Fines: NBC Hasn’t Seen Restriction Order, Says DG

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The National Broadcasting Commission on Friday said it had yet to see the order of perpetual injunction restraining it from imposing fines on broadcast stations in the country.

It, however, said it would appeal the order.

The commission said the decision became necessary if found to be in conflict with previous judgements.

Justice James Omotosho of a Federal High Court in Abuja had in a judgement held that not being a court of law, the NBC had no power to impose sanctions as punishment on broadcast stations in the country

He had made the pronouncement while ruling on a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1386/2021, filed against the NBC by the Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda.

Justice Omotosho set aside a fine of N500,000 each imposed by the NBC on 45 broadcast stations on March 1, 2019.

He said the NBC Code, which gives the commission the power to impose sanctions on broadcast stations, was in conflict with Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution that vested judicial powers in the court of law.

Justice Omotosho agreed with the plaintiff 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.

But the Director General of the NBC, Balarabe Ilelah, said the organisation had requested the certified true copy of the judgement and would appeal the verdict.

Ilelah said, “In view of the foregoing, the commission has applied for a certified true copy of the judgment. It is global best practice and the ethics of the legal profession, that no party to a suit can freely comment on a judgement it has not seen or read.

“The commission will appeal against the judgement when found to be in conflict with previous judgements of the court which empowers the commission to regulate broadcasting in Nigeria.”

However, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, in a statement by its President, Mustapha Isah, and General Secretary, Dr Iyobosa Uwugiaren, saluted the MRA for the courage to test “the draconian NBC Act.”

The NGE said the judgement confirmed the position of the editors that the NBC could not appropriate the constitutional responsibility of the judicial arm of government.

“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 the 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,” it added.

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