The Nigerian Guild of Editors has commended the Federal High Court Abuja, for making an order of perpetual injunctions restraining the National Broadcasting Commission from imposing fines on broadcast stations in the country.
The court, in a judgment on Wednesday by Justice James Omotosho, held that not being a court of law, the NBC had no power to impose sanctions as punishment on broadcast stations.
The judge made the pronouncement while ruling on a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1386/2021, filed against the NBC by the Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda.
In the judgment, Justice Omotosho set aside a fine of N500, 000 each imposed by the NBC on 45 broadcast stations on March 1, 2019.
The judge ruled that the NBC Code, which gives the commission the power to impose sanction on broadcast stations, was in conflict with Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution that vested judicial powers in the court of law.
Justice Omotosho held that the court would not sit idle and watch a body imposing fine arbitrarily without recourse to the law.
The judge agreed with the plaintiff that the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, being a subsidiary legislation that empowers an administrative body such as the NBC to.enforce its provisions, cannot confer judicial powers on the commission to impose criminal sanctions or penalties such as fines.
“The action of the respondent qualifies as excessiveness,” the judge held.
Reacting to the court judgment, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, in a statement on Wednesday signed by its President, Mustapha Isah, and General Secretary, Dr Iyobosa Uwugiaren, saluted the MRA for mustering the courage to test “the draconian NBC Act.”
The NGE said the judgment vindicated the position of the editors that the NBC could not appropriate the constitutional responsibility of the judicial arm of government.
“Justice Omotosho’s ruling on Wednesday vindicated our consistent position over the years that the NBC cannot be the accuser, the investigator and the judge on matters relating to alleged breach of the Broadcast Code.
“Our position has always been that an independent body or institution should be the one to examine any perceived infraction by the broadcast stations, which should be given the opportunity to defend themselves.
“The court is right in its ruling by saying that it would not sit idle and watch a body imposing fine arbitrarily without recourse to the law,” the NGE said.
The Punch News