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Court outlaws NBC fines on broadcast stations

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has given an order of perpetual injunction restraining the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from imposing fines, on broadcast stations.

Perpetual injunction means permanently restraining a person to do or not doing any act.

The court also set aside the N500,000 fines imposed on each of the 45 broadcast stations on March 1, 2019.

Delivering the judgment, Justice James Omotosho described NBC’s act as being ‘ultra vires’, going beyond its powers.

Justice Omotosho held that NBC, not being a court of law, had no power to impose sanctions as punishment on broadcast stations.

He further held that the NBC Code, which gives the commission the power to impose sanctions, is in conflict with Section 6 of the Constitution which vested judicial power in the court of law.

The judge agreed 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.

He also agreed that the commission, not being Nigerian police, had no power to conduct a criminal investigation that would lead to criminal trial and imposition of sanctions.

The ECOWAS Court fixed 27 September for judgement in a suit challenging some provisions of the national broadcasting code.

Major Nigerian broadcast stations have been strained by fines for breaches of the code in the last few years, some of which have triggered court actions.

Contentious code?

Comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche, Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, FCT Council, said the judgement should be praised by those who believe in the rule of law, democratic governance, and human rights.

He argued that NBC’s use of a contentious code has been impeding the freedom of the press.

For far too long, NBC has been wielding its controversial code like a hangman’s noose, stifling freedom of expression and the media on flimsy pretexts.

He encouraged the panel to rid itself of haughtiness and to forgo an appeal of the ruling.

Reporting by Ifeoma Nwovu; Editing by Muzha Kucha