How much independence did President Buhari grant NBC?
SIR: We in Media Rights Agenda (MRA) are hereby asking, through this application made pursuant to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to provide us with details of the independence reportedly granted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Commission in the exercise of its regulatory functions.
We recall that NBC’s Director General, Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, had announced at a media briefing in Abuja on February 9, that the president had approved the independence of the Commission from any political interference in the exercise of its regulatory functions, particularly with respect to the issuance and withdrawal of broadcasting licences. The NBC should provide further details on the nature and scope of independence granted to the NBC.
In particular, MRA wants to know whether the power vested in the Minister of Information under Section 6 of the NBC Act to give the Commission directives with regard to the exercise by the commission of its functions had been abolished and if so, whether there are plans to amend Section 6 of the Act accordingly.
Also, is the NBC now the final authority responsible for the issuance of broadcast licences as against the extant practice under Section 2(b) of the NBC Act which requires the Commission to merely recommend applications through the Minister of Information to the President for the grant of radio and television licences?
In addition, it said, if the NBC is now vested with final authority to issue radio and television licences, it wanted to know if there are plans to amend Section 2(b) of the NBC Act accordingly.
The NBC should, in addition, provide MRA with information about other issues regarding the Commission’s independence that have been affected by the President’s approval as well as other provisions of the NBC Act that are being considered for amendment as a result.
It is expedient for the NBC to provide MRA with a copy of the communication from the President through which the approval of the independence of the NBC was conveyed to the Commission.
MRA hopes to receive the information from the NBC not later than the seven days response time stipulated in the FOI Act.
• Monday Arunsi is Legal Officer of MRA.