NGE Hails Court Over Perpetual Order Against NBC, Says NBC Act, Code Draconian
The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has commended the Federal High Court Abuja, over its order of perpetual injunction restraining the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from imposing fines on broadcast stations in the country.
Ruling on originating motions marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1386/2021, instituted by the Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda against the NBC – as sole respondent in the suit, the presiding judge, Justice James Omotosho, also set aside the N500, 000 fines imposed on March 1, 2019 on each of 45 broadcast stations.
The judge also held that the NBC, not being a court of law, had no power to impose sanctions as punishment on broadcast stations.
He further held that the Nigeria Broadcast Code, which gives the commission the power to impose sanction, is in conflict with Section 6 of the Constitution that vested judicial power in the court of law.
In a statement signed by its President, Mustapha Isah and the General Secretary, Dr. Iyobosa Uwugiaren, on Wednesday, the Guild saluted the courage of the MRA – for testing the draconian NBC Act, saying the judgement has vindicated the position of the editors that NBC could not appropriate the constitutional responsibility of the judiciary.
‘’Justice Omotosho’s ruling on Wednesday vindicated our consistent position over the years that the NBC cannot be the accuser, the investigator and the judge on matters relating to alleged breach of the Broadcast Code.
‘’Our position has always been that an independent body or institution should be the one to examine any perceived infraction by the broadcast stations, which should be given the opportunity to defend themselves.
‘’The court is right in its ruling – by saying that it would not sit idle and watch a body imposing fine arbitrarily without recourse to the law’’, the Guild stated.
The court held yesterday that the commission did not comply with the law when it sat as a complainant and at the same time, the court and the judge on its own matter.
The judge agreed that the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, being a subsidiary legislation that empowers an administrative body such as the NBC to enforce its provisions cannot confer judicial powers on the commission to impose criminal sanctions or penalties such as fines.
He also agreed that the commission, not being Nigerian police, had no power to conduct criminal investigation that would lead to criminal trial and imposition of sanctions.
“This will go against the doctrine of separation of powers”, he said.
Justice Omotosho held that what the doctrine sought to achieve was to prevent tyranny by concentrating too much powers in one organ.
The umbrella of all the editors in Nigerian reiterated its earlier resolution to engage the incoming government and others stakeholders over the NBC Act and the Broadcast Code of Conduct – with the aim to amend and reform them to conform to the global best practices.