The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) yesterday drew the flak from different parts of the country over its decision to sanction three television stations over the coverage of the ENDSARS protests across the country.
The NBC had on Monday announced its decision to fine the three stations over their coverage of the protests. But yesterday, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, berated the NBC, describing fine N3 million each on the stations as illegal and provocative. In a statement by Uchenna Awom, his Media Adviser, Abaribe told the NBC to stop abridging the right of Nigerians to free speech and refrain from arbitrary enforcement of laws it did not have.
He said that the commission ran foul of Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and as such, must rescind that decision. Section 39 he pointed out specifically made it clear that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”. Continuing, the Minority Leader opined that Section 39 (2) also stated without equivocation that “Without prejudice to the generality if Subsection (1) of this Section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions”.
Abaribe said: “The sanction is illegal, provocative and clear case of willful abuse of power and a deliberate assault on the freedom of the press and of free speech.” Similarly, the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria BON, demanded the immediate withdrawal of the fines. BON said that the penalty was too harsh in a democratic setting and did not in any way follow due process before it was given. In a statement signed by the BON Chairman, Sa’a Ibrahim, the Organization said, before slamming the penalty, the NBC ought to have queried the respected Televisions and awaited their responses. Sa’a Ibrahim said stations should be given fair hearing. “In any case, the Broadcasting Commission should be more flexible in its dealings with Organizations because we are in a democratic settings, not the other way round. So, respected televisions should be given fair hearing before any penalties “, she insisted.
Also, a non-governmental organisation, Network for Best Practice and Integrity in Leadership, NEBPRIL, cautioned the NBC not to inflame passions by seeking to truncate the free flow of information to the citizenry. In a statement in Abuja yesterday signed by the group’s chairman, Hon. Victor Afam Ogene, a former member of the House of Representatives, NEBPRIL wondered why the NBC did not query the television stations before arriving at the magisterial decision to impose fines on them, especially for carrying out their constitutional mandate.