Court Restricts NBC From Debtor Broadcast Outfits Close-Down

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President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) were on Monday restrained from revoking the licences of 53 broadcast stations in the country.

The federal high court in Lagos, and presided over by Hon. Justice Akintayo Aluko, granted an order of interim injunction on Monday while ruling on an ex-parte application filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).

NBC had on August 19 asked the stations to shut down due to an accumulated debt of over N2 billion, even as it however, suspended the revocation of the licences following the intervention of key stakeholders.

SERAP and NGE had sued Buhari and NBC, asking the court to declare that the commission’s threat was “unconstitutional and unlawful, as it violates freedom of expression”.

Sought they: “An order of interim injunction restraining Buhari and NBC, their agents from revoking the licenses of 53 broadcast stations in the country and shutting down their operations, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously in this suit”.

Averred the plaintiffs in the main suit marked FHC/L/CS/1582/2022: “The provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties on freedom of expression indicate that this right can be exercised through any medium.

“Effectively, these provisions recognise that every individual has the right to an equal opportunity to receive, seek and impart information through any communication medium without discrimination.

“The use of the NBC Act and Code, in this case, would inadmissibly open the door to arbitrariness and would fundamentally restrict the freedom of expression that is an integral part of the public order protected by the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.

“The media play an essential role as a vehicle or instrument for the exercise of freedom of expression and information in their individual and collective aspects in a democratic society.

“Indeed, the media have the task of distributing all varieties of information and opinion on matters of general interest.

“The public has a right to receive and assess this information and opinion independently. Therefore, the existence of a free, independent, vigorous, pluralistic, and diverse media is essential for the proper functioning of a democratic society.

“According to the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ‘licensing processes shall seek to promote diversity in broadcasting. Any registration system for the media shall not impose substantive restrictions on the right to freedom of expression”.

SERAP and NGE said revoking the licences would “seriously undermine the rights of millions of Nigerians to express their thoughts, and their right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, in any medium they choose”.

The court has fixed a hearing on the matter for September 8.

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