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HomeHEADLINESNBC: Court restrains NBC from imposing fines on broadcast stations 

NBC: Court restrains NBC from imposing fines on broadcast stations 

A Federal High Court has ordered the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to stop imposing fines as sanctions on broadcast stations in the country.

In an order of perpetual injunction, Justice James Omotosho of the High Court, on Wednesday in Abuja also set aside the N500,000 fines imposed by NBC on each of 45 broadcast stations since March 1, 2019, describing it as ultra vires.

The Justice was ruling on a suit in an originating motions, FHC/ABJ/CS/1386/2021, dated November 9, 2021 instituted by the Trustees of the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) in which the NBC was sole respondent.

The group’s lawyer, Noah Ajare, said that the group sought a declaration that the sanctions procedure of NBC in imposing fines on the 45 broadcast stations on March 1, 2019 violated the rules of natural justice.

He summed the action as a violation of the right to fair hearing under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Articles 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap AQ) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

He explained further that the NBC Code allowed the commission to write and adopt the offenses, “and also gives powers to the said commission to receive complaints of alleged breaches, investigate and adjudicate the complaints, impose sanctions, including fines, and ultimately collect the fines, which the commission uses for its own purposes.”

They, therefore, asked the court to set aside the fines and sought “an order of perpetual Injunction restraining the respondent, its servants, agents, privies, representatives or anyone acting for or on its behalf, from imposing fines on any of the broadcast stations or any other broadcast station in Nigeria for any alleged offense committed under the Nigerian Broadcasting Code.”

Delivering the judgment, Justice Omotosho described the fines as punishment contrary to the law and hereby declared as unconstitutional, null and void.

Omotosho also made an order of perpetual injunction restraining the commission from further imposing fines on broadcast stations in the country.

The Justice noted that the commission had no judicial powers to impose sanctions and that the NBC Code, which empowers it to impose any sanction was in conflict with Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution that vested judicial powers in the law courts.

Describing the actions of NBC as “arbitrarily without recourse to the law,” he said the commission sat as complainant and the judge at the same time.

He noted further that the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, which is a subsidiary legislation that empowers the NBC to enforce its provisions as an industry regulator, did not confer judicial powers on the commission nor did it grant powers to the commission to conduct investigations that would lead to criminal trial, a function vested in the Police.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the NBC, on March 1, 2019, imposed the fine of N500,000 on each of the 45 broadcast stations in the country for allegedly violating its code.

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