By Chukwuma Umeorah

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has called on the National Assembly to launch an investigation into the regulatory activities of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

  It accused NBC of succumbing to the control of an overtly politically partisan minister of information to intimidate broadcasting stations in an effort to prevent them from criticising government officials and powerful political figures. 

In a statement by its Communication Officer, Idowu Adewale, yesterday, MRA said it was compelled to seek the intervention of the National Assembly in the light of the recent imposition of fines of N2 million each on two television stations, Arise News and Television Continental (TVC) by the NBC for alleged breach of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, describing the action as the latest in a pattern by the NBC of abusing its powers to repress broadcasters in violation of basic rules of natural justice. 

MRA’s Programme Officer, Maimuna Momoh, also said: “It cannot be fair that the NBC, which wrote the Nigeria Broadcasting Code to create offences, is the complainant in the allegations of violation of the code by broadcasting stations, investigates the alleged breaches itself, prosecutes the accused stations, sits in judgment on the matter, without giving the stations a chance to defend themselves and sanctions them through the imposition of fines.”  

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She lamented that the pattern of behaviour by the commission had reached alarming levels as it is being used as a weapon by the information minister to impede broadcasting stations from performing their constitutional role of accountability of the government to the people and turning its regulatory function into a revenue drive.  

“If the NBC is not deterred from its approach to regulations, Nigerians will be fed only the minister’s version of the truth, thereby defeating the purpose of Section 22 of the constitution,” she said.

Momoh said an established principle guiding the operations of a regulatory authority in the area of broadcasting is one that should be independent and adequately protected against interference of a political, commercial or other nature.   

She, therefore, called on the National Assembly, in the exercise of its oversight functions, to conduct an open and transparent investigation into the NBC and the conduct of its regulatory functions to prevent it from completely destroying the broadcast sector in Nigeria.