block access to Twitter last week. The indefinite ban was imposed two days after Twitter removed messages posted by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened secessionists with punishment.
Addressing social media companies, the Information Minister said: "We are insisting that for you to operate in Nigeria you must first be a Nigerian company and be licensed by the broadcasting commission.” He also confirmed that Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram had not been suspended, but did not specify whether they would need to register and obtain a licence.
Reuters reports that observers believe the move to form part of a wider crackdown on freedom of expression in Nigeria, with critics claiming that the government of former military ruler Buhari is pushing back in the direction of the decades of military rule endured by Nigeria during the 20th century.
Mohammed noted that companies would need to meet certain conditions to continue operating, but provided no specifics. He added that some social media firms had been informed of the new government requirements but did not mention a deadline for registration or licensing.