Why is Nigeria's advertising council suing Meta—Facebook's parent company

The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) has sued Meta Platforms for ₦30 billion over the loss of revenue and violation of laws.

Why is Nigeria's advertising council suing Meta—Facebook's parent company
Nigeria's President, Muhammadu Buhari and Mark Zuckerberg, Meta's founder and CEO in 2016.

The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) has sued Meta Platforms Incorporated—the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp and its local advertising partner, AT3 Resources.

According to a statement seen by the Foundation of Investigative Journalism, ARCON queried the company for illegal publication and exposure of various advertisements directed at the Nigerian market through Facebook and Instagram without ensuring that they were vetted and approved.

In the suit which was filled at the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division, ARCON is seeking ₦30 billion in sanction for the violation of the advertising laws and for loss of revenue as a result of Meta's continued exposure of unapproved adverts on its platforms.

As of July 2022, there were nearly 37 million Facebook users in Nigeria, accounting for 16.8% of the population, according to Statista. Meanwhile, over ten million Instagram users are in Nigeria. Following a directive by the Nigerian government in 2021, Facebook announced that all advertisers from Nigeria would pay an additional 7.5% VAT on ad placement from January 1, 2022—this has since been implemented.

President Buhari, Vice President Osinbajo and Zuckerberg during Meta's CEO's visit to Nigeria in 2016. Credit: Presidency Nigeria

ARCON added that it is not regulating digital media. However, "it would not permit unethical and irresponsible advertising on Nigeria's advertising space." Per the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria Act No. 23 of 2022 signed into law in August 2022, ARCON is the apex advertising, advertisement and marketing communications regulatory agency of the Federal Government.

The Advertisers' Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) has previously accused ARCON of reaching beyond its regulatory powers, stating the association should focus on creating structures for ease of doing business in an already chaotic advertising environment and be the catalyst for peaceful co-existence among stakeholders.

In August, ARCON placed a ban on the use of foreign voice-over artists and models with effect from October 1, 2022, as a policy to develop local talent and inclusive economic growth for sectors of the country, including advertising. The ban was protested by ADVAN.

According to the Association, "Nigeria, as a country in the global economy, has an expatriate policy which allows for non-Nigerians to be gainfully and legally employed by Nigerian organisations, in adherence to the stipulations of the law."

Editor's Note: This is a developing story, we will update it as more details unfold.

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