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NBC overrules minister on broadcasting code

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Fines station N5m for Mailafia’s remarks, CUPP, others kick

The crisis rocking the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) appears far from being over, as the board, yesterday, declared the adoption of the 2020 broadcasting code illegal.

It held that all actions taken by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and the commission’s acting Director General, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, to review and adopt the sixth code for the regulation of the industry did not follow due process, thus stand rejected.

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Addressing the media yesterday in Abuja, board chairman, Ikra Aliyu Bilbis, leading nine other members, claimed that the minister was fond of dropping President Muhammadu Buhari’s name for the wrong reason.

He clarified that the code “is a regulatory framework put together jointly by stakeholders to guide their operations in the industry and is therefore not a unilateral government instrument, as it is already back by law thus not requiring any further presidential approval.”

Arguing that Mohammed had not shown a copy of the presidential endorsement till date, Bilbis added that the Nigerian leader “is a stickler for due process.”

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He maintained that the minister’s version of the revised NB Code “does not meet any known criterion of due process and inclusiveness of stakeholders.”

The board denied endorsing the new regulation contrary to the claims of the acting chief executive of the organisation.The Idachaba-led management had subjected the amendments to public scrutiny on March 26,2020 in Lagos amid insinuation that the move had the backing of the board.

Bilbis went on: “Nothing can be farther from the truth. The ‘public presentation’ was actually attended by serving directors in the NBC, one former DG of the NBC, a member representing the Ministry of Information and only four selected stakeholders. When compared with the over 60 stakeholders that attended the 2019 presentation in Kano, there is a wide gap in industry representation.”

He pointed out the day of the ‘public presentation’ fell on a time the Federal Government had announced a COVID-19 lockdown in Lagos, Ogun states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), wondering why such an important ‘review document’ which affects people’s investments and livelihoods could hold under that ‘abnormality’.

Disturbed by public outcry, the chairman said the board initiated a process duly advertised for stakeholders to right the lapses, but surprisingly, he alleged Idachaba sabotaged the effort and disclaimed the notice.

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“As a board, we have received and taken our time to compile the responses of numerous stakeholders. Most of them have adduced reasonable reasons against the proposed amendment,” he added.

Efforts to reach the acting DG for comments were futile, as he neither picked his calls nor responded to the messages sent to his mobile phone at press time.

However, the regulator has imposed a N5 million fine on a Lagos station, Nigeria Info 99.3FM, for alleged breach.

According to the commission, the media house provided a platform for its guest and former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, to “promote unverifiable and inciting views that could encourage or incite to crime and lead to public disorder.”

Mailafia had on Wednesday, during a live programme, alleged that a northern governor was leading the Boko Haram sect.In a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by its Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ekanem Antia, NBC observed that Mailafia’s comments on the Southern Kaduna crisis were devoid of facts.

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Consequently, it said that the radio station erred to have broadcast same to the public.The commission warned that it would not hesitate to suspend the licence of any station that breaches the code with impunity.

Besides, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the International Press Centre have faulted the fine.

Reacting yesterday through its spokesman, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, the group described the decision as “the highest degree of oppression.”It said the penalty amounts to disregard for human rights, adding that it was unfair to “beat a child and ask him not to cry.”

In a statement issued in Lagos and signed by its Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA submitted that the regulator’s conduct was taking the country down a dangerous path. IPC’s stance was communicated by its Director, Lanre Arogundade.

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