Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) alongside twenty-four concerned Nigerians have dragged the President Muhammadu Buhari government and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice.
SERAP accused the the Buhari government of arbitrary use of the NBC Act and broadcasting code to target, harass, sanction, and fine independent television and radio stations in Nigeria, and to restrict Nigerians’ freedom of expression and access to information.
The suit was a direct reaction to the recent fine handed to Channels Television by NBC for interviewing the spokesman of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
Other issues that motivated the lawsuit include the ban on Jay FM 101.9 Jos, for playing songs such as Falz’s ‘This is Nigeria’, Wande Coal’s ‘Iskaba’ and Olamide’s ‘See Mary, See Jesus’.
Also included is the fines on AIT and Arise TV [N3m each] over their coverage of the #EndSARS protests.
In the suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/19/21 and filed on behalf of the Plaintiffs by their lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, the Plaintiffs are therefore asking the ECOWAS Court of Justice for, among other things, the following reliefs:
“A declaration that the application of the provisions of the NBC Act 1992 and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code by the Defendant and its agent to impose sanctions and penalties on independent television and radio stations is inconsistent and incompatible with the right to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom guaranteed under Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“An order setting aside the sum of Five Million Naira or any other form of penal sanction unilaterally imposed by the Defendant and its agent on Channels TV and/or on any such other television and radio stations.
“An order directing the Defendant and its agents to immediately repeal and/or amend the NBC Act and the Nigerian Broadcasting Code and bring them into conformity with Nigeria’s international human rights obligations,” they stated.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
The Buhari-led government had recently suspended Channels TV and fined the popular news station N5 million for breach of the broadcast code.
The NBC expressed displeasure over the TV station’s live programme on Sunday, April 25, 2021.
NBC said the station erred by allowing a leader IPOB to make secessionist and inciting declarations during the programme without caution.
Channels TV was further accused of allowing the IPOB leader to make derogatory, false and misleading statements about the military despite being proscribed by a court of law.
Femi Fani-Kayode, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Shehu Sani, a former federal lawmaker, were among many prominent Nigerians that condemned the actions of the Nigerian Government.
They believe there was absolutely nothing sensitive in the TV station’s interview with the IPOB leader, adding that NBC’s action will only lure more viewers and listeners to the TV station.