Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has called on the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to fully comply with the orders of Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court in Abuja. The court had recently restrained NBC from imposing further fines on radio and television stations. MRA emphasized that even if NBC plans to appeal the judgment, it should not engage in lawlessness.
The statement issued by MRA in Lagos highlighted their concern regarding a statement credited to NBC Director General, Mallam Balarabe Shehu llelah. The director general had expressed the commission’s intention to appeal against the judgment if found to be conflicting with previous court decisions that empower NBC to regulate broadcasting in Nigeria.
The Executive Director of MRA, Mr. Edetaen Ojo asserted that while the NBC has the right to appeal the court’s decision if dissatisfied, it must not flout the court’s orders before they are set aside by an appellate court. Ojo warned that any disregard for the court’s clear and unequivocal orders would prompt immediate and vigorous action to uphold the integrity of the court and its orders.
Ojo further clarified MRA’s position, stating that they do not dispute NBC’s authority to regulate broadcasting in Nigeria. However, he emphasized that the court case did not concern NBC’s right to regulate but focused on the issue of whether NBC had judicial powers to impose criminal sanctions on radio and television stations in violation of the Constitution. Justice James Omotosho’s judgment supported this argument.
According to Ojo, Justice Omotosho’s ruling not only correctly interprets the provisions of the Constitution but also aligns with international standards for regulating broadcast media. He referred to Principle 17(5) of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, which underscores that regulatory bodies should possess administrative powers and should not usurp the role of the courts.
Ojo maintained that Nigeria and its institutions are bound by the provisions of the Declaration, as it affirms the principles of freedom of expression and access to the information outlined in Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. He added that this charter is an international human rights instrument ratified by Nigeria and incorporated into Nigerian law through the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.
MRA acknowledged NBC’s dissatisfaction with the revenue loss resulting from the suspension of fines but urged the commission to prioritize constitutionalism and the rule of law. They stressed the importance of the NBC’s compliance with court orders from a competent jurisdiction, particularly if the commission expects individuals and entities under its regulatory authority to adhere to its own lawful directives. MRA warned that disregarding the court’s orders would be a step toward anarchy.
MRA’s statement serves as a reminder of the ongoing legal battle between NBC and various media organizations regarding the commission’s power to impose fines. The outcome of NBC’s appeal and its subsequent actions will likely have significant implications for the regulatory landscape of broadcasting in Nigeria