While accusing the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) of ceding control to an overtly and politically partisan Minister of Information who is determined to prevent broadcast stations from criticizing state actors and political figures, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has urged the National Assembly to launch an investigation into the actions of the NBC.
Remember that on February 3, 2023, NBC Director-General Mallam Balarabe llelah sent letters to the CEOs of Arise Global Media Limited, the company that owns Arise News, and Continental Broadcasting Service Limited, the company that owns TVC.
They were accused by the Commission of breaking the Broadcasting Code by covering political campaigns, and they were each given two weeks to pay a N2 million fine.
MRA’s Program Officer, Maimuna Momoh, however, stated the following in a statement that we saw: “It cannot be fair or just that the NBC, which wrote the Nigeria Broadcasting Code to create offences, is the complainant in the allegations of violation of the Code by broadcasting stations, investigates the alleged breaches itself, prosecutes the accused stations, sits in judgment on the matter, frequently without even giving the stations any opportunity to defend themselves against the allegations, sanctions them through the imposition of fines, which it collects as part of its revenue. This is clearly an affront to principles of fair hearing, equity and justice.”
According to her, the Commission has gotten to the point where it is either being used as a weapon by the information minister to prevent broadcasting stations from carrying out their constitutional duties or has reached a devastating level.
Noting that NBC has sometimes claimed to discipline broadcasting stations for erroneous or untruthful reporting, she stated: “It is not only ironic, but outright dangerous that the NBC is seeking to enforce truth and objectivity in the output of broadcasting stations, while it is taking directives in so doing from a partisan Minister of Information, who is notorious in this country and beyond for his own disregard for truth and objectivity.”
According to her, “if the NBC is not deterred from this its approach to regulations, Nigerians will be fed only the Minister’s version of the truth, thereby, defeating the purpose of Section 22 of the Constitution.”
She also added: “An established principle guiding the operations of a regulatory authority exercising powers in the area of broadcasting is that it should be independent and adequately protected against interference of a political, commercial or other nature. Contrary to this internationally established norm, the Minister of Information continues to interfere in the regulatory functions of the NBC and frequently deploys it as a weapon with which he prevents broadcasting stations from performing their duty to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people or for punishing those that dare to do so.”