The Prominent Civil rights advocacy group: – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has condemned the minister of information Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the management of the National Broadcasting commission (NBC) for illegally slamming fines against private broadcasting station for their transparent coverage of the Endsars protects.
Branding the minister of information and culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed as a pathetic hater of transparency and accountability, the Rights group said he has made him notorious as the most dangerous enemy of constitutional democracy even as HURIWA has asked’ President Muhammadu Buhari to order the quashing of the dictatorial and draconian financial sanctions which the group said violates the grund norm of Nigeria.
HURIWA said the fines Imposed against the media houses for carrying out their statutory functions goes contrary to the unambiguous provisions of the Constitution of the Federal which obliges the media to function as national conscience and to play the role of the uninhibited and unhindered purveyors of objective news to the people of Nigeria as encapsulated in section 22 of the Nigerian constitution.
Citing section 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which states thus: “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people”, the Rights group said the fines are vexatious, illegal, unconstitutional and absolutely devoid of respect for the fundamental human rights of the citizens who ought to be informed qualitatively by both public and private media outlets in the best tradition of adherence to the Principles of the Rule of law and in obedience to the Constitutional provisions on the fundamental freedoms including Right to freedom of information.
HURIWA stated that: “We totally reject this resort to self help measures and primitive infliction of illegality by the minister of information and culture against media pluralism and for enforcing a non enforceable set of rules which absolutely violates relevant sections of the constitution”.
According to HURIWA: “The National Broadcasting commission (NBC) can not validly and legally make legislation and can not suo Moto institute financial sanctions, a function that belongs to the court of competent jurisdiction as enshrined in the section 6 of the Nigerian constitution , Thus:(1) The judicial powers of the Federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the Federation;(2) The judicial powers of a State shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established, subject as provided by this Constitution, for a Stateof the Federation;(3) The courts to which this section relates established by this Constitution for the Federation and for States specified in subsection (5) (a) to (j) of this section shall be the only superior courts of record in Nigeria; and save as otherwise prescribed by the National Assembly or by the House of Assembly of a State, each court shall have all the powers of a superior court of record…”
HURIWA recalled that the the National Broadcasting Commission had fined Channels Television, Arise Television and Africa Independent Television for what it termed “unprofessional coverage” of the #EndSARS protests. The acting Director-General of the NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, announced this at a press conference in Abuja on Monday.
The NBC had last week warned all television and radio stations against reporting the #EndSARS protests in a manner that could embarrass the government or private individuals or cause disaffection, incite to panic or rift in the society HURIWA said this irrational, illegal and lawless acts of the Information minister and the ruthlessly inefficient contraption known as the National Broadcasting Commission by this irregular application of draconian and an illegal fines, are attempting to torpedo the essence of constitutional democracy which is centred around the sanctity of the Principles of the Rule of law and adherence to Constitutional provisions just as the Rights group said the in-house rules made by NBC purporting to be a legislation authorising imposition of fines is unconstitutional and absolutely Illegal since the NBC is not the law making body recognized in section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 as amended and the NBC can not be the complainant the prosecutor and the judge in its own case and therefore can not fine any broadcast stations since it is not a court of law. Those fines are null, void and of no moment”.