By: Innocent Orok
In a significant legal development, the Federal High Court in Abuja has rendered null and void the provisions within the Nigeria Broadcasting Code that empower the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to levy fines on broadcast stations allegedly breaching the code.
Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, presiding over the case filed by the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) against the NBC, declared the relevant code provisions null and void. The court’s ruling, delivered on Wednesday, emphasized that the NBC, as an administrative and regulatory entity, lacks the authority to exercise judicial powers.
The legal action stemmed from the NBC’s imposition of N5 million fines on a television station and three pay TV platforms in 2022. These fines were attributed to the broadcasting of documentaries on banditry in Nigeria, with the NBC alleging that the content undermined national security.
The plaintiff, represented by lawyer Mr. Uche Amulu, sought the court’s intervention, contending that the NBC’s actions were unlawful and unconstitutional. The court was asked to affirm that the imposition of fines had a chilling effect on the freedom of the media to impart information and ideas.
In their submission, the plaintiff argued that the NBC’s actions could deter media platforms from reporting the true state of affairs regarding the security situation in the country. Such deterrence, they asserted, would violate the rights of the MRA, its members, and other Nigerian citizens to freedom of expression, including the right to receive ideas and information without interference, as guaranteed by the Constitution and the African Charter.
The court’s declaration marks a significant legal precedent, asserting the boundaries of regulatory authority in the media landscape and upholding fundamental rights to freedom of expression. The ruling highlights the crucial role of the