Founder and Chairman Emeritus of DAAR Communications – owners of Africa Independent Television and Ray Power FM – Raymond Dokpesi, has stormed the National Assembly to protest over what he called moves to gag the media and suppress free speech.
Specifically, the media owner accused President Muhammadu Buhari of being behind the station’s ordeal with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
Speaking when he protested at the National Assembly Complex on Thursday, he called on the parliament to amend the law establishing the National Broadcasting Commission to ensure that those who engage in partisan politics do not head the regulatory body.
According to him, the NBC DG, Ishaq Moddibo Kawu, participated and lost in the last Kwara governorship election under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and returned to his position.
He condemned the destruction of AIT security house and perimeter fencing across the boundaries of DAAR Communications Plc executed by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) about six weeks ago.
Dokpesi noted the “handedness of government in deploying all instruments of power to threaten, intimidate and harass our media organisation for my affiliation with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the government’s perceived bias by our stations in holding government, public officers and people in positions of power accountable to the people of Nigeria.
“We have since gone to court and it will be subjudice to make further statements on the issues before the courts. Suffice to say, that our premises have been left exposed to all manner of threats which endanger the lives of our staff and property. We have persevered in the discharge of our duties and obligations despite the physical and psychological intimidation the actions of the FCDA, a department under the control of this government, has impacted on us.
“Since coming to office in 2015 and in compliance with a well scripted program of action to shutdown the DAAR Communications brand from Nigeria’s broadcasting landscape, we have been inundated with letters from our regulator – the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). Every broadcast which appears to them to offer a dissenting perspective to the position of government is reprehended as a threat to national interest. Every reference and reportage from various sections of the country concerning injustice, inequality and iniquity is reprehended as a threat to national security.
“We hold the position that it is the actions or lack of actions by the government in responding to the above that threaten public order, public interest, public cohesion, the peace and unity of this country and not the reportage of same.
“It is our view that communications, including broadcasting as a form of mass communication serves public interest when the media is able to inform and educate the public on the activities and initiatives of government whilst also availing people in government an opportunity to feel the pulse of the nation by reporting unadulterated comments, opinions and perspectives without censorship. By so doing, leaders including the President, can access and discern the value of diverse opinions and positions”.
Both the regulatory body and the broadcast station have been having running battles.
In separate letters to the media organisation recently, the NBC accused the media group of airing offensive and unprofessional contents.
Specifically, it accused the station of inciting the public against the Independent National Electoral Commission, the ruling All Progressives Congress and the Federal Government.
But Dokpesi backed the editorial policies of DAAR Communications, insisting that the present administration economically is worse than its predecessors.
He lamented what he called the deliberate censorship of free media, adding that the station has played an important role and stood by the tenets of the profession since it started broadcasting in 1993.
“If we are critical of this administration’s management of the economy, it is because our editorial board have reviewed the economic indices and these show that Nigeria is worse off today than it was under previous administrations”.
Revealing how he has been threatened by security agencies, Dokpesi said, “I have been reliably informed that some security agencies have threatened my person with the ‘Okadigbo treatment’, whatever that means.”
Addressing Dokpesi and his group, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who was represented by Senator Shehu Sani assured that even though the life of the 8th National Assembly had ended, the 9th National Assembly will look at the petition and also reach out to the NBC with the a view to addressing the issue.
On his part, the Chairman Senate Committee on Power, Steel and Metallurgy, Enyinnaya Abaribe, cautioned the Commission against partisanship.
OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja