A Federal High Court in Abuja has given an order of perpetual injunction restraining the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from imposing fines on broadcast stations in the country.
James Omotosho, the justice of the federal high court who delivered the judgment set aside the N500,000 fines imposed on each of the 45 broadcast stations on March 1, 2019.
He held that NBC, not being a court of law, had no power to impose sanctions as punishment on broadcast stations.
Delivering the judgment, he described NBC’s act as being ultra vires.
The Justice held that the NBC Code, which gives the commission the power to impose sanction, is in conflict with Section 6 of the Constitution that vested judicial power in the court of law.
Omotosho said the court would not sit back and watch a body imposing fine arbitrarily without recourse to the law.
He said that the commission did not comply with the law when it sat as a complainant and at the same time, the court and the judge on its own matter.
The court agreed that 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 criminal investigation that would lead to criminal trial and imposition of sanctions.
Omotosho said, “This will go against the doctrine of separation of powers.”
Similarly, he held that what the doctrine sought to achieve was to prevent tyranny by concentrating too many powers in one organ.
“The action of the respondent qualifies as excessiveness as it had ascribed to itself judicial and executive powers.”
In March, 2019, NBC imposed the sum of N500,000 fine each on 45 broadcast stations in the country over alleged violation of its code.
The Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda had, in an originating motions marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1386/2021, sued the NBC as sole respondent in the suit.
In the motion dated November 9, 2021 by its lawyer, Noah Ajare, the group sought a declaration that the sanctions procedure applied by the NBC in imposing N500,000 fines on each of the 45 broadcast stations on March 1, 2019 was a violation of the rules of natural justice.
The lawyer also said that the fines were in violation of the right to fair hearing under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Articles 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap AQ) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.