Media Rights Agenda, MRA has sued the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC over the imposition of fines on ARISE Television, Channels Television and the Africa Independent Television (AIT) over their coverage of the #ENDSARS protests.
In a lawsuit filed at the Federal High Court in Ibadan, Oyo State, MRA is challenging the powers of the commission to impose fines on the broadcasting stations since it is not a judicial body.
The organization is asking the court to set aside the fines of N3 million each imposed by the NBC on three television stations on October 23 as unlawfully imposed and therefore null and void.
In a press statement issued by MRA’s Communicstion officer, Idowu Adewale, it was revealed that, MRA is asking the court to “set aside the fines as unlawfully imposed; and issue a perpetual injunction restraining the Commission from imposing sanctions or fines or other unlawful or unconstitutional restrictions on television and radio stations in Nigeria.”
The statement reads in part that, “the suit, brought under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009; Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended; and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as preserved by the Ratification and Enforcement Act (Cap A9), Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, is founded in part on MRA’s contention that the imposition of sanctions and fines of N3 million each on the three stations contravenes section 15.2.2 and other provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code relating to sanctions and fines as well as the doctrine of fair hearing as provided for in the Constitution.”
MRA therefore seeks, “a declaration that the NBC’s arbitrary act of sanctioning and imposing fines of N3 million each on ARISE TV, Channels TV, and AIT purportedly in line with Sections 5.6.3 and 5.6.9 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code creates a chilling or stifling effect on freedom of expression and is likely to interfere with the right of MRA’s members to freedom of expression, particularly their right to receive ideas and information without interference as guaranteed by section 39 of the Constitution and Article 9 of the African Charter;
“A declaration that the fine of N3 million each imposed on the stations constitutes an interference with the rights of MRA’s members to freedom of expression, particularly their right to receive ideas and information without interference guaranteed by section 39 of the Constitution and Article 9 of the African Charter;
“A declaration that the NBC, not being a judicial body, lacks the power to impose fines on any broadcaster, including fines imposed on the three stations, and that the imposition of such fines is null and void;
“A consequential order setting aside the fines of N3 million each imposed on the three stations as the fines were unlawfully imposed; and
“A perpetual injunction restraining the NBC, its officers, agents and/or representatives from imposing sanctions or fines or excessive, disproportionate, unlawful and unconstitutional restrictions on television or radio stations which will interfere with the rights of MRA’s members to freedom of expression, particularly their right to receive ideas and information without interference.
In his written address in support of MRA’s suit, Ibadan-based lawyer, Mr. Boluwatife Sanya who filed the suit on behalf of the organization, accused the NBC of acting as the accuser and the judge at the same time in its own case in contravention of the well-established human rights principle, which is also guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution, that “you cannot be a judge in your own cause.”
Besides, he said, the Court of Appeal had made clear in NOSDRA v Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (2018) LPELR-44210 (CA) that “the imposition of fines by NOSDRA was contrary to its powers on the basis that penalties or fines are imposed as punishment for an offence or violation of the law and the power as well as competence to establish that an offence has been committed belongs to the courts and not a regulatory agency.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing.