The court has nullified the closure of Nigeria’s biggest private television and radio stations owned by 67-year-old opposition politician, Mr Raymond Dopkesi.
The African Independent Television (AIT) and Ray Power radio covered with operating license of Daar Communication, was shut by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, on Thursday for various reasons, including public comments on the legal tussle between on the presidential election.
Aside constituting a major critic to government of President Muhammadu Buhari since 2015, proprietor of Daar communication, is also facing trial for allegedly receiving more than $500 million in the $2.1 billion meant for the purchase of arms and ammunition to defend Nigeria against insurgents.
Instead of using the money for purchase of arms, detained ex-National Security Adviser (NSA) to former President Gooodluck Jonathan, shared the money among members and supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which wwas then in power.
The management of AIT and Raypower radio which approached the court on Friday presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja which promptly nullified the suspension of operating license.
Ekw gave the federal government and NBC till June 30, 2019 to revert the ban on Daar Communications PLC.
In an ex parte application, Daar Communications PLC, had, through its lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, asked the court to order the Commission to revert its ban.
In the suit against the NBC, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, and the Attorney General of the Federation, Daar claimed that did not breach any broadcast code.
It asked the court to grant its prayers in “restraining the defendants from blocking, jamming, stopping removing from air and/or interfering with the air waves of the plaintiff/applicant (Daar Plc) in any way and manner however called from invading the premises of the plaintiff/applicant (Daar Plc) or closing down, viet armis, the said premises, its operations or broadcast services, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed along with this application.”
In his explanation however, the Director-General of NBC, Malam Is’haq Modibbo-Kawu, said over the last two years, NBC summoned the management of the company to address issues regarding the operations of AIT and Raypower, particularly Political Platform and Kakaaki.
He explained that in one of its meetings with the company held on June 2, 2017, the commission expressed its disappointment with the way hate speech, divisive and inciting comments were applied in discussion of national issues in breach of the provisions of the NBC Act and Broadcast Code.
According to Kawu, Daar Communications has over the years turned itself into a bad example of how a professional broadcast outfit should not be run.
He said on June 6, 2019 AIT and Raypower embarked on use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts, and media propaganda against the government and the NBC for performing its statutory functions of regulating the broadcast industry in Nigeria.
Kawu said: “In their relationship with the NBC, Daar communications carry on as if it is beyond the regulatory direction of the commission.
“They don’t pay their licence fees as and when due and its broadcast is patently partisan and one sided and deliberately inciting and heating up the polity.
“The management of the Company has created the habit of using the channel to fight its personal battles contrary to the statutory requirements of the law.
“Recently, NBC monitoring reports on AIT and Raypower indicate the use of divisive comments accredited to the segment of “Kakaaki”, tagged, “Kakaaki Social”, “Where inciting comments like, “Nigeria is cursed, “we declare independent state of Niger Delta”, “Nigeria irritates me”, “this country is gradually Islamising” and other similar slogans are used without editorial control in breach of the broadcast Code.
“Consequently, after several meetings with management of Daar Communications P.l.c and many letters of warning, NBC, today June 6, 2019 took a decision to suspend the licence of Daar Communications Plc for failure to abide by the commission’s directives, the provisions of the NBC Act Cap N11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.
“This decision is based on the provisions of Section 10 of the Third Schedule of the NBC Act Cap N11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, which states that where in the opinion of the commission the station has been used in a manner detrimental to national interest.
“NBC Act also states that 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 rule or regulation of the Commission authorised by this Act or by a treaty ratified by the Federal Republic of
“Where there is violation of or failure to observe any cease and desist order issued by the Commission and where a provision of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code has been seriously breached. And the shutdown order is until further notice.”
Former Vice President and defeated presidential candidate of PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has condemned the suspension.
72-year-old Abubakar made his views on the issue known in statement by his Media Adviser, Mr Paul Ibe, on Saturda..
He said that the suspension of the licenses of the DAAR Group and shutting down of its stations revealed a dangerous dark and anti-media agenda to stifle critical voices in the country.
He said that any situation where the media could not freely criticise the government posed a grave danger to the country’s democracy.
Abubakar who is still challenging the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in court said that Nigeria would not have a vibrant democratic order where the media were under totalitarian threats from a supposed democratic government.
“If the press is not free, the situation will inevitably lead to dictatorship and endanger Nigerians’ struggles to entrench democracy in the country,” he said.
Abubakar said that it was impossible to love democratic values and hate free press at the same time.
According to him, democracy is not a government of kings or lords who feel superior to the people and not accountable.
He warned that the war against the media was the first stage to turn democracy into full blown dictatorship.
“Dictators want to be worshiped rather than being criticised and held accountable for non-performance or actions. That is why they find democratic order an inconvenience to their sinister desires to kill free speech,” he said.