Court stops Buhari, NBC from shutting down 53 broadcast stations
The Federal High Court, Lagos, has stopped President Muhammadu Buhari and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from revoking the licenses of 53 broadcast stations in the country and shutting them down for allegedly failing to renew their licenses.
Justice Akintayo Aluko, yesterday, granted an order of interim injunction following hearing of an argument on motion ex parte by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).
The suit was adjourned till September 8, 2022 for hearing of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.
Recall that SERAP and NGE had, last week, filed a suit against Buhari and NBC, asking the court for a declaration that Section 10(a) of the Third Schedule to the NBC Act used by NBC to threaten to revoke the licenses and shut down the stations is unconstitutional and unlawful, as it violates freedom of expression.
The duo asked the court for an order of interim injunction restraining Buhari, NBC and their agents from taking the action, pending hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously in this suit.
The suit followed the decision by the NBC to revoke the licenses within 24 hours over alleged N2.6 billion debts.
In the suit (FHC/L/CS/1034/2022), SERAP and NGE are asking the court to determine whether Section 10(a) of the Third Schedule of the NBC Act used by NBC is not inconsistent with freedom of expression and access to information.
They both are also seeking a declaration that Section 10(a) of the Act used by NBC unilaterally is a violation of the constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to fair hearing.
The suit reads in part: “The provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties on freedom of expression indicate that this right can be exercised through any medium.
“Effectively, these provisions recognise that every individual has the right to an equal opportunity to receive, seek and impart information through any communication medium without discrimination.
“The use of NBC Act and Code in this case would inadmissibly open the door to arbitrariness and would fundamentally restrict the freedom of expression that is an integral part of the public order protected the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.
“The media plays an essential role as a vehicle or instrument for the exercise of freedom of expression and information – in its individual and collective aspects – in a democratic society.”
“According to the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ‘licensing processes shall seek to promote diversity in broadcasting. Any registration system for the media shall not impose substantive restrictions on the right to freedom of expression.’
“Revoking the licenses of 53 broadcast stations and shutting down their operations because they have not renewed their licenses would both seriously undermine the rights of millions of Nigerians to express their thoughts, and their right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, in any medium they choose.
“The right to freedom of expression is based on the right to establish or use a media outlet to exercise freedom of expression and on society’s right to have access to a free, independent and pluralistic media that allows for the most diverse information.”