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Blame NBC Act for controversial code, say experts

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Experts have said that the clause in National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act of 1992, which allows Minister of Information and Culture to give directives to NBC, is responsible for the contentious provision in the sixth edition of Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

Speaking with The Guardian, the Director, Institute or Media and Society (IMS), Akin Akingbulu, is angry that the minister can give directives of any shade to NBC.

He said, “the origin of this problem is NBC Act of 1992. We must address it. Section 6 provides the minister power to give any kind of directive to the commission and they must carry it out. Section 23 also says that if they want to do a code, they must get approval of minister, meaning that the minister can put anything he likes so when you have that kind of law, what do you expect?”

He added, “that law must be reviewed quickly. The NBC Act was first made, in 1992, under the Babangida regime before he left. Then, in 1999, there were some amendments. That was under General Abdulsalami Abubakar, but the crucial issue that should have been amended, they didn’t touch, and that is, independence.”

Only last week, the NBC handed down a N5 million fine on Lagos-based radio station, Nigeria Info 99.3FM over what it called professional misconducts.

In a statement by the management, which was circulated by Director, Public Affairs, Ekanem Antia, the commission said it sanctioned the radio station for violating the Nigeria Broadcasting Code by its handling of the programme: Morning Cross Fire, aired on August 10, 2020, between 8.30am and 9.00am in which it featured a former CBN Deputy Governor, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia.

It accused the station of providing its platform for the guest to promote unverifiable and inciting views that could encourage or incite to crime and lead to public disorder.

The commission insisted that the action of the radio station was in total violation of the newly amended NBC Code and directed it to pay the sum of N5million to serve as deterrent to other stations.

The sanction came as Chairman of the Board of the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, Alhaji Ikra Bilbis, described the 6th National Broadcasting Code as an illegality perpetrated by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and acting Director-General of the Commission, Professor Armstrong Idachaba.

Akingbulu said, “what I see is that the Board must have acted out of frustration. So many things happen, which should be within their terms of reference. It is not only code. You will observe that recently, the minister set up a committee to produce something on audience measurement and that is one of the things the commission should be doing.”

Similarly, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, urged him to “urgently instruct Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to withdraw the apparently illegal Broadcasting Code and Memo threatening to sanction any broadcast that denigrates, disrespects, insults, and abuses president, governors, lawmakers, and other elders and leaders in authority.”

The Programmes Director, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Mr. Ayode 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.”

On his part, the International Press Centre’s (IPC) Executive Director, Lanre Arogundade, called for reversal of the decision insisting that the fine represents an assault on media independence.

The development sparked outrageous condemnation from Nigerians and other stakeholders. Spokesman for Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, described the decision as “the highest degree of oppression.”

He said the penalty amounts to disregard for human rights, adding, “it is unfair to beat a child and ask him not to cry.”

Veteran journalist, Dayo Duyile, said the government action is called for, “in the sense that we all know the damage it can cause in highly sensitive time like this. Even when politics was not as sensitive, as these hate speeches were not helping matters. So, the issue of hate speech, as far as I am concerned as a journalist, is detrimental to the developmental growth of the country and to me it is also dangerous to clean politics. Hate speech is a tool of propaganda. And many people who don’t have anything tangible on issues at hand will resort to hate speech to divert people’s attention. We should control our emotions when politicking, because the people that are following us are easily convinced or persuaded to take decision or to switch our opinion on whose argument is more attractive. Hate speech is falsehood that attracts the truth. We don’t need hate speech in this country because we are developing. A country like America is running away from hate speech, and then we should not embrace it. Hate speech is not good politics. The fine is very high but it should be reduced to N500,000 or one million.”


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