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NBC shuts down 52 broadcasting channels

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By Timothy Akintola

NUJ, others say the country cannot afford outcome of such media blackout.

The National Broadcasting Commission directed various broadcasting corporations to immediately shut down their operations on Friday, as a result of the incurred debt by the broadcast organization, which is said to have amounted to over 2 billion Naira. This decision was also as a result of the affected broadcasting channels’ failure to renew their licenses. Balarabe Ilelah, the Director-General of the NBC disclosed that all affected radio and television station must seize operations over the next 24 hours. Balarabe stated that the commission had published the names of the stations since May, which they have been complacent about.

The Director-General, whilst announcing the revocation, noted that the affected stations have continuously operated illegally due to the expiration of their licenses, asserting that their actions was an imminent threat to National Security. He said that months after the commission’s notice, licenses have not been paid, contravening the National Broadcasting Commission Act. The affected stations include Silverbird TV, Rhythm FM, African Independent Television (AIT) amongst others. He also noted that this decision to revoke the licenses of these stations have zero political undertone, promising that these stations will recommence their operations once their debts are settled.

Onwubiko says this decision is predetermined and ruining media pluralism.

However, this has not gone under the radar, as numerous bodies have overtly condemned this act. The Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), as well as Media Rights Agenda have immensely criticized the decision of the National Broadcasting Commission to shut down operation in these stations. NUJ, reacting to this development, asserted that this decision was ill-advised, claiming that though the DG of NBC cleared that it was not politically motivated, the decision was still Ill-timed and reckless. Chris Isiguzo, the union’s chairman admonished the NBC to exercise restraint and better deal with this situation with dialogues and consultations.

In a statement by the National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Emmanuel Onwubiko also stated that the NBC’s decision was unacceptable, alleging that this decision of the NBC was predetermined, authored and union targeted at restricting the independent voices and running down media pluralism. The association blamed the opaque system and lack of transparency in President Buhari’s administration, claiming that clipping the wings of these media houses is how they get away with their atrocities. The association further claimed that the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed has always worked towards clamping on the media.

HURIWA regards this as a manifestation of dictatorship and tyranny.

The statement from HURIWA regarded the current governing administration as the manifestation of dictatorship and tyranny, asserting that every commercial dispute regarding license and renewal fee payment operated on processes and mechanism of arbitration to resolve these administrative issues but revoking licenses which will have a ripple effect on the employment status of numerous people was unimaginably bad. By this decision, the government has restricted the media’s willpower for exerting their role as a means of checks and balances to the government, as entrenched in the 1999 constitution.

Also, the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) described this action as immensely unethical to the Nigerian public. Ms. Obioma Okonkwo, MRA’s Head of Legal Department noted this revocation of media stations’ operational licenses only pointed to NBC’s priority of primarily making money off these broadcasting stations, over the public’s interest, as this would deprive numerous Nigerians first hand information needed to enhance their living. She further argued that this decision by the NBC has further deteriorated the lopsidedness of Nigeria’s broadcasting system.

Conflict of interest, as NBC’s prioritize making money off these stations.

She accused the NBC of being complacent about the current economic situation that has also affected the operations of these broadcasting channels, claiming that most stations have also been badly impacted due to the inability of the government to create a better working environment for their operations. Ms. Obioma also questioned the level of fairness and appropriateness of fees that the NBA imposed on these broadcasting channels in this deteriorating economic situation. She claimed that there is a conflict of interest in the fact that NBC, instead of majorly looking out for these stations’ welfarism, is only interested in making money off them. Admonishing the NBC to reverse this decision immediately and noted that the commission should lease with these stations to find and curb problems that have overwhelmed the country’s broadcasting system.


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