The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has submitted an application to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) requesting further details on the independence reportedly granted to the Commission by President Muhammadu Buhari. The application was made pursuant to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011.
In February 2023, NBC’s Director General, Malam Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, announced at a media briefing in Abuja that the President had approved the Commission’s independence from political interference in the exercise of its regulatory functions. The President’s approval was reportedly granted with regard to the issuance and withdrawal of broadcasting licenses.
MRA, in its FOI request addressed to the Director-General and signed by Mr. Monday Arunsi, a Legal Officer, sought further information on the nature and scope of the independence granted to the NBC. MRA specifically requested information on whether the power vested in the Minister of Information under Section 6 of the NBC Act to give directives to the Commission regarding the exercise of its functions had been abolished, and if so, whether there were plans to amend Section 6 of the Act accordingly.
Additionally, MRA asked whether the NBC was now the final authority responsible for issuing broadcast licenses as against the extant practice under Section 2(b) of the NBC Act, which requires the Commission to recommend applications to the President through the Minister of Information for the grant of radio and television licenses. If the NBC is now vested with final authority, MRA wanted to know if there are plans to amend Section 2(b) of the NBC Act accordingly.
MRA also requested information on 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. The organization asked the NBC to provide it with a copy of the communication from the President conveying the approval of the Commission’s independence.
MRA expects to receive the information from the NBC within the seven-day response time stipulated in the FOI Act. The request comes amid increasing concerns about media freedom and independence in Nigeria. MRA hopes that the NBC will provide the requested information to ensure transparency and accountability in the exercise of its regulatory functions.