The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) yesterday shut down indefinitely the African Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower FM over alleged failure of the two broadcasting outfits belonging to Daar Communications Plc to abide by the commission's directives, the provisions of the NBC Act Cap N11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.
The Director General of the commission, Mallam Moddibo Kawu, who announced this while briefing journalists in Abuja, said Daar Communications had over the years turned itself into an example of how a professional broadcast outfit should not be run, noting that the NBC had on several occasions written and warned against breaches.
Kawu alleged that Daar Communications had carried on as if it was beyond the regulatory direction of the commission and that it didn't pay its licence fees when due.
He said: "Its broadcast is patently partisan and one-sided and deliberately inciting and heating the polity. The management of the company has created the habit of using the channel to fight its personal battles contrary to the statutory requirements of the law."
Following monitoring reports and complaints from concerned Nigerians about broadcast contents, the NBC over the last two years has summoned the management of the company on several occasions to address issues regarding its programmes particularly Political Platform and Kakaaki.
He said the decision to shut down the stations was based on the provisions of Section 10 of the Third Schedule of the NBC Act Cap N11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, which require the commission to act, "where in the opinion of the commission the station has been used in a manner detrimental to national interest; where there is willful or repeated failure to operate substantially as set forth in the licence; where a provision of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code has been seriously breached; and where there is willful or repeated violation or willful or repeated failure to observe any provision of this Act or any rule or regulation of the Commission authorised by this Act or by a treaty ratified by the Federal Republic of Nigeria; where there is violation of or failure to observe any cease-and-desist order issued by the Commission."
The NBC boss who went down memory lane recalled: "In one of our meetings, held on June 2, 2017, the commission expressed its disappointment with the way and manner hate speech, divisive and inciting comments are applied in discussion of national issues in breach of the provisions of the NBC Act and Broadcast Code."
According to him, "Again, on August 15, 2017, it became imperative to invite the company for yet another meeting on almost the same issues. Furthermore, while addressing another meeting on February 7, 2018, we highlighted issues of concern to the commission, which indicated that the company had been breaching the provisions of Sections 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 of the Broadcast Code. The company's delegates in their response promised to abate the breaches and comply with the law.
"However, on October 18, 2018, the Commission was disturbed with the manner in which social media issues became part of the mainstream media unedited on AIT/Raypower and was constrained to issue a generic letter to all broadcast stations on the need to exercise caution in the use of user generated content from the social media, knowing how volatile and misleading the social media has become. The management of Daar Communication Plc thereafter took to social media to display our official correspondence."
Kawu noted further that the commission's monitoring reports on AIT/Raypower recently indicated the use of divisive comments accredited to the segment of Kakaaki, tagged, Kakaaki Social, where inciting comments like, "Nigeria is cursed", "We declare independent state of Niger Delta", "Nigeria irritates me", "This country is gradually Islamising" and other similar slogans were used without editorial control in breach of the Broadcast Code. "We were therefore constrained to issue Daar Communication letters of warning dated May 27, 2019.
"We also observed from monitoring reports that a documentary on the Presidential Election Tribunal, a pending election petition matter aired on AIT on Wednesday and Thursday, May 22 and May 23, 2019 without regard to the provisions of the Broadcast Code. The commission, in line with its regulatory powers again cautioned AIT in another letter also dated May 27, 2019.
"However, instead of making amends, the management of Daar Communications Plc resorted to the use of media propaganda against the regulator. Even the letters from the NBC were posted on social media platforms," he said.
But the founder and chairman of DAAR Communications Plc, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, accused the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government of using the NBC to gag the media and suppress free speech.
Briefing journalists yesterday in Abuja, Dokpesi insisted that AIT and Raypower had not violated any code of broadcasting as alleged by the NBC.
He said: "The NBC and the government in power are not comfortable with the broadcast industry because of its courageous and dogged stance in informing Nigerians on happenings in the country. We are in a democracy and must all rise to defend Nigeria from anti-democratic forces. We invite all Nigerians and the international community to note this obvious act of brigandage against freedom of speech and association as clearly expressed in our constitution. Together, let's Rescue Nigeria."
Earlier, in a statement, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) condemned attempts by APC-led government to restrain the media.
In a statement issued by National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said: "It is evident that the attack on AIT is targeted at intimidating and gaging the media, repressing constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and stifling public opinion.
It urged Nigerians to note that Kawu is a card-carrying member and frontline leader in the APC, who was also an aspirant on the party's platform in the Kwara State gubernatorial race.
Also, a pro-democracy and non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) described the NBC's action as a reckless display of executive rascality.
In a statement by its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, and national media affairs director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said: "Modibbo Kawu sees himself as an APC propagandist who is on a mission to intimidate and harass all independent minded broadcasting outfits." He added that the ban must be overturned immediately.