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Reps moves to check NBC’s seeming excesses

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CSOs, stakeholders seek independent, inclusive commission

The House of Representatives is considering whittling down powers of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), especially the arbitrary fining and shutting of media outfits.

Yesterday in Abuja, major stakeholders, including the International Press Centre (IPC), Centre for Media Law and Advocacy, Institute for Media and Society, Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union (RATTAWU), members of civil societies and other stakeholders made presentations before the Odebunmi Dokun-led House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values for review of the NBC Act.

IPC’s Executive Director, Lanre Arogundade faulted the prevailing situation where the regulator not only operates as an island unto itself, but also a boss that decides what constitutes an offence, decides on the nature of punishment and goes ahead to apply sanctions.

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The rights activist maintained that there was no way the NBC would be allowed to remain the accuser, prosecutor and judge in its own case.

Arogundade argued that it was incumbent on the lawmakers to provide for the right of appeal to the commission’s board for major decisions.He stressed that the management should only play administrative role in matters relating to infractions and sanctioning.

The IPC boss regretted that the NBC was appearing as an extension of the office of the Minister of Information and Culture. Harping on true independence of the organisation, he argued that the process of licensing broadcast stations was politically compromised in the present circumstances.

Arogundade further kicked against the plan by the lawmakers to empower the NBC to fix prices for Pay-TV in their proposed amendment of the law. He insisted that fixing tariffs arbitrarily could lead to excessive pricing capable of discouraging investment in the sector and the attendant job losses.

In his contribution, Executive Director, Institute for Media and Society, Dr. Akin Akingbulu, sought for amendment of Section 5 of the Act to allow for the commission’s Director General to be appointed by the President upon consultation with industry stakeholder groups and confirmation by the National Assembly.

He added that the power to give directives to the organisation in Section 6 should be replaced with powers, which include policy formulation for the broadcasting sector and negotiation of international agreements, notifying the commission of the policy direction.

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Akingbulu said the regulator should be a full entity, that is, it should be established by law, stand as full body, separate from other public entities and protected from interference from political, economic and other interests.

RATTAWU President, Kabir Garba, in his presentation, suggested the board should be peopled by credible individuals that should grant approvals for licences on behalf of the President with periodic communications to the Nigerian leader through the office of the supervising minister.

He said digitisation has brought about convergence in the broadcast industry, adding that NBC and other relevant bodies must find ways of handling the challenges that come with the technological disruption.

Minister of information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said they were planning to make NBC self-sufficient where 30 per cent of revenue generated should be used to run the commission and the remaining 70 per cent remitted to federation account.

The panel chairman, Dokun, earlier urged participants to let their analyses and presentations be guided by the spirit of Nigeria’s unity, sincerity of purpose and resolve to have a better nation through collective efforts.

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