Court Rules That NBC Can’t Regulate Advertising In Nigeria

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has held that the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) acted beyond its powers in seeking to regulate the practice of advertising in Nigeria contrary to the provisions of the extant Advertising Practitioners (Regulation) Act of 2004.

The court also declared that the NBC lacks the power to prohibit exclusivity on privately acquired intellectual property right in programme contents of a right holder viz a viz the salient provisions of the constitution and the copyright act.

Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa also set aside the proposed amendment to the 6th Edition of the NBC Code for being ultra vires, incompetent null and void, and perpetually restrained the Commission from implementing it.

The court delivered the judgment, in a suit filed by a Lagos based journalist, Mr Femi Davies.

READ ALSO: Buhari Approves Reconstitution Of NBC Board

Mr Davies had approached the court contending among other things that the amendment sought by the defendant to the 6th edition of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code is in violation of his rights to own intellectual property in Nigeria over which he can exercise exclusive rights.

He had also argued that the amendment if allowed will greatly affect business and the development of the country as a whole as it will frustrate tonnes of investment and hard work of many years.

The NBC on its part had submitted that the amendment to the 6th broadcasting code was done to protect local operators, promote creativity and maximize local contents due to the anti trust provisions contained in the amendment.

It also claimed that the amendment was intended to among other things stimulate growth in the industry and attract foreign investment which would benefit the media industry generally.

But the plaintiff, Mr Davies argued amongst other things, that if allowed, the amendment would greatly violate his right to a fair hearing.

He asked the court to uphold his six reliefs as set out in his originating summons.

The plaintiff’s reliefs include “a declaration that the NBC lacks the requisite vires to prohibit exclusivity on privately acquired intellectual property right in program content of a right-holder viz-a-viz the salient provisions of the constitution and the Copyright Act.

“A declaration that the commission acted ultra-vires in so far as it sought to regulate the practice of advertising in Nigeria contrary to the provisions of the extant Advertising Practitioners (Registration, etc) Act, 2004.

“A declaration that the commission acted ultra vires when it sought to retroactively compel right holders of programme content to compulsorily share extant right acquired under existing licence under the proposed amendment to the 6th Edition of the NBC Code.

“A declaration that the commission acted ultra vires when it sought to retroactively compel right holders of programme content to compulsorily share extant right acquired through a partnership and /or joint venture with an investor under the proposed Amendment to NBC Code.

“An order setting aside the amendment of the NBC Code and an order of perpetual injunction restraining the NBC from implementing the Amendment to the NBC Code.

In his judgment, Justice Lewis-Allagoa held:

“I agree with the submission that acquisition of exclusive rights to Broadcast a particular program is an investment for returns and by virtue of the above-stated provisions, no one should be forced to surrender same when it is lawfully acquired…

“I am in agreement with the plaintiff counsel that the said proposed amendment is a violation of the principle of fair hearing and natural justice. The proposed amendment purports that the defendant NBC shall without any fact-finding or recourse to the other party place the advertising agency on its black list, solely based on the complaint of a media house to the defendant and the defendant acting has the authority to itself shall pass its verdict without hearing the other parties.

“I have determined the questions in the originating summon in favour of the plaintiff.

“For reasons hereinbefore given, consequently, all the reliefs sought by the plaintiff are granted as prayed. That is the judgment of the court .”

Buhari Approves Reconstitution Of NBC Board 

President Muhammadu has approved the reconstitution of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) governing board.

This followed the expiration of the former board’s tenure, according to a statement from the media aide to the information and culture minister, Segun Adeyemi, on Wednesday.

The statement quoted the minister, Lai Mohammed, to have named Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa as Chairman.

READ ALSO: [Religion] I Have Not Had Any Issue With Buhari Since 2015 – Osinbajo

“Other members, who were appointed to represent various interests as stipulated by the NBC Act, include Mr. Wada Asab Ibrahim, Mr. Iheanyichukwu Azubike Dike, Mrs. Adesola Oyinloye Ndu and Mr. Olaniyan Olatunji Badmus,” the statement read.

“Also on the Board are Mr. Bashir Ibrahim, Mr. Obiora Ilo, Mr, Ahmad Sajo, Engr. Bayo Erikitola, a representative of the State Security Service, a representative of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture as well as the Director-General of the Commission.”

The board has a three-year term, the statement added.

Press Bill: We Are Suspending The Process For More Consultation – Sponsor

 

Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Information National Orientation Ethics and Values, Segun Odebunmi, who is also the sponsor of the Nigeria Press Council (NPC) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Amendment Bill, has said that the House has agreed to suspend the bill.

Odebunmi who was a guest on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily on Tuesday explained that the suspension is to allow for proper consultations over the bill.

“We have been on this process for a while and right now, we have suspended it for more consultation to happen on it,” he said.

The lawmaker had earlier faulted claims that the bill was targeted at gagging the media.

He rather maintained that it is aimed at removing identified hindrances to optimum performance.

The suspension comes after the bill was widely criticised by Nigerians, mostly media operators who believe it is aimed at stifling its operations.

Read Also: ‘Information Blackout’: Nigeria Newspapers Campaign Against Media Bills

‘It’s about society’s rights’

Several newspapers in Nigeria on Monday published an advertorial against media regulation bills being considered at the National Assembly.

The advertorial, which appeared on the front pages of dailies such as Punch, Vanguard, The Nation, ThisDay, Guardian, Daily Sun, was sponsored by the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria.

With a bold headline titled ‘Information Blackout’, the advertorial said the NPC and NBC (Media) Act amendment bills being considered by federal lawmakers was geared against the right of citizens information.

“It’s not just against the media,” the advertorial said. “It is about society’s right to know, your right to be heard.”

While the Federal Government already regulates broadcast media organisations through the NBC, it now seeks to extend regulations to online platforms.

In June, the government suspended the operations of social media giant, Twitter, over what it described as national security concerns.

Subsequently, all social media platforms were asked to register with the NBC, while all broadcast stations were ordered to stop using Twitter.

NBC Directs All Broadcasting Stations To Deactivate Twitter Accounts

NBC Logo

 

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has directed all broadcasting stations to deactivate their Twitter accounts and suspend the patronage of the microblogging service provider.

This is according to a communique put out by NBC on Monday.

In the statement signed by Professor Armstrong Idachaba, the NBC noted that the directive is consequent on the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria by the Federal Government.

Citing the persistent use of Twitter for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence, the government suspended Twitter operations indefinitely.

In line with this, NBC directed all broadcasting stations not to patronize the social networking service and to desist from using the platform as a source of information.

Below is a copy of the NBC communique obtained by Channels Television.

READ ALSO: FG Holds Town Hall Meeting On Protection Of Public Infrastructure

 

N2.5bn Fraud: You Have A Case To Answer, Court Tells Kawu, Others

 

Kawu was appointed as NBC DG in 2016 Photo: @Kawu.Modibbo/Facebook

 

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has dismissed the appeal filed by the suspended Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Moddibbo Kawu, challenging the decision of the Federal High Court to dismiss the no-case submission he filed at the lower court.

This was disclosed in a statement issued on Tuesday by the spokesperson for the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Azuka Ogugua.

ICPC had jointly charged Kawu, Mr. Lucky Omoluwa (late Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Ltd) and Dipo Onifade, Chief Operating Officer of the same company before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa for allegedly paying the sum of N2.5 billion seed grant for the Digital Switch-Over (DSO) project to Pinnacle Communications Limited.

In a 12-count charge, they were arraigned for abuse of office, money laundering and misleading a public officer with the intent to defraud the Federal Government, in contravention of Sections 26 (1) (c) and punishable under the Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

READ ALSO: Alleged N69.4bn Debt: Jimoh Ibrahim Seeks Reversal Of Assets Seizure

Kawu, through his counsel, A. U. Mustapha (SAN) filed a no-case submission in December 2019 at the close of the prosecution’s case, praying the court to discharge and acquaint him of the charge brought against him by ICPC.

Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa while delivering her ruling in February 2020 held that ICPC had established a prima facie against Kawu, Onifade and Pinnacle Communications Limited, and ruled that they have a case to answer.

The suspended NBC boss and his co-accused then approached the appellate court to upturn the judgment of the Federal High Court.

#EndSARS: SERAP And 261 Others Sue NBC, Ask Court To Overturn Fines On Channels TV, AIT, Arise TV

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees
A logo of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

 

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP),  and 261 concerned Nigerians, civil society organisations, and media groups have filed a lawsuit against the National Broadcasting Commission [NBC] and Minister of Information and Culture Mr Lai Mohammed over the fines the commission imposed on Channels Television, AIT and Arise TV for their coverage of the EndSARS protests in the country.

A fine of N3million slammed on each of the broadcasters by NBC last week sparked outrage and criticism with many calling for it to be withdrawn.

SERAP and the 261 others concerned about it are now asking the court to “declare arbitrary, illegal, and unconstitutional the N9m fines imposed on Channels, AIT and Arise TV [N3m each] over their coverage of the #EndSARS protests, and to stop the NBC from collecting the money”.

In a statement by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, on Sunday, SERAP said the co-plaintiffs in the suit are 255 concerned Nigerians; Premium Times Services Limited; Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development; HEDA Resource Centre; International Centre for Investigative Reporting; African Centre for Media and Information Literacy; and Media Rights Agenda.

The acting Director-General of the NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, who is joined in the suit as Defendant, had last week announced fines of N9 million on Channels, AIT, and Arise TV for purported “unprofessional coverage” of the #EndSARS protests across the country.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued among other things that “Section (2)(n) of the NBC Act and the Broadcasting Code are oppressive, and clearly inconsistent with the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international obligations”.

“If the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed are allowed to continue to use these oppressive provisions against independent media in the guise of performing their statutory duties, the end result will be authoritarianism and denial of freedom and liberty,” they warned.

Read the full statement below:

#EndSARS: SERAP, 261 others sue NBC, want court to overturn N9m fines on Channels, AIT, Arise TV

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), 261 concerned Nigerians, civil society and media groups have filed a lawsuit against the National Broadcasting Commission [NBC] and Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, asking the court to “declare arbitrary, illegal, and unconstitutional the N9m fines imposed on Channels, AIT and Arise TV [N3m each] over their coverage of the #EndSARS protests, and to stop the NBC from collecting the money.”

The co-plaintiffs in the suit are 255 concerned Nigerians; Premium Times Services Limited; Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development; HEDA Resource Centre; International Centre for Investigative Reporting; African Centre for Media and Information Literacy; and Media Rights Agenda.

The acting Director-General of the NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, who is joined in the suit as Defendant, had last week announced fines of N9 million on Channels, AIT, and Arise TV for purported “unprofessional coverage” of the #EndSARS protests across the country.

But in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1436/2020 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the Plaintiffs are seeking: “an order setting aside the arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional fines of N9 million and any other penal sanction unilaterally imposed by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed on Channels, AIT and Arise TV, and on any other radio/television stations simply for carrying out their professional and constitutional duties.”

The Plaintiffs are arguing that: “Section (2)(n) of the NBC Act and the Broadcasting Code are oppressive, and clearly inconsistent with the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international obligations. If the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed are allowed to continue to use these oppressive provisions against independent media in the guise of performing their statutory duties, the end result will be authoritarianism and denial of freedom and liberty.”

According to the Plaintiffs: “The NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed have consistently used broadcasting codes to suppress the watchdog roles of independent media, and to violate Nigerians’ human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, to disseminate and receive information, and hold their government and public officials to account.”

The Plaintiffs said: “The action by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed is arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional, as it is contrary to section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nigeria has ratified. Their action is apparently aimed to clampdown on media freedom and Nigerians’ human rights.”

The Plaintiffs are also seeking “an order setting aside the fine of N5 million and any other penal sanction unilaterally imposed by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM Lagos, simply for carrying out its professional and constitutional duties.”

The suit filed on behalf of the Plaintiffs by their lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Adelanke Aremo and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “A fine is a criminal sanction and only the court is empowered by the Constitution to impose it. Fine imposed by regulatory agencies like the NBC without recourse to the courts is illegal, unconstitutional and offends the sacred principles of natural justice and fairness.”

“It is the duty of the government to allow the legal and judicial powers of the state to function properly. Imposing any fine whatsoever without due process of law is arbitrary, as it contravenes the principles of nemo judex in causa sua which literally means one cannot be a judge in his own cause and audi alteram partem which literally means no one should be condemned unheard.”

“The NBC, being a regulatory body, is not empowered by law to act as the prosecutor and the judge; all at the same time. We humbly urge the court to set aside the unlawful and unconstitutional fines imposed on independent media houses, and to uphold the sanctity of the Nigerian Constitution, Nigerians’ human rights, media freedom, and the rule of law.”

“The Constitution is the grundnorm and the fundamental law of the land. All other laws including the NBC Act and any associated codes take their hierarchy from the provisions of the Constitution.”

The Plaintiffs are also seeking the following reliefs:

A DECLARATION that section 2[n] of the NBC Act and Broadcasting Code used by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed to impose fines, sanctions and any other penalties on television, radio and on-line broadcast stations and media houses are draconian, inconsistent, and incompatible with the right to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom guaranteed under sections 22 and 39 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended], Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

A DECLARATION that the action of the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed in relying on section 2[n] of the NBC Act and Broadcasting Code to unilaterally impose punishments such as fines and other sanctions on television, radio and on-line broadcast stations and media houses without recourse to the court violates sections 6[1] & [6][b] and 36[1] of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999;

A DECLARATION that section 2[n] of the NBC Act and the Broadcasting Code, being inconsistent and incompatible with sections 22, 36[1], and 39 of the Constitution of Nigeria, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, are null and void to the extent of their inconsistency and incompatibility;

A DECLARATION that the fine of N3m each imposed on Channels, AIT, and Arise TV by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed for their coverage of the #ENDSARS protests violates the right to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom guaranteed under sections 22 and 39 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and therefore null and void;

A DECLARATION that the fine of N3m each imposed by NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed on Channels, AIT and Arise TV for their coverage of the #ENDSARS protests without giving the affected media houses the opportunity to respond to the allegations leveled against them and recourse to the court violates sections 6[1] & [6][b] and 36[1] of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 and therefore null and void;

A DECLARATION that the action by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed to unilaterally impose the fine of N5m on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM without giving the radio station the opportunity to respond to the allegations leveled against it violates the right to fair hearing, enshrined in section 36 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, and therefore null and void;

AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed from imposing fines or doing anything whatsoever to harass Channels, AIT, and Arise TV and any other radio and television broadcast stations, in violation of the section 6[1] & [6][b], 22, 36[1], and 39 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, Article 9 of the African Charter of the on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

Kolawole Oluwadare
SERAP Deputy Director
1/11/2020
Lagos, Nigeria

IPC, MRA Ask NBC To Withdraw Fines Against Three TV Stations Over Coverage of #ENDSARS Protests

 

Two groups, the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the International Press Centre (IPC) have condemned the sanctioning of three television stations by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) over the coverage of the #ENDSARS protests.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, the groups described the Commission’s action as an outrageous violation of the Constitution and basic principles of fair hearing which cannot be allowed to stand.

In a letter dated October 23, signed by its Acting Director-General, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, the NBC fined each of the three stations – Channels Television, Africa Independent Television (AIT) and ARISE Television – N3 million each as penalty for their alleged use of unsubstantiated footages from social media in their coverage of the #ENDSARS protests.

To avoid further sanctions, the commission gave the companies three weeks from the date of receipt of the letter to pay the amount.

The NBC said it had earlier written to the companies on October 21, where they were “cautioned on the sustained use of Fake News, disturbing visuals, close-up shots and attacks in the coverage of the #ENDSARS protests”.

It stated that although social media may be a source of information, it is incumbent on broadcasters to verify such materials before usage, while drawing attention to some provisions of the Broadcasting Code, implying that the provisions had been breached.

No specific broadcasts were, however, mentioned.

Both organisations accused the NBC of turning itself into a “kangaroo court” and called on it to immediately reverse its decision sanctioning the three stations in order to save itself the embarrassment that both the Commission and the country would suffer locally and internationally as a result of its action.

MRA’s Executive Director, Mr Edetaen Ojo, said: “a situation where the NBC, which is so glaringly lacking in independence and subject to the direct control of political authorities, wrote the Nigeria Broadcasting Code creating the offences for which the stations were sanctioned and was the complainant in the allegations against the stations, prosecuted them and sat in judgment on the matter without even giving the stations any opportunity to defend themselves against the charges while also imposing a fine of N3 million on each of them, which it intends to collect and pocket, is offensive to any notion of fair hearing, equity or justice.”

According to Ojo, “Every Nigerian ought to be scandalized by this obscene violation of a principle that is sacrosanct not only under our Constitution but under every regional and international human rights instrument to which Nigeria is a state party. It portrays Nigeria as crude and primitive and will no doubt bring the country to ridicule.”

He pledged that his organisation would take legal action to challenge the NBC’s action.

The IPC’s Executive Director Mr Lanre Arogundade, also said: “the NBC has in this matter again constituted itself into the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in its own case. It is indeed strange that the fines were arbitrarily imposed without giving the concerned media outlets the option of defending the allegations. All this constitutes an affront on rule of law.”

Mr Arogundade said IPC would team up with MRA to use the instrumentality of the law to challenge the absurdities perpetrated by NBC.

NBC Holds Sixth Annual Lecture 2020

Ekiti Broadcasting Service To Resume Operations After NBC Shutdown
File: NBC logo

 

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is holding its sixth annual lecture.

The event taking place in Abuja, the nation’s capital is to celebrate NBC’s 28th anniversary.

In attendance is the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Acting Director-General of NBC, Professor Armstrong Idachaba among other stakeholders in the nation’s broadcasting industry.

Falana Kicks Against N5m NBC Fine, Says Act Is Illegal

A file photo of Mr Femi Falana.

 

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana has described the N5m fine on Lagos-based radio station, Nigeria Info 99.3 FM by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) as illegal.

The Human Rights Lawyer said this in a statement he personally signed and wondered why the NBC will be in a hurry to penalise the radio station

While noting that the State Security Service (SSS) has not concluded an investigation into the radio station’s guest, Dr Mailafia Obadiah, Falana asked why the Commission was in a hurry to violate the broadcast firm’s fundamental right.

According to him, it is only a competent court of law that has the right to impose fines on a criminal suspect after conducting a trial.

“Only a competent court of law is empowered to try, convict and impose a fine on a criminal suspect after a trial has been conducted before a competent court.

“In view of the fact that the imposition of the N5 million fine was anchored on a purported amendment of the Code and since the NBC lacks the legal competence to impose a fine on any broadcasting station without a finding of guilt by a properly constituted criminal court the NBC should suo mutu quash the illegal fine,” Falana said.

READ ALSO: Mailafia: NBC Fines Radio Station N5m For Unprofessional Broadcast

The senior lawyer added that: “Section 33 (4) of the Constitution provides that anyone charged with a criminal offence shall be tried before a competent court or tribunal.”

He noted that in the case between the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited at the Federal High Court, Honourable Justice Ojukwu held that the imposition of fines by regulatory agencies was unlawful.

The NBC had said the fine was imposed on the media outfit due to its unprofessional broadcast.

It explained that Nigeria Info was not professional in the handling of its morning show aired between 8.30 am and 9.00 am on Monday.

NBC stated that the station provided its platform for its guest and a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr Mailafia Obadiah, to promote “unverifiable and inciting views,” saying such could lead to public disorder.

NBC Board Disagrees With Lai Mohammed, Rejects Amended NBC Code (Full Statement)

NBC Board Chairman, Ikra Bilbis, addressing a news conference in Abuja on August 13, 2020.

 

The Board of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has kicked against the amendments to the sixth edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

The Chairman of the Board, Ikra Bilbis, stated the position of the board on Thursday while addressing a news conference in Abuja.

“As a board, we have received and taken our time to compile the responses of numerous stakeholders which include our Nobel Laureate, activists, legal practitioners, broadcasters, investors, Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), content creators, copyright experts, and professional organisations.

“Most of them have adduced reasonable reasons against the proposed amendment,” said Bilbis who is a former Minister of State for Information.

He explained that the management of the commission did not undertake a proper consultation before making the amendments to the code.

READ ALSOFG Launches Amended Broadcasting Code, Says Hate Speech Fine Now N5m

The former minister decried that the amendments to the code were capable of destroying investments in the nation’s broadcast sector.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, briefs reporters at the unveiling of the reviewed 6th Broadcasting Code in Lagos on August 4, 2020.

 

He stressed that the board was not in support of the reviewed code unveiled by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Tuesday last week.

Bilbis noted that some members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had made observations to the minister at a meeting about the divisive broadcasts engaged in by some broadcast media before, during, and after the elections.

He recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had also called for the need to strengthen the operations of the NBC to avert a reoccurrence.

The NBC board chairman, however, stressed that the noble observation of the President was misunderstood by the minister.

“The board of the NBC wishes to make it quite clear that as long as it is in place, the only NB Code that we recognise and which we shall work within the setting of operating policies and standards for the NBC is the 6th edition of the NB Code which was launched in 2019 in Kano.

”Another purported review has no board endorsement,” he stated.

 

Read the full text of Bilbis’ remarks at the briefing below:

THE POSITION OF THE BOARD OF THE NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMMISSION (NBC) ON THE PURPORTED AMENDMENT TO THE 6TH EDITION OF THE NIGERIA BROADCASTING CODE (NB CODE).

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, I welcome you all to this important press briefing on a very touchy issue related to broadcasting in Nigeria.

You may all be aware of the recent negative developments concerning the purported amendment of the NB Code. The wellbeing of the broadcast media has direct relevance to the stability of our democracy. I, therefore, have the pleasure of presenting to you the position of the NBC Board on the issues.

The National Broadcasting Commission is established by law and section 2(h) of the NBC Act empowers the Commission to establish and disseminate a Nigeria Broadcasting Code (NB Code) which sets standards for the quality and content of broadcast materials.

Code review is undertaken every four years and involves the staff of the NBC, Former DG’s, retired Directors of the Commission and all other relevant stakeholders in broadcasting. These include Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), Independent Broadcast Association of Nigeria (IBAN), Private Media outfits, Broadcasters, Notable media Intellectuals, Communication experts, Digiteam and the Academia.

The current edition (6th Edition) was presented to the public in 2019 at an elaborate ceremony in Kano which attracted a broad section of various stakeholders.

Following the 2019 national elections, some members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) made observations to the Honourable Minister of Information at a FEC meeting about the divisive broadcasts engaged in by some broadcast media before, during and after the elections and the need to strengthen the operations of the NBC to avert such future occurrence.

This noble observation of Mr President was unfortunately misunderstood by the Hon. Minister of Information. Instead of studying and following the Law, relevant rules and regulations, and direct the appropriate authorities as stipulated by the Law to act on, he erroneously embarked on the review alone.

From the history, traditions and the convention of the NBC, no Honourable Minister of Information has ever interfered in any NB Code review. After the 2019 presentation of the 6th code (which is the present one), the Hon. Minister has acted alone with just a handful of his loyalists who have written a new NB Code that has created an uproar in the industry, threatening to destroy investments and lead to job losses.

The Honourable Minister has constantly dropped the name of President Muhammadu Buhari as having approved his own version of the code review. The NB Code is a regulatory framework put together jointly by stakeholders to guide their operations in the industry. It is therefore not a unilateral government instrument and is already covered by Law hence, not requiring any further Presidential approval. This might be the reason why till date the Hon. Minister cannot show us a copy of the Presidential approval.

President Buhari is a stickler for due process and he always insists on organisations doing the right thing. The Honourable Minister’s version of the revised NB Code does not meet any known criteria of due process and inclusiveness of stakeholders.

The Director overseeing the office of the DG of the NBC has equally made insinuations that the Board endorsed the amendments culminating in its ‘public presentation’ on 26th March 2020 at the L’eola Hotel in Lagos. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The “public presentation” was actually attended by serving directors in the NBC, one former DG of the NBC, a member representing the Ministry of Information and only four (4) selected stakeholders.

When compared with over sixty (60) stakeholders that attended the 2019 presentation in Kano, there is a wide gap in industry representation. We have the list of the four hand-picked stakeholders at the Lagos “presentation”. The Board of the NBC was neither informed nor represented.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, you may all recall that by 26th march 2020, (the day of the “Public Presentation” in Lagos), the Federal Government had already announced a COVID-19 lockdown of Lagos, Ogun states and the FCT. It was therefore not a sincere effort to present such an important ‘review document’ which affects people’s investments and livelihoods under such situation.

The attendant public outcry over the purported review of some sensitive sections of the NB Code compelled the Board of the NBC to institute a process through which stakeholders could express their opinions and harmonise their feelings with what the Honourable Minister had unilaterally created.

The Board convened a meeting which included the Director overseeing the office of the DG in attendance. The unanimous decision was to issue a press release inviting inputs from various stakeholders. It became clear to the Board that even though the Director overseeing the DG’s office subscribed to the unanimous decision of the Board, he was inclined to sabotaging the press release for obvious reasons.

The Board, on its own, chose to be proactive by taking Five (5) National Newspaper announcements seeking inputs from relevant stakeholders in furtherance of the principle of equity, fairness and creating a level playing ground for all stakeholders.

Most surprising was the rejoinder issued by the Director overseeing the office of the DG stating that the notice published by the Board seeking stakeholders input does not have the ‘official endorsement of the Commission’. Sections 5(4), 5(2) 1(d), (g) and (h) and sections 3 of the NBC Act state categorically the powers and composition of the Commission and under whose purview the management of Commission falls.

There are very serious and disturbing amendments which have been unilaterally carried out by the Hon. Minister. This has attracted very critical comments with threats of litigation from concerned organisations and individuals.

As a Board, we have received and taken our time to compile the responses of numerous stakeholders which include our Nobel Laurette, Activists, Legal Practitioners, Broadcasters, Investors, BON, Content Creators, Copyright experts and professional organisations. Most of them have adduced reasonable reasons against the proposed amendment.

As a Board that supervises the affairs of the NBC, it is important that we state that we cannot fold our arms and watch the activities of the Honourable Minister which is directed at destroying the modest gains the Broadcast Industry has achieved since the setting up of the Commission and the deregulation of Broadcasting in Nigeria.

While not disputing the fact that there are many challenges in the sector, the quest to find solutions cannot be totally assumed by one man. Approaches to solutions must be through wide consultations, discussions, persuasion and concession. Dictatorship tends to ruin businesses and prompt divestment. The Hon. Minister seems to have taken the option of working from an answer to the question instead of vice versa. We are in an era of democracy.

The NBC was set up by law and there is an Act that guides its operations. The Honourable Minister, therefore, cannot usurp the powers of the Board as clearly stated in the Act. Any such action by the Honourable Minister is illegal.

The Board of the NBC wishes to make it quite clear that as long as it is in place, the only NB Code that we recognise and which we shall work within the setting of operating policies and standards for the NBC is the 6th edition of the NB Code which was launched in 2019 in Kano. Any other purported review has no Board endorsement and therefore cannot be utilised in regulating broadcasting in Nigeria.

The danger of allowing the unilateral amendment of the NB Code to stand is that investors in the industry will loose confidence in the stability the broadcast ecosystem has enjoyed till date before the advent of the current Minister of Information.

Our President and his team have worked so hard to galvanise local and foreign investment in Nigeria. Allowing obnoxious policies to take root in our Investment Culture will spell doom for creativity, enterprise, diversity and the general development of broadcasting in Nigeria.

I leave you with the words of the famous American President Abraham Lincoln who said:

‘’You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling the wage payer down.

You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence.

You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, which they could and should do for themselves’’.

The very controversial portions of the purported amended code certainly aim at destroying hard work and enterprise. It aims at taking people’s freedom and intellectual property. It aims at depriving hard-working entrepreneurs to empower new entrants who have not cut their teeth and it aims at stifling investment. That is the main reason why stakeholder inputs are been avoided.

I shall take a few questions and allow some of my colleagues and Industry experts to handle details in some areas.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Thank you.

Ikra Aliyu Bilbis

Chairman, NBC Board

13/08/2020

Mailafia: NBC Fines Radio Station N5m For Unprofessional Broadcast

A file photo of the acting Director-General of NBC, Professor Armstrong Idachaba.

 

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has fined a Lagos-based radio station – Nigeria Info 99.3 FM N5 million.

In a statement obtained by Channels Television on Thursday, the commission said the fine was imposed as a result of unprofessional broadcast by the media outfit.

It explained that Nigeria Info was not professional in the handling of its morning show aired between 8.30am and 9.00am on Monday.

NBC stated that the station provided its platform for its guest and a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr Mailafia Obadiah, to promote “unverifiable and inciting views,” saying such could lead to public disorder.

READ ALSO: FG Launches Amended Broadcasting Code, Says Hate Speech Fine Now N5m

It added that the action of the radio station was in violation of some sections of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code

According to the commission, the fine imposed on Nigeria Info will serve as a deterrent to all other broadcast stations are quick to provide platforms for “subversive rhetoric and the expositions of spurious and unverifiable claims”, to desist from such.

This comes a week after the Federal Government launched the reviewed sixth Broadcasting Code of the NBC.

(FILE) A former CBN Deputy Governor, Dr Obadiah Mailafia, speaks during an interview on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily.

 

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the government had raised the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million.

Read the full statement signed by the management of NBC below:

PRESS RELEASE

THE NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMMISSION FINES Nigeria Info 99.3FM FOR UNPROFESSIONAL BROADCAST

The National Broadcasting Commission has noted with grave concern, the unprofessional conduct of Nigeria Info 99.3FM, Lagos, in the handling of the Programme, “Morning Cross Fire”, aired on August 10, 2020, between 8.30am and 9.00am.

The station provided its platform for the guest, Dr Mailafia Obadiah, to promote unverifiable and inciting views that could encourage or incite to crime and lead to public disorder.

The Commission, again, wishes to reiterate that Broadcasters hold Licenses in trust for the people. Therefore, no Broadcast Station should be used, to promote personal or sectional interests at the expense of the people.

Dr Mailafia Obadia’s comments on the “Southern Kaduna Crisis”, were devoid of facts and by broadcasting same to the public, Nigeria Info 99.3FM, is in violation of the following sections of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code:

3.1.1           No broadcast shall encourage or incite to crime, lead to public disorder or hate,   be repugnant to public feelings or contain offensive reference to any person or organization, alive or dead or generally be disrespectful to human dignity;

3.1.2        Broadcasting shall promote human dignity, therefore, hate speech is prohibited;

3.3.1 (a) The broadcaster shall ensure that any information given in a programme, in whatever form, is accurate;

3.3.3.1(b)    The Broadcaster shall ensure that all sides to any issue of public interest are equitably presented for fairness and balance;

3.11.1(a)     The broadcaster shall ensure that language or scene likely to   encourage or incite to crime, or lead to disorder, is not broadcast;

3.11.1(b)    No programme contains anything which amounts to subversion of constituted authority or compromises the unity or corporate existence of Nigeria as a sovereign state;

5.4.1(f)       The Broadcaster shall not transmit divisive materials that may threaten or compromise the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as a sovereign state.

Consequent on these provisions and in line with the amendment of the 6thedition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, Nigeria Info 99.3FM Lagos, has been fined the sum of N5,000,000.00 (Five Million Naira), only.

This is expected to serve as a deterrent to all other broadcast stations in Nigeria who are quick to provide a platform for subversive rhetoric and the expositions of spurious and unverifiable claims, to desist from such.

The Commission wishes to put it on record that it will not hesitate to suspend the Broadcast Licence of broadcast stations that continue to breach the Code.

Stations are, by this statement, admonished to desist forthwith, from airing unwholesome content or be ready to face appropriate sanctions.

Signed:

MANAGEMENT

Revised NBC Code Is Not Standard Document For Regulating Broadcasting, Says Iredia

 

The reviewed Nigeria Broadcasting Code is not a standard document for the regulation of broadcasting in Nigeria and stakeholders were not properly consulted, according to Professor Tonnie Iredia. 

Professor Iredia, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), claims that the NBC Code pushes fear into the mind of practitioners.

The Professor of Broadcast Management and Media Law said this on Wednesday during Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily. 

While arguing that the broadcast industry is key to the enlightenment of the people,  he warned that the over-regulation of the sector will not augur well for the country.

READ ALSO: Let’s Find A Way To Tackle Hate Speech, Fake News – Lawan

He explained the broadcasting code is supposed to be a guide and not seen as an instrument for regulation, adding that a broadcast code needs the input of all stakeholders to make it stand the test of time.

According to him, “the NBC just rolled out a number of things that it felt should be in the code and did not hold consultations with the stakeholders like the previous managers of the system did, you first of all hold consultation, everybody will look at it, there will be a document, you will bring it out at the tail end, there will still be another kind of peer review and all kinds of things.

“Just as I said at the beginning, the code was supposed to be a professional guide. It was supposed to be a masterpiece that promotes professional excellence in broadcasting but now it is filled with sanctions of what you will do and not do.

“And the bodies that should have been consulted were not consulted. Rather, they were being told that it is subject to review and all their objections now will be taken into consideration in the next review.”

Hate Speech Fine Now N5m

On Tuesday, the Federal Government launched the reviewed sixth NBC code.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who unveiled the document at an event in Lagos, revealed that the government has raised the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million.

He explained that the code was reviewed in line with the directive of the President for an inquiry into the regulatory role of the NBC in the wake of the 2019 general elections.

Mr Lai Mohammed noted that President Buhari had also ordered the probe of the conduct of the various broadcast stations before, during, and after the polls.

He stated that following the inquiry, the President approved many recommendations aimed at repositioning the NBC to better perform its regulatory role.

The minister highlighted that notable among the recommendations was the need to amend the provisions in the Broadcasting Code and Act.

He, however, decried that reactions to the last amendment were concerns who thought their business interest was superior to that of the nation.

He also raised concerns that such persons have resorted to blackmail and using what he called hack writers.