The recent withdrawal of licence of African Independent Television (AIT) and Ray Power owned by the management of DAAR Communications by the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) as expected, has generated lots of hues and cries from the general public.
It was reported that the Director General of NBC said the decision was based on the violation of the broadcasting code of the station and failure of the broadcasting station to pay its licence fees as and when due which is backed up by the provisions of paragraph 10 of the third schedule of the NBC Act.
It was however, alleged that the actual reason for the withdrawal of licence was principally linked to the issues regarding the operations of AIT/Raypower, particularly, political platforms and Kakaaki aired on AIT. It is on this note that it is imperative to bring to bear the position of the Law on this subject matter.
One of the functions of the National Broadcasting Commission as provided by section 2(n) of the National Broadcasting Commission Act, is determining and applying sanctions including revocation of licences of defaulting stations which do not operate in accordance with the broadcast code and in the public interest;
Similarly, Paragraph 10 of the third Schedule of the NBC Act provides that:
Where in the opinion of the Commission on the station has been used in a manner detrimental to national interest; where there is willful or repeated failure to operate substantially as set forth in the licence; where there is willful or repeated violation or willful or repeated failure to observe any provision of this Act or any other rule…
While recognising the functions of the National Broadcasting Corporation as a regulatory agency and as highlighted above, it is instructive to note that the measure meted by the NBC in the circumstance is gruesome and untoward considering the fact that there are other punishments that can be put in place by the Commission to ensure that any erring media outfit conform to prescribed laws and regulations.
We must note, the freedom of the press is guaranteed in developed nations and polity. It is of interest to know that by the provisions of section 23 of the Constitution, the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people. See Sofekun v Akinyemi & Ors (1980) pg. 31 and Ardo v INEC & Ors (2017) pg. 63
I am of the view that the punishment meted by the National Broadcasting Corporation was harsh, however, one of the remedies that avails AIT is to approach the court for reversal of any action taken by NBC and appropriate remedies.
It is quite hapless that I am temporarily not in the country as I would have taken an action before the court to conditionally reverse and quash such withdrawal. I therefore, call on other patriots to immediately do so with the firm assurance that our courts will do justice to the issue.
It suffices also to note that AIT is a product of the June 12 struggle and it will be a disservice to democracy and nationalism as well as the image of Nigerian government to withdraw the licence of DAAR Communications on the eve of the grand celebration of June 12 as Nigeria Democracy Day.