Court bars NBC from imposing fines on TV, radio stations

A Federal High Court in Abuja has restrained the National Broadcast Commission (NBC) from issuing fines to broadcast stations nationwide.

The presiding judge, Justice James Omotosho, in a ruling on Wednesday, May 10, declared that NBC does not have judicial powers to impose penalties.

The judge held that the NBC Code, which gives the Commission the power to impose sanctions, conflicts with Section 6 of the Constitution, which vested the authority in the law courts.

The judge also set aside fines imposed on 45 broadcast stations by NBC.

In 2019, NBC fined 45 broadcast stations the sum of N500,000 each over alleged ethical infractions in the year’s general elections. The Commission said the stations had to be sanctioned for allowing politicians to utter abusive, inciting and provocative statements during broadcast programmes.

Displeased, the Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda filed a suit against NBC in 2020.

The group asked the court to declare the sanctions procedure applied by NBC in imposing the fine on the broadcast stations a violation of the right to a fair hearing under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Articles 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap AQ) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

Ruling on the N500,0000 fine, Justice Omotosho said the Commission acted as the complainant, court and judge when it acted on the alleged infractions.






     

     

    The judge noted that the Nigerian Broadcasting Code cannot confer judicial powers on NBC to impose criminal sanctions or penalties.

    He pointed out that NBC has no power to conduct a criminal investigation that would lead to a criminal trial and imposition of sanctions.

    “This will go against the doctrine of separation of powers. The action of the respondent qualifies as excessiveness as it had ascribed to itself the judicial and executive powers,” he said. 

    Justice Omotoso held that the doctrine sought to prevent tyranny by concentrating too much power in one organ.

     

    Beloved John is an investigative reporter with International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

    You can reach her via: [email protected]

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