Court nullifies NBC fines on broadcast stations

By Abimbola Mohammed

A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to stop imposing fines on broadcast stations in Nigeria.

Justice James Omotosho, in a judgement, also set aside the N500,000 fines imposed on each of the 45 broadcast stations on 1 March, 2019. He held that NBC, not being a court of law, had no power to impose sanctions as punishment on broadcast stations.

He described the NBC Code, which gives the commission the power to impose sanctions, as being in conflict with Section 6 of the Constitution which vests judicial power in the court of law. The judge added that the NBC Code does not confer judicial powers on the commission.

Justice Omotosho asserted that the court would not sit idle and watch a body impose fines arbitrarily without recourse to the law.

His words: “This will go against the doctrine of separation of powers,” he said, describing the action of the respondent as “excessive.”

The Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda had sued NBC, seeking a declaration that the sanctions procedure applied by the commission in imposing a fine of N500,000 on each of the 45 broadcast stations was a violation of the rules of natural justice.

In another development, on Monday, Sahara Reporters reported that Justice Nkeonye Evelyn Maha of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja granted MRA permission to sue NBC in two separate cases.

MRA sued the Commission for its failure to grant the organisation’s requests for information on the scope of independence reportedly granted it by President Muhammadu Buhari and details of the 302 broadcasting stations it said it sanctioned in four months after campaigns for the 2023 elections began in September 2022.

This is contained in a statement signed by Idowu Adewale (Mr.), Communications Officer, Media Rights Agenda.

According to the report, Justice Nkeonye Evelyn Maha granted MRA leave to apply to the court to compel the NBC to make available to it the information it requested after hearing arguments from the organisation’s lawyers in two separate ex parte motions in which it complained that the Commission had failed to respond to two separate applications for information – the first dated February 17, 2023, and signed by Ms Maimuna Momoh, a Programme Officer at MRA; and a second letter dated February 20, 2023, and signed by Mr. Monday Arunsi, MRA’s Legal Officer.


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