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Nigerian govt says court ruling banning NBC from sanctioning broadcasters ‘dead on arrival’



The Federal High Court’s ruling prohibiting the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) from fining broadcast stations “is ill-conceived and dead on arrival due to legal encumbrances.”

This was according to Mr. Nelson Orji, Director, Legal Department, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.

He claimed during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, on Friday, that an Abuja-based Federal High Court had already made the opposite ruling, holding that the NBC had the authority to impose sanctions on errant stations.

He said, Justice N. E. Maha in April 2022 had ruled in a case brought against NBC by seven organisations led by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

In a Certified True Copy of the judgement made available to NAN, Justice Maha had interpreted the provision of Section 2(1)(n) of the NBC Act, 1992.

The provision states, “The Commission shall have the responsibility of determining and applying sanctions including revocation of licences of defaulting stations which do not operate in accordance with the broadcast code and in public interest.”

Relying on the provision, Justice Maha held, “The law is settled that a regulator imposing fines under its enabling law in the discharge of its functions could not have acted unconstitutionally.

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“In Moses Ediru v Federal Road Safety Commission and 20 ors(supra) the court held that the FRSC Act gives the Commission the right to impose and enforce sanctions and such right does not derogate from the judicial powers of the court as provided in the constitution.

“In essence, there is no confluence point where the powers of FRSC and that of the court meet.

“In that Moses Ediru case, the court further observed that FRSC and the court are mutually exclusive such that the FRSC powers of enforcement of sanctions is not an usurpation of the judicial powers of the court.”

Speaking about the two cases, Orji claimed that the same court of coordinating jurisdiction had rendered contradictory rulings on the matter of whether NBC may impose sanctions.

He said by the convention of the law, “where there is conflicting decision of courts of coordinate jurisdiction a party can choose which of them to obey and it will not be held in contempt of any court.

“It is worthy of note that the judgement of Justice Maha is first in time and still subsisting as it has not been set aside by any appellate court.

“In this light, NBC is still well within its right to continue to impose sanctions on broadcast organisations which run fowl of the NBC code.”

Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Abuja had been petitioned by the Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda, who claimed that the NBC lacked the authority to sanction broadcast stations.

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