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Siege On AIT, Raypower: Foreign, Local Factors Behind The Forced Reversal Of The NBC Ban

The Oasis Reporters

June 8, 2019

While people not quite in the know were calling the one man protest by emeritus chairman of Daar Communications Ltd, owners of African Independent Television, AIT and RayPower FM as alarmist, Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, NBC, the regulatory watchdog of the broadcasting industry were perfecting their act to suspend the licence of the outfit. Not too long afterwards, both AIT and Raypower FM were yanked off air.

Unlike the days of military rule where any head of state could act with arbitrariness, it soon became evident that those days where in the past.

The whole world watched admiringly when former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan said,

“I signed the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill into law, to expand the frontiers of our fundamental freedom. Let me reaffirm that under a Jonathan Presidency, your views, NO MATTER HOW FREELY EXPRESSED, will not send you to PRISON or into EXILE”.

– Goodluck Jonathan November 11, 2014

Therefore when AIT and Raypower were shut down, the free media in the world became aghast, and promptly moved to secure the freedom of the independent media.

British BskyB immediately withdrew the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA from its sky channel 781. British BskyB felt that if Nigerians and the world could not watch AIT or listen to Raypower FM, then nobody should watch NTA outside of the country.

Its other carrier BEN TV that usually relays NTAi’s broadcast to the dIaspora and to Nigerians as well put a stop to it.

In doing what it had to do, BskyB simply did not give any reason. But it’s action had spoken loud enough. The greater fear in the hearts of officials was in not knowing what the further spin-off might engender. That probably became one of the factors leading to the revocation of the ban.

Nigerian international social media activists refused to let the matter rest, as Professor of New Media, Kennesaw State University, Farooq Kperogi @farooqkperogi tweeted that “It isn’t AIT & RayPower FM that should be shut down; it is NBC’s morally weak & politically partisan Is’haq Modibbo Kawu that should be fired. A man who ran for the governorship ticket of APC while still DG of the NBC has no moral authority to sit in judgement over professionalism.

Former senior special assistant to President Jonathan on New Media, Reno Omokri, @renoomokri added his voice from the dIaspora and tweeted that he “feels like donating 2 slaps to some bloggers shouting DICTATORSHIP over the @AIT_online closure.
When we told you these things in 2014 did you listen? You were in ecstasy demarketing @GEJonathan over Sanusi’s false claims of $49 billion missing. You ENABLED”.

Vanguard news reports that The National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, had, Thursday, suspended the operating license of the Daar Communications PLC, operator of AIT and Ray Power over alleged breach of the NBC’s broadcasting code.

Justice Inyang Ekwo had ordered the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and the Attorney General of the Federation to appear before the court on Thursday, June 13 to show cause why the motion on notice by Daar Communications PLC, challenging the ban should not be granted.

Recall that while announcing the ban on Daar Communications in Abuja on Thursday, the Director General of the NBC, Dr. Modibbo Kawu had said that the decision was based on the violation of the broadcasting code by the stations which is backed by provisions of Section 10 of the Third Schedule of the NBC Act Cap N11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

Apart from violating broadcasting code, he said the decision was also taken for the failure of the broadcast stations to pay their license fees as when due, even persistent warning to the company to toe the line of caution.

However, In an ex parte application, Daar Communications PLC, had, through its lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), on Thursday, asked the court to order the Commission to revert its ban. Daar Communications PLC, In the suit against the NBC, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, and the Attorney General of the Federation, Daar claimed that did not breach any broadcast code.

It asked the court to grant its prayers in “restraining the defendants from blocking, jamming, stopping removing from air and/or interfering with the air waves of the plaintiff/applicant (Daar Plc) in any way and manner however called from invading the premises of the plaintiff/applicant (Daar Plc) or closing down, viet armis, the said premises, its operations or broadcast services, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed along with this application.”

Ex-Senate President Bukola Saraki, President of the Eighth Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has called
on the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), to immediately obey the court order granted by the Federal High Court in Abuja, which called for the maintenance of the status quo as of May 31, 2019, pending the determination of a motion filed by DAAR Communications PLC, owners of Raypower Radio and African Independent Television (AIT).

Saraki, in a statement signed by Yusuph Olaniyonu, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, stated that all such actions that could cast aspersions on Nigeria’s commitment to the freedom of the press must be avoided.

“Yesterday, the management and the workers of AIT and DAAR
Communications came to the National Assembly to air out their concerns
over the purported moves to clamp down on their stations.

“As yesterday was the Valedictory session of the 8th Senate, we could
not take action on the matter immediately and to our surprise, the
premises of the broadcast station were immediately closed by the NBC.

“Regulators though necessary, must know that all such actions that
give the impression of the endangerment of the freedom of the press or
freedom of speech cast our nation in a bad light. Such issues need to
be handled in a better manner.

“Moving forward, the NBC needs to comply with the Court Order.

Additionally, we must understand that this is not only about AIT, this is about Nigeria and one of its stations that is not only viewed within the country, but outside the country as well. The NBC should look at a better way to resolve the issue, even after adhering to the ruling of the court.

Between the sledge hammer that seems a tool to take Nigerians back to the days of military dictatorship, the power of global watchdogs against dictatorship and the muzzling of the free press has started to assert itself as a bulwark, and knows how to hit back.

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Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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