THE Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has urged the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to abide by a court ruling which restrained it from fining broadcast stations.
A Federal High Court in Abuja on May 10 barred the NBC from issuing fines to broadcast stations nationwide.
In the ruling, the presiding judge, Justice James Omotosho, declared that the NBC does not have judicial powers to impose penalties on broadcast stations.
The judge held that the NBC Code, which gives the Commission the power to impose sanctions, conflicts with Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution, which vested the authority in the law courts.
The judge also set aside fines imposed on 45 broadcast stations by the NBC.
Reacting to the development in a statement issued on May 11, the Director General of the NBC, Balarabe Shehu llelah, said the Commission would appeal against the judgment.
He noted that the May 10 court order conflicted with a previous court judgment, which empowered the Commission to issue fines while regulating broadcasting in Nigeria.
Ilelah said the Commission had applied for a Certified True Copy of the judgment.
“The attention of the National Broadcasting Commission has been drawn to a ruling by the Federal High Court, Abuja nullifying the powers of the Commission to impose fines on broadcast Stations that violate the provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.
“In view of the foregoing, the Commission has applied for a Certified copy of the judgment.
“The Commission will appeal against the judgment when found to be in conflict with previous judgments of the Court, which empowers the Commission to regulate broadcasting in Nigeria,” parts of the statement read.
Meanwhile, reacting to NBC’s response, Executive Director of the MRA Edeatan Ojo, in a statement issued on Monday, May 15, said the Commission should abide by the court order.
Ojo asked the Commission to uphold the Court’s ruling while filing its appeal.
“We recognise and respect the right of the NBC to appeal against the judgment of the Court if it is dissatisfied with the decision, so long as it does not flout the orders of the Court when those orders have not been set aside by an appellate court.
“Whatever the NBC’s view of the Court’s judgment may be, it cannot deny that there is a valid and subsisting order of a court of competent jurisdiction prohibiting it from imposing fines on radio and television stations.”
Ojo assured that the MRA would take immediate and vigorous action to maintain the integrity of the court and its orders.
He described the NBC Director-General’s statement as a feeble attempt to mislead the public.
“We do not dispute the power or authority of the NBC to regulate broadcasting in Nigeria, and we have not challenged its right to do so.
“We appreciate that the NBC cannot be happy that we have shut down this major source of revenue for the Commission, but we urge it to tread the path of constitutionalism and the rule of law and obey the orders of a court of competent jurisdiction, established by the constitution, especially if it expects individuals and entities subject to its regulatory authority to comply with its own lawful directives,” he added.
Some lawyers who reacted to the May 10 judgment in separate interviews with The ICIR advised media houses fined by the NBC to head to court to seek a refund of money already paid as fines.