Abuja — Founder, DAAR Communications, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, yesterday, stormed the National Assembly to protest alleged moves to gag the media byNational Broadcasting Commission, NBC.
Dokpesi, who appeared before a joint Committee of the Media and Public Affairs of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, however, asked the National Assembly to urgently carry out a holistic amendment of the the laws regulating the practice of broadcasting in the country.
According to him, the amendment of the laws setting up NBC will enable the commission bring on board a competitive level with the rest of the world.
Dokpesi, who was at the National Assembly to protest against alleged attempt by the Federal Government to silence his media stations, explained that an amendment of the laws will ensure that the appointments of the Board of Directors as well as that of the director-general were subjected to the confirmation of the National Assembly and avoid the current situation where the positions were occupied by politicians loyal to the ruling party.
According to him, it has also become imperative to repeal the laws enacted since 1992, and that legislative intervention will help guarantee the true status of Nigeria as a democratic society.
Dokpesi denied allegations of professional misconduct brought against his media houses by the NBC, describing it as a desperate attempt to gag, muzzle his stations.
Dokpesi later handed his petition to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Local Debts, Senator Shehu Sani (PRP, Kaduna Central), who represented the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on behalf of the National Assembly.
In his remarks, Sani, who hailed the contributions of DAAR group to the growth and development of democracy over the years in Nigeria, stressed that Dokpesi's concerns were weighty and should be thoroughly investigated.
Senator Sani said: "We are here on behalf of the two arms of the National Assembly to receive your letters and protest. We have carefully listened to your presentation and the issues you raised concerning the National Broadcasting Commission over its attempt to muscle you by way of raising issues that have to do with your activities.
"First, it is important for us to restate that the National Assembly in the last four years has been media friendly, the one that has always been ready to open its doors to protests, objections and even revolt by Nigerians on issues that touch on justice and fundamental rights.
"In the light of this, I think it is important for us to understand that the relationship between the media and the National Assembly has been very cordial. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, our democracy and liberty are dependent on a free press and that cannot be lost whenever it is limited."
"Democracy fully depends on having a free press, freely operating to defend and perform people's oversight functions in the affairs of governance.
Also speaking, Chairman , House of Representatives Committee on Media Abdulrazaq Namdas, welcomed the amendments proposed by Dokpesi, and promised to look into the matter.
Namdas said: "We, the parliament, are beneficiaries of the media, and being beneficiaries, we would not be partners with any agency that is out to gag the media. However, we must appreciate that you did not show your frustration through editorials, but chose to come personally to make your protest and your protest letter did not only mention AIT but other media houses were carefully identified and mentioned.
"That shows your concern is not personal. We in the House of Representatives would cooperate and ensure whatever the issue we would be on your side, particularly the issue of the review or amendment of the NBC Act, we would look at it.
"However, when we look at protesters, we would listen to the other side because we know that facts are sacred in the realm of the media. So as you also balance your own, we would also look at the other side when we are investigating to ensure that we come out with a very clean position. If the media is gagged, we too would be in problem because of the media."
On his part, Senator Enyinnaba Abaribe, PDP, Abia South, cautioned strongly against any attempt to gag the press in Nigeria.
Action soon shifted outside the premises of the National Assembly where hundreds of staff of DAAR Communications led by their Group Managing Director, Tony Akiotu had gathered defying the early morning rains in a protest with hashtag #AITUNDER SIEGE and in solidarity for their chairman and in defense of free press.
They were joined by strong voices from the civil society and the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, who called out the government over Nigeria's economic misfortunes since 2015.