**”NUJ GIVES NBC 24-HOUR ULTIMATUM TO REOPEN AIT, RAY POWER STATIONS
A highly respected University Don and Pioneer Dean, School of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University. Lagos, Nigeria, Prof. Emevwo Biakolo, has called on the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC, to immediately re-open Africa Independent Television, AIT, by the NBC, warning that the action of the Commission will do more harm than good to Nigeria, as no decision to shut down a media house for political reasons can ever ultimately be justified.
Prof. Biakolo made this disclosure in a personal letter written to the Director General of the NBC, Mr. Ishak Kawu. He also raised alarm over signs of looming dictatorship, if such action by the NBC is allowed to stand, in a series of other comments, posted on his dedicated Facebook page, where he equally urged collective civil action and called on international media bodies and civil society organizations to be mobilized to action, warning that there is danger of full blown dictatorship being foisted on Nigeria, if the action of the NBC holds sway.
The letter by Prof Biakolo reads thus:
Here is my letter to the DG of NBC:
Dear Mr. Ishak Kawu,
I read your briefing on why you thought it appropriate to shut down the AIT station yesterday. At this moment, few people will be interested in the merit of your arguments precisely because no decision to shut down a media house for political reasons can ever ultimately be justified.
It seems to me that you have not properly weighed the consequences of your action. In truth, your action can do nothing but harm to Nigeria and even the government that appointed you. My honest advice therefore to you is reopen the AIT station immediately.
Prof Emevwo Biakolo
School of Media and Communication
Pan Atlantic University
Meanwhile and in a related development, a Federal High Court in Abuja has directed the NBC to immediately reopen AIT and Ray Power stations and granted an ex-parte order for the maintenance of status quo, pending the determination of a motion filed by DAAR Communications Plc, owner of the two stations, in its suit challenging the suspension of its operating licence by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a ruling on Friday, June 7, granted the alternative relief: “an order for the maintenance of status quo ante bellum as at 30th of May, 2019, pending the hearing and final determination of the motion on notice filed along with this application.”
According to Justice Ekwo, the applicant, DAAR Communications Plc, would be penalised should it turn out, at the end of the day, that the order ought not to have been made, even as the learned judge noted that, by the issues raised in its application by DAAR Communications, the respondents deserved to be heard.
Justice Ekwo, who refrained from granting two other prayers by DAAR, for restraining orders against the respondents – NBC, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture (FMIC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), from interfering with its operations pending the determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunctions, however ordered the respondents – NBC, FMIC, AGF: “to appear in court on the next date to show cause why the prayers in the applicant’s motion should not be granted.”
The Court then adjourned further proceedings till June 13, 2019.
In yet another related development, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, has slammed the closure of AIT and RayPower FM by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC and issued a 24 hours ultimatum to the NBC to reopen the stations, warning that the: “action is unacceptable and portends grave danger for Free Press and Independent Media.”
A statement signed by the President of NUJ, Comrade Chris Isiguzo and the Union’s National Secretary, Shuaibu Usman Leman, reads as follows:
“The Nigeria Union of Journalists is alarmed at the closure of AIT by the National Broadcasting Commission and believes that the action portends grave danger for Free Press and Independent Media.
“Independent and Pluralistic Media in a democracy like Nigeria serve to promote democracy by their dissemination of authentic information and ensuring transparency in governance.
“We condemn this closure over allegations of breach of 2004 Broadcasting Code and insist there are better ways of sanctioning media organisations that are found to have erred.
“It will be helpful if the NBC will immediately reopens AIT to ensure that they continue to promote debate and opinions on issues that are of societal, economic and political importance to the nation.
“We expect them to do the needful in 24-hours,” the statement concluded.
Recall that the NBC had effected the suspension of operations of Daar Communications, owners of AIT and RayPower FM, on Thursday, June 6, over allegations of breaching Broadcasting protocols, late payment of licence fees and an attitude of non-challance in adhering to repeated warnings amongst others.
Chief Raymond Dokpesi, owner of DAAR Communications Plc, had raised alarm of the impending closure and even protested to some foreign embassies, warning that a regime of press gagging was about to be unleashed on the free Press in Nigeria.
However, the protest fell on deaf ears as the NBC made good its threat and shut down the two stations.
The DG of NBC, Mallam Ishak Modibo Kawu, himself a seasoned media guru, having garnered experience in the public sector with Kwara Broadcasting Corporation, before branching into the private media terrain with Leadership Newspapers and then setting up his own private outfit, Word, Vision and Sound (WSV) Multi media, stated the reasons for the suspension in a press conference.
The full text is published below:
PRESS BRIEFING ON SUSPENSION OF LICENCE – DAAR COMMUNICATIONS, HELD TODAY 6TH JUNE, 2019 AT THE NBC HEADQUARTERS IN ABUJA.
Following monitoring reports and complaints from concerned Nigerians about the broadcast contents of Daar Communications Plc’s AIT/Raypower broadcast stations, the NBC have over the last 2 years summoned on several occasions management of the company to address issues regarding the operations of AIT/Raypower with the company, particularly, Political Platform and Kakaaki aired on AIT.
In one of our meetings, held on 2nd June, 2017, the Commission expressed its disappointment with the way and manner Hate Speech, divisive and inciting comments are applied in discussion of national issues in breach of the provisions of the NBC Act and Broadcast Code.
Again, on 15th August, 2017, it became imperative to invite the company for yet another meeting on almost same issues. Furthermore, while addressing another meeting on 7th February, 2018 we highlighted issues of concern to the Commission which indicated that the company had been breaching the provisions of Sections 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 of the broadcast Code. The company’s delegates in their response promised to abate the breaches and comply with the law.
However, on October 18, 2018, the Commission was disturbed with the manner in which social media issues became part of the mainstream media unedited on AIT/Raypower, and was constrained to issue a generic letter to all broadcast stations on
the need to exercise caution in the use of user generated content from the social media knowing how volatile and misleading the social media has become. The management of Daar Communication Plc thereafter took to the social media to display our official correspondences.
Recently, the Commission’s monitoring reports on AIT/Raypower indicate the use of divisive comments accredited to the segment of “Kakaaki”, tagged, “Kakaaki Social”, where inciting comments like, “Nigeria is cursed, we declare independent state of Niger Delta”, “Nigeria irritates me”, “this country is gradually Islamizing” and other similar slogans are used without editorial control in breach of the broadcast Code. We were therefore constrained to issue Daar Communication letters of warning dated May 27th, 2019.
We also observed from monitoring reports that a documentary on the Presidential Election Tribunal, a pending election petition matter aired on AIT on Wednesday and Thursday, 22nd and 23rd May, 2019 without regard to the provisions of the Broadcast Code. The Commission, in line with its regulatory powers again cautioned AIT in another letter also dated 27th May, 2019.
However, instead of making amends, the management of Daar Communications Plc resorted to the use of media propaganda against the regulator. Even the letters from the NBC were posted on social media platforms.
Needless to state that Daar Communications have over the years turned themselves into a bad example of how a professional broadcast outfit should not be run.
In their relationship with the NBC, Daar Communications carry on, as if it is beyond the regulatory direction of the Commission. They don’t pay their licence fees as and when due.
Its broadcast is patently partisan and one sided and deliberately inciting and heating the polity. The management of the Company has created the habit of using the channel to fight its personal battles contrary to the statutory requirements of the law.
SHUT DOWN ORDER
Today the 6th of June, 2019, AIT/Rapower embarked on use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts, and media propaganda against the government and, the NBC for performing its statutory functions of regulating the broadcast industry in Nigeria.
Consequently, after several meetings with management of Daar Communications Plc and many letters of warning. The NBC, today 6th June, 2019 took a decision to suspend the licence of Daar Communications Plc for failure to abide by the Commission’s directives, the provisions of the NBC Act Cap N11
Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.
This decision is based on the provisions of Section 10 of the Third Schedule of the NBC Act Cap N11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, which states as follows:
(d) where in the opinion of the Commission the station has been used in a manner detrimental to national interest.
(g) where there is wilful or repeated failure to operate
substantially as set forth in the licence
(h), where there is wilful or repeated violation or wilful or repeated failure to observe any provision of this Act or any rule or regulation of the Commission authorised by this Act or by a treaty ratified by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(i), where there is violation of or failure to observe any cease and desist order issued by the Commission;
(k), where a provision of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code has been seriously breached; and
The SHUT DOWN order is until further notice.
Mr Kawu in particular, and three others including Dipo Onifade, Lucky Omoluwa, who is the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Limited, as well as the company, are being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on 12-count charges and facing charges of corruption for allegedly misappropriating N2.5 billion.
Mr Kawu and his co-defendants had, through their counsel, however pleaded not guilty to all the charges and were granted bail, by Justice Folashade Giwa, under very stringent conditions, but strong parallels have been drawn between his case and very similar cases where a legal sword of Damocles has been dangled over the heads of certain persons, to compel them to execute several unpopular directives of the establishment, as sacrifice to get pardon from alleged corruption charges, and this may just be another of such cases.