NBC now undermines media freedom; DICTATORIAL and antagonistic: - Says HURIWA:

*Calls for urgent amendments to NBC Act...
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A media affiliated civil rights organization - HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has raised alarm that the current Director General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Alhaji Ishaq Modibbo Kawu has become a religious and fanatical enforcer of pro-Buhari’s sentiments in public and private broadcasting.

Besides, HURIWA has also called on the National Assembly to investigate the claims of nepotism, favouritism and religious sentiments in the exercise of functions and duties of the office of the Director General by the holder of that office currently in NBC.

HURIWA lamented that the allegation that the minister of information Mr Lai Mohammed wrote to the National Broadcasting Commission over a year ago to raise him a loan to travel to China has not been sufficiently investigated in compliance with the principles of transparency and accountability just as the group faulted the appointment of a non professional journalist ad minister of information.

In a media statement made available jointly by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said it is imperative that the head of that government agency is compelled to operate within the principle of rule of law and adherence to the constitutional provisions, just as it restated that compelling him to respect section 22 of the constitution would serve to achieve the betterment of Nigerians’ collective yearning for the expansion of the frontiers of media freedoms.

HURIWA said it has been inundated with complaints from all over the country against some overbearing and Islamo- dictatorial tendencies of the Director General of NBC and his excessive penchant to compel broadcasters to become praise singers of president Buhari or face arbitrary fines and other restrictions such as the blacklisting of certain categories of guests from been invited as guest speakers by those broadcasting houses.

The Rights group wondered why the head of NBC has turned himself into a demi-god and the partisan chief enforcer of soft tissues of propaganda for the ruling party when infact he ought to be holding that office is in trust for the good people of Nigeria.

“On good authority, we have been told of the unprecedented impunity and reign of nepotism, ethno-religious chauvinism that go on inside the inner recesses of the office of the director general. We were informed of how he has allegedly used his office to stand in the way of the promotions of officers who are not Hausa_Fulani Moslems."

“There is an urgent need for the National Assembly to focus her attention on the NBC with the hope of compelling the head of that institution not to view his office as that of the enforcer of the APC code of broadcasting but as a non-partisan office holder. The NBC ACT should be amended to bring it into consonance with global best practices and ensure that the holder of the office of DG must be a person of good standing and a patriot who must carry out his official functions without prejudice to the Ethno Religious interests of the staff and management of that agency and must show demonstrable evidence of total non partisanship."

HURIWA affirmed thus: " We have neen informed that Channels TV was fined N5 million in the month of July 2018 for refusing to be the propaganda machine of the government against National Assembly and Senator Bukola Saraki."

HURIWA also asserted that: " We have been informed that Kiss FM in Lagos is dying in silence. Cool FM is complaining. City FM along Ogba-Ikeja road in Lagos is about to die due to over FINE. A radio station in Ibadan was fined N500,000 because a jingle critical of Fulani Herdsmen was aired therein. Star FM in Ogun State is currently in dilemma. Sweet FM in the gateway state is battling to retain its licence. Wazobia FM must declare all guests to feature in their programmes to NBC or face FINE. The frequency of Rhythm FM has been suspended five times in 2018 for refusing to stop inviting some Public Analysts critical of President Buhari."

HURIWA recalled that; "Ekiti TV and Radio are under lock and key because the state Governor, Ayo Fayose exposed how results were altered and rigged during the July 14th governorship elections in the state against the wishes of the people. As usual, Some, due to party sentiment, clapped when Ekiti TV and Radio were shut. Hope someone is getting something Nigeria".

HURIWA recalled that Mr. Gbenga Aruleba of Fucus Nigeria AIT was reportedly suspended from his programme because of pressure from NBC even as Raypower political platform was fined 500,000 naira for running live commentary on national assembly imbroglio i.e. on the day of mass defection at the Senate"

The exercise of these DICTATORIAL tendencies by the DG who is running a one man show in NBC contravene the powers and functions enshrined in the NBC ACT which ought to be seen as enabling provisions that should rather promote media freedoms rather than stiffling media freedoms.

"The Powers of the Commission are as follows; " (1) The Commission shall have responsibility of - (a) advising the Federal Government generally on the implementation of the National Mass Communication Policy with particular reference to broadcasting; (b) receiving, processing and considering applications for the establishment, ownership or operation of radio and television stations including- (i) cable television services, direct satellite broadcast and any other medium of broadcasting; (ii) radio and television stations owned, established or operated by the Federal, State or local government; (c) recommending applications through the Minister to the President, for the grant of radio and television licences; (d) regulating and controlling the broadcasting industry; (e) undertaking research and development in the broadcasting industry; (f) receiving, considering and investigating complaints from individuals and bodies corporate or incorporate regarding the contents of a broadcast and the conduct of a broadcasting station; (g) upholding the principles of equity and fairness in broadcasting; (h) establishing and disseminating a national broadcasting code and setting standards with regard to the contents and quality of materials for broadcast; (i) promoting Nigerian indigenous cultures, moral and community life through broadcasting; (j) promoting authenticated radio and television audience measurements and penetration; (k) initiating and harmonizing Government policies on trans-border direct transmission and reception in Nigeria; (l) regulating ethical standards and technical excellence in public, private and commercial broadcast stations in Nigeria; (m) monitoring broadcasting for harmful emission, interference and illegal broadcasting; (n) determining and applying sanctions including revocation of licences of defaulting stations which do not operate in accordance with the broadcast code and in the public interest; (o) approving the transmitter power, the location of stations, areas of coverage as well as regulate types of broadcast equipment to be used; (p) ensuring qualitative manpower development in the broadcasting industry by accrediting curricula and programmes for all tertiary training institutions that offer Mass Communication in relation to broadcasting; (q) intervening and arbitrating in conflicts in the broadcasting industry; (r) ensuring strict adherence to the national laws, rules and regulations relating to the participation of foreign capital in relation to local capital in broadcasting; (s) serving as national consultants on any legislative or regulatory issues on the broadcasting industry; [1999 No. 55.] (t) guaranteeing and ensuring the liberty and protection of the broadcasting industry with due respect to the law; and (u) carrying out such other activities as are necessary or expedient for the full discharge of all or any of the functions conferred on it under or pursuant to this Act."

HURIWA said the totality of these provisions have not permitted the Director General to convert his office to the one sided job of a chief enforcer of the ideology and agenda of the party that produced the President who is the appointing authority for four years as against section 22 which gives the media the job of the national conscience of the nation.