Inside Story of Why NBC shut down AIT, RayPower

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The National Broadcasting Commission and Daar Communications Limited accused each other of working against national interest as the regulator withdraws licence of the later

 

THE federal government of Nigeria has shut down the African Independent Television, AIT and RayPower FM belonging to Daar Communications  Limited  on Thursday, June 6.

The offences listed by the NBC included the airing of a presidential election documentary by the AIT, a matter pending before a tribunal, the inability of the company to pay its fees as and when due, the use of “divisive and inciting contents from the social media” among others.

Modibbo Kawu, National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, announced the suspension of the license issued to the Daar Communication Limited at a press briefing in Abuja, for failure to abide by the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

According to Kawu, over the last two years, the NBC had summoned the management of the Daar Communications to address issues regarding the operations of AIT and Raypower, particularly the Political Platform and Kakaaki.

He explained that in one of its meetings with the company held on June 2, 2017, the commission expressed its disappointment with the way and manner hate speech, divisive and inciting comments are applied in discussion of national issues in breach of the provisions of the NBC Act and Broadcast Code.

Daar Communications has over the years turned itself into a bad example of how a professional broadcast outfit should not be run, Kawu said.

“In their relationship with the NBC, Daar Communications carry on as if it is beyond the regulatory direction of the commission.

“They don’t pay their licence fees as and when due and its broadcast is patently partisan and one sided and deliberately inciting and heating up the polity.

“The management of the company has created the habit of using the channel to fight its personal battles contrary to the statutory requirements of the law,” he said.

He stated that on June 6, AIT and Raypower embarked on use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts, and media propaganda against the government and the NBC for performing its statutory functions of regulating the broadcast industry in Nigeria.

“Recently, NBC monitoring reports on AIT and Raypower indicate the use of divisive comments accredited to the segment of “Kakaaki”, tagged, “Kakaaki Social”.

“Where inciting comments like, “Nigeria is cursed, “we declare independent state of Niger Delta”, “Nigeria irritates me”, “this country is gradually Islamising” and other similar slogans are used without editorial control in breach of the broadcast Code.

“Consequently, after several meetings with management of Daar Communications Plc and many letters of warning, the NBC, today June 6, 2019 took a decision to suspend the licence of Daar Communications Plc for failure to abide by the commission’s directives, the provisions of the NBC Act Cap N11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

“This decision is based on the provisions of Section 10 of the Third Schedule of the NBC Act Cap N11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, which states that where in the opinion of the commission the station has been used in a manner detrimental to national interest.

“NBC Act also states that where there is wilful or repeated failure to operate
substantially as set forth in the licence.

“Where there is wilful or repeated violation or wilful or repeated failure to observe any provision of this Act or any rule or regulation of the Commission authorised by this Act or by a treaty ratified by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Where there is violation of or failure to observe any cease and desist order issued by the Commission and where a provision of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code has been seriously breached. And the shut down order is until further notice,” he said.

Reacting to the suspension of its license, Raymond Dokpesi, owner of Daar Communications, accused the NBC of harassment, saying that the N500 million broadcast fees was aimed at stifling independent stations.

He defended AIT and RayPower, saying they are not guilty of the charges and allegations raised by the NBC.

On the news commentary on Justice Bulkachuwa’s membership of presidential petition tribunal, Dopkesi said the allegations “are preposterous and bizarre.” He added that the NBC “does not appear to know the difference between news and commentary/opinion/editorial.

“I must, however, say very quickly here that the allegation of likely sponsors made by the NBC is a statement of guilt given the partisan outlook of the leadership of the NBC and the onus for the DG himself to recuse himself from the leadership of the NBC.”

For the documentary on the Nigerian Judiciary on Trial, he said the Kenyan example was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. According to him, the petition already laid before the tribunal at the time had become a public document.

“There were already ongoing robust and very engaging debates on the salient points of the petition before the Tribunal. All AIT simply did was add our voice to the conversation by addressing the minds of Nigerians to the Kenyan example at their Presidential elections in 2017,” he said.

On the third allegation regarding lack of ‘Editorial Responsibility’ in the use of content from social media, Dokpesi said the allegation “is as absurd as it is self-contradictory.”

He explained that the programme, Kakaaki Social, curates the thoughts and opinions of ordinary Nigerians as expressed on social media regarding a variety of topics.

“It is important to note that this programme generates none of the content published but only curates and publishes the thoughts and opinions of the Nigerian public on critical issues.

“However, for some unknown reason, the programme was singled out by NBC and accused of issuing a call to war and being outrightly inciting. This accusation was made in spite of the fact that most of the comments published on the programme condemned the threats of secession and called for national unity.

“Again, we at AIT and RayPower plead not guilty to the NBC charges…The NBC must see itself as a national regulatory body that it is and not an organisation existing to protect the sole interests of the ruling party in government.”

According to him, the commission came “with a well-scripted programme of action to shut down the DAAR Communications brand from Nigeria’s broadcasting landscape” since 2015.

“Every broadcast which appears to them to offer a dissenting perspective to the position of government is reprehended as a threat to national interest. Every reference and reportage from various sections of the country concerning injustice, inequality, and iniquity is reprehended as a threat to national security.

“We have suffered harassment from successive governments since the days of General Sani Abacha and the struggle for democracy in Nigeria.

“The demolition of our security infrastructure by the FCDA, the threatening letters and fines from the industry regulator and a number of other actions we have been duly notified of being plotted and in the pipelines, from desperate attempts to gag, muzzle, restrain and impair our operations and reportage,” he said.

He also alleged that some security agencies have threatened him with the “Okadigbo treatment”. Chuba Okadigbo, former senate president died after he was teargassed by security officials.

Dopkesi described NBC director general as a partisan politician, urging him to resign from his position.

“Is he in a position to regulate freely and fairly? Is he devoid of partisan interest in regulating the industry? The fact that he lost his primaries and returned to resume as director general of the NBC is in itself despicable.

“He too must know that the right thing for him to do is to step down from the leadership of the NBC, at least until such a time that he is acquitted of the charges against him,” he said.

Kawu is currently battling allegations of fraud in the law court.

Dokpesi called on the media, national, international, and the global civil society and human rights groups for help.

“It is time to rise up to say, if the executive arm of government can muscle the legislative arm, intimidate and cajole the judiciary, there is nothing it can do about the Fourth Estate of the Realm, its existence or freedom to operate as it is constitutionally provided for.

“If indeed, we all exist to contribute meaningfully to the growth and development of Nigeria and its citizens, we must begin to see ourselves as partners and not as avowed enemies on the basis of our political, religious and other beliefs,” Dokpesi said.

Realnews reports that this is not the first time the AIT is having a brush with the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Early in the life of the administration in 2015, the AIT was barred from covering the president, a decision that was later reversed after much public outcry.

 

– June 6, 2019 @ 12:51 GMT |

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