The N9 million fine imposed on AriseNews, Channels and AIT over their coverage of the Lekki toll gate shooting of #EndSARS protesters by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has attracted the attention of the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who said the commission does not possess the constitutional right to fine the three television stations.
He has therefore asked the NBC to stop abridging the right of Nigerians to free speech and refrain from arbitrary enforcement of laws it does not have.
Abaribe, who made this disclosure in a statement on Tuesday by his Media Adviser, Uchenna Awom, said the commission by that unfortunate action ran foul of Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and as such must rescind that decision.
According to him, Section 39 of the constitution specifically made it clear that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
He added that Section 39 (2) also stated without equivocation that “without prejudice to the generality of Subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions”.
The ranking senator therefore asked the NBC to rescind the decision to sanction the aforementioned broadcast stations on the basis that they violated the broadcasting code during the #EndSARS protest, particularly the alleged shooting of protesters in Lekki toll gate.
He said: “The sanction is illegal, provocative and clear case of willful abuse of power and a deliberate assault on the freedom of the press and of free speech. This time as precarious as we know calls for deep introspection and empathy for victims and their families.
“It is not a time for this kind of illegal actions by the agencies of government, as no law passed by the National Assembly nor the constitution gives the NBC powers to impose such sanctions.”
He nonetheless advised the three broadcast stations to approach the court for the enforcement of their fundamental rights in the circumstance.