AIT Update: PDP, Atiku, Nigerians React As NBC Gives Reasons For The Suspension

By Uche Mbah

Nigerians and prominent opposition party members have expressed outrage over the suspension of the operating license of DAAR communications, owners of African Independent Television, AIT, Raypower and Faji Radio stations.

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, through its national Chairman, Uche Secondus, described the action as undesirable and unfortunate.” It is an indication of what to come as the government must be planning to arrest Nigerians indiscriminately”, he said.” It is also an indication that the government has returned the country to military rule. President Buhari must know that he is not the king of the country. Rather, he should know that we are in a democracy.”

The suspension took place barely six days to June 12, the newly approved democracy  day.

The Presidential Candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, agrees that President Buhari is showing traits of dictatorship. “The legislature has been challenged. The judiciary has been tackled. If we stand by as the press loses its independence, there will be little to differentiate us from a dictatorship. This should not happen,” he said.

Across social media, reactions to the issue were generally that of shock and anger. Many saw it as persecution and a confirmation of dictatorship.

The Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, has given the NBC 24 hours to reverse the suspension of license, describing the action as unacceptable.

The British BskyB, in reaction, has withdrawn the Nigerian Television Authority International, NTA, from its Sky Channel 781. NTA uses their Channel to reach out to the world. Although they did not give reasons for this, the timing coincided with the AIT license suspension. It is believed to have been done because of that.

The NBC, however, has given reasons for the shutdown of the three media houses under the umbrella of DAAR communications. In a press conference to announce the closure, the Commission said that the closure is until further notice.

Below is the text of the press briefing.

PRESS BRIEFING ON SUSPENSION OF LICENCE – DAAR COMMUNICATIONS, HELD TODAY 6TH JUNE, 2019 AT THE NBC HEADQUARTERS IN ABUJA.

Following monitoring reports and complaints from concerned Nigerians about the broadcast contents of Daar Communications Plc’s AIT/Raypower broadcast stations, the NBC have over the last 2 years summoned on several occasions management of the company to address issues regarding the operations of AIT/Raypower with the company, particularly, Political Platform and Kakaaki aired on AIT.

In one of our meetings, held on 2nd June, 2017, the Commission expressed its disappointment with the way and manner Hate Speech, divisive and inciting comments are applied in discussion of national issues in breach of the provisions of the NBC Act and Broadcast Code.

Again, on 15th August, 2017, it became imperative to invite the company for yet another meeting on almost same issues. Furthermore, while addressing another meeting on 7th February, 2018 we highlighted issues of concern to the Commission which indicated that the company had been breaching the provisions of Sections 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 of the broadcast Code. The company’s delegates in their response promised to abate the breaches and comply with the law.

However, on October 18, 2018, the Commission was disturbed with the manner in which social media issues became part of the mainstream media unedited on AIT/Raypower, and was constrained to issue a generic letter to all broadcast stations on

the need to exercise caution in the use of user generated content from the social media knowing how volatile and misleading the social media has become. The management of Daar Communication Plc thereafter took to the social media to display our official correspondences.

Recently, the Commission’s monitoring reports on AIT/Raypower indicate the use of divisive comments accredited to the segment of “Kakaaki”, tagged, “Kakaaki Social”, where inciting comments like, “Nigeria is cursed, we declare independent state of Niger Delta”, “Nigeria irritates me”, “this country is gradually Islamizing” and other similar slogans are used without editorial control in breach of the broadcast Code. We were therefore constrained to issue Daar Communication letters of warning dated May 27th, 2019.

We also observed from monitoring reports that a documentary on the Presidential Election Tribunal, a pending election petition matter aired on AIT on Wednesday and Thursday, 22nd and 23rd May, 2019 without regard to the provisions of the Broadcast Code. The Commission, in line with its regulatory powers again cautioned AIT in another letter also dated 27th May, 2019.

However, instead of making amends, the management of Daar Communications Plc resorted to the use of media propaganda against the regulator. Even the letters from the NBC were posted on social media platforms.

Needless to state that Daar Communications have over the years turned themselves into a bad example of how a professional broadcast outfit should not be run.

In their relationship with the NBC, Daar Communications carry on, as if it is beyond the regulatory direction of the Commission. They don’t pay their licence fees as and when due.

Its broadcast is patently partisan and one sided and deliberately inciting and heating the polity. The management of the Company has created the habit of using the channel to fight its personal battles contrary to the statutory requirements of the law.

SHUT DOWN ORDER

Today the 6th of June, 2019, AIT/Rapower embarked on use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts, and media propaganda against the government and, the NBC for performing its statutory functions of regulating the broadcast industry in Nigeria.

Consequently, after several meetings with management of Daar Communications Plc and many letters of warning. The NBC, today 6th June, 2019 took a decision to suspend the licence of Daar Communications Plc for failure to abide by the Commission’s directives, the provisions of the NBC Act Cap N11

Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

This decision is based on the provisions of Section 10 of the Third Schedule of the NBC Act Cap N11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, which states as follows:

(d) where in the opinion of the Commission the station has been used in a manner detrimental to national interest.

(g) where there is wilful or repeated failure to operate
substantially as set forth in the licence

(h), where there is wilful or repeated violation or wilful or repeated failure to observe any provision of this Act or any rule or regulation of the Commission authorised by this Act or by a treaty ratified by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

(i), where there is violation of or failure to observe any cease and desist order issued by the Commission;

(k), where a provision of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code has been seriously breached; and

The SHUT DOWN order is until further notice.

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