Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has shutdown indefinitely, African Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower FM.
The Director-General of NBC, Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, disclosed this during a media briefing yesterday night in Abuja.
The shutdown followed protest earlier yesterday by the founder of Daar Communications Plc, owners of AIT and Raypower FM, Chief Raymond Dokpesi.
Dokpesi was at the Ministry of Information and Culture, the Embassy of the United States of America, the British High Commission, the European Union and the United Nations Office in Abuja where he complained of government’s move to gag the press.
NBC had in separate letters to Daar Communications Plc dated May 27, signed by NBC’s Director of Broadcast Monitoring, Armstrong Idachaba, accused Daar Communications of using contents from the social media in one of its programmes, Kakaaki.
The NBC said the contents aired by Daar Communications were offensive, unfair and unprofessional.
The NBC also frowned at a report by Daar Communications titled, ‘Nigerian Judiciary on Trial: Lessons from Kenya.’
In announcing the shutdown, Kawu said following monitoring reports and complaints from concerned Nigerians about the broadcast contents of Daar Communications’ AIT/Raypower broadcast stations, the NBC had, over the last two years summoned on several occasions, the management of the company to address issues regarding the operations of AIT/Raypower with the company, particularly Political Platform and Kakaaki aired on AIT.
“In one of our meetings, 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.
“Again, on August 15, 2017, it became imperative to invite the company for yet another meeting on almost same issues. Furthermore, while addressing another meeting on February 7, 2018, we highlighted issues of concern to the commission, which indicated that the company had been breaching the provisions of Sections 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 of the broadcast code. The company’s delegates in their response promised to abate the breaches and comply with the law.
“However, on October 18, 2018, the commission was disturbed with the manner in which social media issues became part of the mainstream media unedited on AIT/Raypower, and was constrained to issue a generic letter to all broadcast stations on the need to exercise caution in the use of user generated content from the social media, knowing how volatile and misleading the social media has become. The management of Daar Communication, thereafter, took to the social media to display our official correspondences.
“Recently, the Commission’s monitoring reports on AIT/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 Islamizing” and other similar slogans are used without editorial control in breach of the broadcast code. We were, therefore, constrained to issue Daar Communication letters of warning dated May 27, 2019,” Kawu said.
Kawu also said the NBC observed from monitoring reports that a documentary on the Presidential Election Tribunal, a pending election petition matter, aired on AIT on Wednesday and Thursday, 22 and 23 May, 2019.
He added that the report was without regard to the provisions of the broadcast code, adding that the Commission, in line with its regulatory powers, again cautioned AIT in another letter also dated May 27, 2019.
Kawu further said that instead of making amends, the management of Daar Communications resorted to the use of media propaganda against the regulator to the extent of posting the letters from the NBC on social media platforms.
He also said in their relationship with the NBC, Daar Communications carried on as if it was beyond the regulatory direction of the Commission by not paying their license fees as and when due.
The NBC further said Daar Communications Plc’s broadcast was patently partisan and one sided and deliberately inciting and heating the polity, while also saying that the management of the company created the habit of using the channel to fight its personal battles contrary to the statutory requirements of the law.
“Today June 6, 2019, AIT/Rapower 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.
“Consequently, after several meetings with management of Daar Communications 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 as follows:
(d) Where in the opinion of the Commission the station has been used in a manner detrimental to national interest;
(g) Where there is wilful or repeated failure to operate substantially as set forth in the licence;
(h) 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;
(i)Where there is violation of or failure to observe any cease and desist order issued by the Commission;
(k) Where a provision of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code has been seriously breached; and the SHUT DOWN order is until further notice,” Kawu declared.
For the stations to be reopened, Daar Communications has to pay its outstanding debt of N500million to the NBC and also meet other requirements.
Meanwhile, Dokpesi said that Daar Communications would challenge the decision of the NBC in court. He added that they have received the shut down notification papers.
There were unconfirmed reports last night that NBC officials and policemen had laid siege to Daar Communications offices in Abuja.