In the past few days, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) has found itself in the middle of a number of controversial topics.
Not only has the NBC been under fire for various reasons, the minister supervising the NBC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister for Information and Culture, has also been under the radar of news media and critiques.
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Background: On he National Broadcasting Commission fined a radio station, Nigeria Info FM, the sum of N5m, for a comment made by a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and former presidential candidate of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Dr Obadiah Mailaifa.
Between the hours of 8.30 am and 9.00 am, on August 10, 2020, Mailaifa was featured in a program, ‘Morning Crossfire’, aired on 99.3FM Lagos where he spoke about the Southern Kaduna crisis.
But according to NBC, Mailaifa’s comments were untrue and constituted inciting speech. The statement by NBC stated that the broadcast by the radio station was in violation of the following sections of the 6th edition of the amended Nigeria Broadcasting Code 3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.3.1(a), 18.104.22.168(b), 3.11.1(a), 3.11.1(b), and 5.4.1(f).
What Went Down: Just less than a week ago, media reports revealed that the fine for hate speech and insulting the president, governors, and other government officials have been jacked up from N500,000 to N5 million.
The matter then took an interesting turn on Thursday, 13th August, when the chairman of the NBC board of directors, Ikra Bilbis, revealed that the new regulation which could have enabled the egregious fine on the Nigeria Info was not approved by the NBC board.
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He added that Lai Mohammed had only gone ahead to single-handedly give power to the regulation without the board’s tacit approval.
As of press time, the Minister of Information is yet to debunk the allegation with a full rebuttal.
The Implication: This would only mean one thing – that the pronouncement of the fine on the Nigeria Info FM 99.3FM Lagos by the Information Ministry or the NBC Director-General is illegal. Legal luminary and human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN) also referred to the fine as illegal.
Going by all indications, it would seem that the radio station itself might be considering going to court as most of the premise surrounding the incident, as well as the public sentiment, seem to now tilt in their favour.
Obviously, there may have been some war brewing in the background for some time since it became known that the NBC refused to shut down the ongoing Big Brother Naija reality TV shows despite the minister’s recommendation.
Conclusion: As stated by the NBC board, the N5 million fine will not stand if tested in court. However, if there is enough substance to charges levelled against Nigeria Info FM, they could be subject to the old fine of N500,000.
Alternatively, it would also mean that the minister has been usurping his supervisory powers over NBC by trying to stifle free speech.
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