Some Senior Advocates of Nigeria on Thursday knocked the National Broadcasting Commission for querying a private television station, Channels Television, and its presenters over the airing of an interview with the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom.
The senior lawyers spoke in separate interviews with The PUNCH at a time the television presenters and some other top officials of the television station appeared at the commission’s head office in Abuja to answer questions in relation to the interview.
The NBC, in a letter to the television station titled, ‘Notice of Infraction,’ said, “The programme which had as guest the Executive Governor of Benue State, Governor Samuel Ortom, was observed to contain inciting, divisive and unfair comments which were not thoroughly interrogated by the anchors.”
The regulator’s letter was dated August 24, 2021, and signed by its Director-General, Balarabe Ilelah.
It said the actions allegedly negated Sections 1.10.4, 3.1.1, 3.3.1(b), 3.3.1(e), 3.11.1(a), and 3.12.2 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.
“Consequently, Channels Television is required to explain why appropriate sanctions should not be applied for these infractions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code. Your response should reach the Commission within 24 hours of the receipt of this letter,” the NBC letter added.
The PUNCH gathered that the presenters of the television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, appeared before the commission and were grilled for hours.
The interrogation was held inside the commission’s office located within the precinct of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Those who appeared before the commission were Chamberlain Usoh, Maupe Ogun-Yusuf and Kayode Okikiolu.
A source said they were accompanied to the commission’s office by the programme’s producer, one of the stations’ General Managers and a lawyer.
The source said, “After they were grilled for hours, the NBC officials allowed them to go and said they will get back to them. They spent like two hours in the commission’s office.”
Two of the presenters, Usoh and Okikiolu, flew from Lagos to Abuja on Thursday to honour the NBC’s invitation.
An activist, Omoyele Sowore; and the National President, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Chris Isiguzor, were said to have visited the commission’s office in solidarity with the journalists.
SANs ask TV station to sue commission
But Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) said it was unbelievable that NBC would query a broadcasting station over an interview, describing such action as a disgrace.null
He said, “The NBC is a disgrace; this is not a communist state. I don’t understand these officials and what they want to turn this country into. I can say without hesitation that the query is absurd, and illegal.”
He added that the NBC could not interfere with the constitutionally guaranteed right of the press to impact knowledge and express opinions.
“I believe the NBC is acting outside its remit. They are probably trying to impress the President more than the President himself would wish they would do.
“I think it is high time the press take out a lawsuit against them. The other time they threatened AIT with sanctions and because they got away with that, it encouraged them to begin to think of this new one.
“The NBC intervention is wrong and Channels TV should challenge it in court.”
Similarly, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), in a separate interview with The PUNCH described the move by NBC as “an unnecessary restraint on the freedom of expression of the press.”
Also, Rasheed Adegoke (SAN) said the action was aimed at repressing the media, as well as discourage Nigerians from speaking on issues affecting the country.null
Adegoke said, “They want to gag the press. They want to scare Nigerians from speaking on issues affecting the country.
“If the President did not instigate this action, his aides should come out and condemn it. Where there is no such condemnation, then it means this has the endorsement of the President.
“By the time the media is no longer free to interview a governor or any citizen with the fear of being reprimanded from the government, then the country is finished.”
Likewise, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) also called on media houses to resist the war against the media.
He said “Channels TV and other stations should resist this new onslaught against the media and apparent descent in to a state of anarchy and dictatorial absolutism and fascism.
“The war against the media by this regime is totally unwarranted and should be resisted seriously.
“Let us not re-enact Musolini, Hitler, Idi Amin, Stalin and other historical renegades of yore.”null
Recall that Ortom, who was a guest on the TV programme on Tuesday, had said, “Mr President is pushing me to think that what they say about him, that he has a hidden agenda in this country, is true because it is very clear that he wants to fulanise but he is not the first Fulani president.”
The Presidency subsequently came hard on the governor on Wednesday, accusing him of playing on ethnic themes to cause death.