…Say the Regulatory Body’s Action Has Undermined Press Freedom …It Violates Natural Justice, It’s the Accuser, Prosecutor, Judge The International Press Centre (IPC) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) have strongly condemned the threat by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to suspend the broadcast license of Channels Television, one of Nigeria’s leading privately owned
…Say the Regulatory Body’s Action Has Undermined Press Freedom
…It Violates Natural Justice, It’s the Accuser, Prosecutor, Judge
The International Press Centre (IPC) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) have strongly condemned the threat by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to suspend the broadcast license of Channels Television, one of Nigeria’s leading privately owned TV stations for interviewing spokesperson of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Mr Emmanuel Powerful.
“It is absolutely confounding, that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has threatened to sanction Channels Television, for interviewing the spokesman of the proscribed IPOB organization during the broadcast of its ‘Politics Today’ programme on Sunday, April 25, 2021, despite the fact that the station was merely doing a follow-up on the story which had broken earlier,” says Mr Lanre Arogundade, IPC’s executive director.
Explaining his position further, Mr Arogundade maintains that,
“Channels Television was actually acting in the public and national interest by seeking to question the spokesperson of an organisation whose existence, despite proscription, the government especially through the Nigerian Army has continuously recognised and which in the past couple of weeks has been accused of being responsible for reprehensible acts of serial killing of policemen and arson in Imo State and other parts of the South-east.
“It should be noted that in the course of the said interview, the anchor, Mr. Seun Okinbaloye, did refer to IPOB as a proscribed organisation, just like many other media outlets that had previously reported the tactical assault on its operational Headquarters.
“The decision of the Nigerian media to report the alleged activities of IPOB is in full cognisance of the fact that there is no law of the Nigerian Federation that forbids the media from reporting the activities or alleged activities of a proscribed organisation,” he says.
Narrating the sequence of the events, IPC stated that, “On Sunday April 25, 2021, several Nigerian and international media outlets reported that a tactical team of the Nigerian Army, the Police, and the Department of State Services (DSS), had carried out a joint attack on the headquarters of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the military wing of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
“The Media outlets reported the Nigerian Army as saying that one Ikonso Commander, alleged to be the commander of IPOB military and seven others were killed during the operation in Awomama, East Local Government Area of Imo State, Nigeria.
“ThisDay, one of the many Nigerian Newspapers that reported the incident quoted, Brigadier General Mohammed Yerima, the Nigerian Army spokesman, as saying that “the operation in Imo State was launched in the early hours of Saturday following an intelligence report on the location of the IPOB headquarters and the movement of the commander popularly known as “Ikonso Commander”.
“The Army has not denied any of the statements credited to its spokesman, in relation to the operation against IPOB and ESN, its military wing”” the group posits.
Mr Arogundade miffed at the rational for the letter to Channels TV over inciting comments.
“In the circumstance therefore, we find the NBC’s letter of April 26, 2021, addressed to the managing director of Channels Television, and titled ‘INCITING COMMENTS BY PROSCRIBED GROUP: POLITICS TODAY’ as unwarranted and highly intimidatory.
“By threatening that the station “remains liable to sanctions provided in section 15 of the code which prescribes among others – suspension of broadcast license and the fine of N5 million’ and ordering the suspension of the Politics Today programme, the NBC has embarked on another round of violation of press freedom in Nigeria.
“The NBC has again violently violated the rules of natural justice and fair hearing by constituting itself into the accused, the prosecutor, and the judge in the case between it and Channels Television over the interview in contention.
“We hereby call on NBC to stop threading this anti press freedom path by withdrawing its letter to Channels Television,” IPC says.
Also speaking in the same vein, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has called on NBC to exercise more restraint in dealing with perceived infringements by broadcast stations in the country.
The NUJ in a statement on Tuesday, signed by its National President, Mr Chris Isiguzo, expressed concern over the recent threat to suspend the broadcast licence of Channels Television for hosting the spokesperson of the proscribed IPOB in a live interview programme.
“The fine imposed on Channels TV is outrageous and should be withdrawn immediately.
“While we do not intend to join issues with NBC, we however caution that threats like this will only create unnecessary feuds in an already cracked society.
“At this very difficult time in the history of the country, what the nation needs more from the broadcast regulator is to create an avenue for more unfettered access by all Nigerians to independent and free media to engage with other stakeholders, even when it is to vent their anger and frustrations.
“It is pertinent, in view of recent sanctions on various broadcast stations by NBC that the NBC code is inimical to free speech and press freedom and should be amended to be compatible with international best practices.
“We call on media houses to be circumspect in their work so as not to play into the hands of overzealous politicians to destroy the nation’s democracy.
“It is also instructive to note that no matter the perceived excesses of the media, they still are germane in the quest for genuine democracy and should be carefully nurtured and protected,” the statement added.
The IPOB has also condemned the suspension and fine of N5m slammed on Channels Television by the NBC for conducting a live, uncensored telephone interview with its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful on their prime time news show.
The group described the action as “irrational, draconian and hypocritical,” saying that it has simply confirmed its long-standing position that, “Nigeria is currently under a tyrant whose mission is to actualise total Islamisation and Fulani conquest of the country.”
IPOB in a statement by its spokesperson, said that NBC’s action against Channels Television was meant to gag and intimidate the press into total submission.
The statement partly reads: “It’s part of the calculated attempt towards suppressing the press and blocking the outside world access to atrocities being perpetrated against indigenous peoples in Nigeria.
“We are not surprised but along with all good men and women of conscience, we strongly condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this wicked and undemocratic action.
“This is how they hurriedly and unjustifiably proscribed IPOB and tagged its innocent members terrorists without according the movement the right of defense in a law court. Nigeria is a country where injustice, hypocrisy and falsehood hold sway.
“How many times has the Islamic cleric, Sheikh Gunmi met with Fulani terrorists and Fulani bandits and the outcome of their parley aired on national televisions without NBC bathing an eyelid? How many times has the Boko Haram leader, Shekau’s messages and threats been aired uncensored on national television without NBC imposing any sanctions on NTA?
“We have always said it that Nigeria and its security agencies lose sleep when a matter has to do with IPOB and Biafra. Nigeria has not sanctioned her Minister of Communications, a known terror apologist and staunch supporter of mass murderers yet she is using state instruments of intimidation against an innocent media house for interviewing a spokesperson of a persecuted people.
“That Aso Rock viciously and wickedly turned against their long term buddy, Channels Television, tells you all you need to know about Fulani.”
Powerful said that security agencies were rattled by his revelation that its Commander, Ikonso was not killed in ESN camp but in his father’s house.
He added: “The bitter truth the Nigerian Government didn’t want people to hear, which IPOB disclosed at the said interview, was that Ikonso was murdered in his father’s house, not in any imaginary ESN camp or battlefield as the security agencies would hope to have people believe.
“The same Army, Police and DSS in Imo State that never for one day arrested or prosecuted any Fulani terror herdsman ravaging Imo State before the coming of Ikonso; the same Nigerian security agents that have always provided cover for terrorists and bandits, had the guts to ambush and kill the only man that drove Fulani terrorist herdsmen out of Imo State.
“Something Hope Uzodinma, Ohaneze Ndigbo and those Efulefus that conspired to kill him were not able to do. Commander Ikonso and the men with him in his father’s house were murdered by the Nigerian state with the help of APC politicians and Ohanaeze Ndigbo leadership in Imo State. The worst part is that they lied about it.
“Why is Nigeria always afraid of the truth? After spreading blatant falsehood about how it murdered Ikonso, the Imo State commander of Eastern Security Network (ESN), IPOB was contacted to put the records straight, after which all hell broke loose at NBC.”
IPOB also accused Nigerian media of initially failing in their part to investigate and report the accurate information about the death of Commander Ikonso and those with him saying that sections of the media only peddled lies and fake news dished out by the security agencies that murdered Ikonso in his sleep.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria knows they cannot suppress the truth as far as IPOB is concerned. We will always put the records straight because the facts will always speak for itself.
“We are not Miyetti Allah and we don’t kill or attack innocent individuals but Fulani terrorists herdsmen masquerading as cattle herders in our bushes and forests. This was the mandate of ESN and the cause for which Ikonso, a hero and gallant, patriotic Biafran and his men were murdered in cold blood.
“Commander Ikonso was only defending the land of his ancestors. He was murdered with the active connivance of Hope Uzodinma, George Obiozor and APC politicians in Imo State. They wanted to cover this atrocity but when Channels Television gave us the opportunity to tell the truth, the murderers in uniform and their masters in Aso Rock became offended,” the statement added.