The National Broadcasting Commission on Thursday announced the suspension of the licences of the African Independent Television and Ray Power FM belonging to the Daar Communications Limited.
The NBC Director-General, Dr Modibbo Kawu, stated this at a press briefing in Abuja, saying the shutdown of the media houses was until further notice.
The DG said the infractions committed by the media houses included their inability to pay their licence renewal fees and the airing of a Presidential election documentary while the matter was still before a tribunal, among others.
Kawu said, “Following monitoring reports and complaints from concerned Nigerians about the broadcast contents of Daar Communications Plc’s 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, particularly, Political Platform and Kakaaki aired on AIT.
“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 Islamising,’ and other similar slogans are used without editorial control in breach of the broadcast code. We were therefore constrained to issue Daar Communications letters of warning dated May 27, 2019.
“We also observed from monitoring reports that a documentary on the Presidential Election Tribunal, a pending election petition matter aired on AIT on Wednesday and Thursday, May 22 and 23 May, 2019 without regard to the provisions of the Broadcast Code.”
The NBC DG added that the commission again cautioned the AIT in another letter on May 29, 2019.
He said, “In their relationship with the NBC, Daar Communications carries on, as if it is beyond the regulatory direction of the commission. They don’t pay their licence fees as and when due.
“Consequently, after several meetings with the management of Daar Communications Plc and many letters of warning, the NBC today 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. The shutdown is until further notice.”
Closure of AIT, Raypower shocking, says NGE
The Nigeria Guild of Editors described the closure as shocking and unbelievable.
President of the guild, Funke Egbemode, told one of our correspondents that the action of the NBC and the Federal Government was unbelievable.
“This action is unbelievable. Why would government do this in a democracy? This action is unacceptable and will not stand,” she said.
In its reaction, the Ohaneze Ndigbo said the action portended danger for the survival of democracy in the country.
Its President, Chief John Nwodo, said, “This portends danger for the survival of democratic rule in Nigeria. I’m sure that the courts will be alive to defend democracy. This action portends danger for freedom of speech in Nigeria.”
The Peoples Democratic Party, said the action was an indication that dictatorship had returned to the country.
It said that President Muhammadu Buhari was behaving like a king, adding that he had forgotten that he was no longer a military ruler.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, said Nigerians must rise up and defend democratic rule.
He said, “This action of the government is most undesirable and unfortunate. It is an indication of what to come as the government must be planning to arrest Nigerians indiscriminately.
“It is also an indication that the government has returned the country to military rule. President Buhari must know that he is not the king of the country. Rather, he should know that we are in a democracy.
“We are not in a jungle. He should know that there was a country before he assumed office and there will still be a country after he must have left. He should build, instead of destroying.”
We give FG 24 hours —NUJ
The President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Christopher Isiguzo, said the shutdown would be resisted by journalists in the country.
He said, “This simply signposts the return to the dark days. The NUJ will not accept any attempt by anybody, no matter how highly or lowly placed, to arm-twist or gag the media from freely expressing itself.”
Iziguso said, “If within 24 hours the decision is not rescinded, the NUJ might be forced to act.”
Also, the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; a chieftain of the party, Femi Fani-Kayode; and Senator Shehu Sani faulted the suspension.
Atiku said, “The legislature has been challenged. The judiciary has been tackled. If we stand by as the press loses its independence, there will be little to differentiate us from a dictatorship. This should not happen.”
Fani-Kayode, on his part, warned that the worst had yet to come under the present administration.
Sani said, “The suspension of @AIT_Online is an utterly condemnable act.”
Earlier, the founder of DAAR Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, alleged that its subsidiaries, Africa Independent Television and Raypower FM, were being persecuted by the NBC on instructions from the Presidency.
The DAAR chairman lamented the imposition of N500m in licensing fees on private broadcasting organisations while government-owned broadcast stations paid N10m.