The Media Rights Agenda has condemned the N5m fine imposed on Nigeria Info by the National Broadcasting Commission over comments made by a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr Obadiah Mailaifa, on terrorism in the country.
The NBC accused the radio station of broadcasting “hate speech” and unprofessional conduct in the handling of the programme, “Morning Cross Fire”, aired on August 10, 2020.
Condemning the fine, MRA berated the broadcast regulator, describing as appalling the haste of the NBC, adding that the commission was apparently doing the bidding of the Minister of Information by punishing Nigeria Info 99.3FM.
Programme Director of MRA, Mr Ayode Longe, said the NBC disregarded due process provisions in its own regulations and rushed to judgment without conducting any investigation or awaiting the outcome of investigations by any other law enforcement or security agency or giving the radio station adequate time and opportunity to defend itself against the absurd charge of hate speech in accordance with the requirements of the constitution.
Longe said, “We are seriously concerned by this latest development in Nigeria of a supposed media regulatory body taking the country down a dangerous path of official censorship by constituting itself into a legislature making criminal law and acting at the same time as an accuser, a prosecutor and the judge in its own cause. This situation is an affront to the rules of natural justice.
“We are aware that the NBC is empowered to make regulations for the conduct and operations of broadcast stations in Nigeria, but it cannot usurp the legislative powers of National Assembly, the prosecutorial powers of the Executive and the judicial powers of the courts by making laws, interpreting the laws, imposing punishment and executing its judgment as it has done in this case. Such action is obscene and offensive, particularly in a democracy.”
The organisation noted that only a week ago, on August 4, 2020, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced at the unveiling of the revised Nigerian Broadcasting Code that the Federal Government had increased the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5m and a few days later, the NBC was already abusing the provision to censor a media organisation without due process for a broadcast that cannot be defined as hate speech under any circumstance.
MRA called on NBC to rescind its decision, saying it would only subject itself to public and international ridicule by failing to do so and trigger a wave of global condemnation of Nigeria that the country can ill-afford.