Court Stops FG, NBC From Shutting Down Broadcast Stations.

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The Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos on Monday stopped President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from revoking the licences of 53 broadcast stations in the country and shutting down the stations for allegedly failing to renew their licenses.

In a statement signed by the General Secretary of Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Iyobosa Uwugiaren and the Deputy Director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Kola Oluwadare, the two groups stated that Justice Akintayo Aluko (Court 8) granted an order of interim injunction, following the hearing of an argument on ‘’Motion Exparte’’ by NGE and SERAP.

The NGE and SERAP had last week filed a suit against Buhari and NBC, asking the court for a declaration that Section 10(a) of the Third Schedule to the NBC Act used by NBC to threaten to revoke the licences of 53 broadcast stations and to shut down the stations is unconstitutional and unlawful, as it violates freedom of expression.

In the suit, the two groups had asked the court for, “an order of interim injunction restraining Buhari and NBC, their agents from revoking the licenses of 53 broadcast stations in the country and shutting their down operations, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously in this suit.”

The suit was also adjourned to September 8, 2022, for hearing of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.

In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1582/2022, NGE and SERAP asked the court to determine, “whether section 10(a) of the Third Schedule to the NBC Act used by NBC to threaten revoke the licenses of 53 broadcast stations and shut them down is not in inconsistent with freedom of expression and access to information.”

NGE and SERAP said the regulation of broadcasting must aspire to promote and expand the scope of the right to freedom of expression, not restrict it.

The suit read in part: “The provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties on freedom of expression indicate that this right can be exercised through any medium.

“Effectively, these provisions recognise that every individual has the right to an equal opportunity to receive, seek and impart information through any communication medium without discrimination.

“The use of NBC Act and Code in this case would inadmissibly open the door to arbitrariness and would fundamentally restrict the freedom of expression that is an integral part of the public order protected the Nigerian constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.

“The two groups had argued that the media plays an essential role as a vehicle or instrument for the exercise of freedom of expression and information – in its individual and collective aspects – in a democratic society, adding the media has the task of distributing all varieties of information and opinion on matters of general interest.

“The public has a right to receive and assess this information and opinion independently. Therefore, the existence of a free, independent, vigorous, pluralistic, and diverse media is essential for the proper functioning of a democratic society.”

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