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Court voids NBC & FG Plot to revoke Daar Communications Broadcasting License


Again troubles have started for Chief Raymond Dokpesi since he made indicting revelation about how the Nigeria State Security Service (SSS) pressured him to sack one of his staff Gbenga Aruleba from anchoring the famous programme on AIT Network Focus Nigeria, a current affairs programme. This ugly development has almost caused him his broadcasting license on TV network service (AIT) and also his sister station Ray Power FM. gathered that a Federal High Court in Abuja has restrained the National Broadcasting Commission, the Ministry of Information and Communications and the Attorney General of the Federation from withdrawing the network license being held by the African Independent Television. Justice Adamu Bello gave this order following a motion ex-parte brought by Daar Communications Plc. The court directed the maintenance of the status quo and suspension of all acts tending towards revocation, suspension, withdrawal or cancellation of its existing licence pending the determination and hearing of the motion on notice filed before the court. Hearing in the suit has been fixed for the thirtieth of December. investigations to the ugly trend revealed that the network licence of DAAR Communications allows it to maintain multiple terrestrial stations in the country to transmit its radio and television programme on network basis in the country. The Federal Government granted the plaintiff the licence more than 14 years ago. But in an originating summons filed at the court by DAAR Communications' lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, the media outfit is asking the court to issue a separate order setting aside a purported bid for a fresh network licence held by the National Broadcasting Commission between September 6 and December 12, 2009 on the grounds that it was flawed, overreaching, wrongful, oppressive, unconscionable, null and void. The plaintiff also asked the court to order the NBC to issue it with a fresh network licence for radio and television broadcast upon payment of the appropriate fees if the court held that it did not possess a valid network service. The plaintiff further said the court must move in its favour before the government carried out its threat to shut down over 22 of its stations across Nigeria, which would force thousands of its workers back into the labour market.

Moreover, it also argued that the failure of the court to act fast would deprive Nigerians of their constitutional rights to receive and impact ideas through its media while the investing public that had shares in it would be deprived of their means of livelihood. The plaintiff joined NBC, Ministry of Information and Communications and the Attorney-General of the Federation as co-defendants to the suit. DAAR Communications had also formulated five questions for the court to determine and sought five declaratory and three injunctive reliefs. The case has not been assigned to any judge. The prayers include a declaration that having regard to the totality of the facts and the entire circumstances of the case, the plaintiff was entitled to be granted a fresh network licence for radio and television broadcast upon payment of the appropriate fees.

The fact of the case was that between 1995 till date, the Federal Government had allowed the DAAR Communications to enjoy the services of network broadcasting on both radio and television across Nigeria. That was after a lot of exchanges of correspondences between the plaintiff and the defendants on the request for and the grant of network licence by both parties. But sometimes in September this year, the NBC issued a directive for fresh bid for broadcast networks in the country. The commission directed that only one network each would be allowed for radio and television in addition to those of Nigerian Television Authority and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria.

The said release containing the directive was, however, silent on the existing network already being enjoyed by DAAR Communications through its radio and television arms. The plaintiff though protested the directive of the NBC to the Ministry of Information and Communications, the ministry, however, advised it to obtain the application form first before forwarding a formal complaint to it. Based on the advice, DAAR Communications purchased the forms for N2m for radio and television network service and filed its complaints to the communication ministry. The plaintiff, in its affidavit accompanying the writ said it went through a technical evaluation with other bidders and emerged successful alongside Silverbird Communications and Megaletrics.

It said that it bided N720m for radio and N1.5bn for television on the first day of the financial bid opening to beat Silverbirds' N250m and Megaletric's N200m for radio and Silverbird's N300m for television. The plaintiff said that the NBC, however, rejected the bids on the grounds that none of the parties met the reserved price set by the commission. The plaintiff added that it believed that there was manipulation of the reserve price by NBC as evident from the progression of the price bided by Silverbird Communications of N1.5bn for radio and N3.5bn for television as against its N725m for radio and N1.510bn for television. As a press time tried to reach High Chief Raymond Dokpesi on phone but all efforts proved abortive, as his Zain and MTN line were both switched off .

However, it would be recalled that Daar Communications suffered similar predicament some 4 years back when it broke the news of the ill-fitted Belview Aircraft, having aired live, the location and the exact spot of the wreckage. This huge revelation and thorough investigative work by AIT apparently flawed what NTA (a federal owned TV) broadcast in their initial reports about the same aircraft that same day; because their reports were based on deception and fallacies which were deliberately meant to mislead Nigerians, especially the families of the victims and the management of Belview Airline. NBC sealed up Daar Communications premises with the reasons that it put on air, gory pictures of human bodies, which depicts that they are unprofessional with the way the information was passed to the public through their network and satellite services.

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