A federal High Court has granted the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) the permission to sue the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for failure to disclose information on the broadcast stations it claimed to have sanctioned at different times. MRA filed two separate motions ex-parte against the National Broadcasting Commission to request information on the scope of
A federal High Court has granted the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) the permission to sue the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for failure to disclose information on the broadcast stations it claimed to have sanctioned at different times.
MRA filed two separate motions ex-parte against the National Broadcasting Commission to request information on the scope of independence reportedly given to the commission by the president to sanction 302 broadcasting stations in September 2022, barely four months after the commencement of election campaigns in the country.
Following arguments from MRA lawyers that NBC has refused to respond to two different requests for information, Justice Nkeonye Evenlyn Maha granted the order and ordered the broadcasting commission to present the required documents.
The first application was dated February 17, 2023, and signed by Ms Maimuna Momoh, a Programme Officer at MRA while the second letter was dated February 20, 2023, and signed by Mr Monday Arunsi, MRA’s Legal Officer.
The MRA requested an order granting it permission to apply for a review under the Freedom of Information Act of 2011 and that the court instruct the commission to grant its request in the first lawsuit, which was brought by its attorney, Mr. Tale Alabi, on March 20, 2023, against the NBC and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
In its request, MRA demanded the details of the names and locations of the sanctioned broadcasting stations and the basis for the sanctions. The NGO also requested the full information behind the allegation and the complaints made against them in the process.
In addition, the Rights Agenda asked NBC to provide the list of the stations against which it received complaints of any kind as slated by the broadcasting code between September 28, 2022, and January 31, 2023, which the commission has investigated and exonerated of any wrongdoings. It also asked for details of the sanctions imposed by NBC on the stations, including the amount of the fine imposed on each of the stations.
In the second lawsuit, MRA contested the assertions made by NBC Director Malam Balarabe Shehu, who stated during a press conference that President Buhari had approved the commission’s independence from political meddling as it carried out its regulatory duties. The Director added that it has been given the responsibility of revoking and issuing broadcasting licenses.
To contest the claims, MRA posed the questions “Whether the power of the Minister of Information under Section 6 of the NBC Act to give the Commission directives with regard to the exercise by the commission of its functions has been abolished and if so, whether there are plans to amend Section 6 of the Act accordingly:
“Whether the NBC now has the final authority for the issuance of broadcast licences as against the extant practice under Section 2(b) of the NBC Act which requires the Commission to merely recommend applications through the Minister of Information to the President for the grant of radio and television licences; if the NBC is now vested with final authority to issue radio and television licences; and whether there are plans to amend Section 2(b) of the NBC Act accordingly;
“What other issues regarding the Commission’s independence have been affected by the President’s approval and what other provisions of the NBC Act are being considered for amendment accordingly;”
The NGO also made the request for a “copy of the communication from the President through which the approval of the independence of the NBC was conveyed to the Commission.
The judge permitted MRA to apply for the relief requested by the organization after hearing the defense presented by MRA attorneys. The judge further instructed the solicitor within seven days.
Recall that NBC recently fined Channels Television $5 million for hosting an ‘inciting program’ on its station, during which several media experts decried the commission’s decision.