The Nigeria Broadcasting Commision (NBC) has said that Africa Independent Television (AIT) may come under its hammer again for continuously breaching broadcast codes and refusing to heed warnings.
At a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, NBC Director General, Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, said that “in the last few months, our monitoring reports indicate that AIT has continued to air programmes that dwell on the on-going case of the presidential elections, and issues relating to matters in law courts, without regards to the provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code and extant laws”
The warning comes almost four months after the commission controversially withdrew the station’s license after accusing AIT and its sister radio station, Ray Power, of committing infractions which include inability to pay their licence renewal fees and the airing of a presidential election documentary while the matter was still before a tribunal, use of “divisive and inciting contents from the social media”, among others.
The two broadcast houses were shut down on June 6, 2019 but resumed transmission after a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered NBC to restore the licences and maintain status quo. The shutdown drew condemnation from many Nigerians.
However, on Wednesday, Kawu said AIT has continued to flout broadcast codes despite several warnings amd amid meetings to settle cases that led to the June shutdown.
He explained that “on Monday 19th August to Sunday August 25, 2019, the station aired different documentaries centered on matters before the 2019 Presidential Election Tribunal; the action was prejudicial and could be termed contempt of court.
Accordng to him, “sections of the Code breached include “Section 1.16.1(f): The law of contempt, relating to matter pending before law court’s and Section 5.1.12 News and current affairs programme shall be guided by the ethical standards of journalism.”
He also stated that a September 11 and September 12 AIT broadcast of the statement of the spokesman of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Imo Ugochinyere rejecting the Election Tribunal Judgment that upheld the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari, in the 2019 presidential election, “was laced with spurious claims; it lacked objectivity and fairness; and contained inciting statements.”
Kawu added that the NBC “is constrained to warn AIT, that its continued willful disregard for regulation and persistent breaches of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, will be met with the very severe sanctions that the new, SIXTH EDITION of THE CODE has prescribed. We also want the Nigerian people to know that the National Broadcasting Commission has given AIT enough opportunity to walk the straight and narrow path of compliance with the Nigeria Broadcasting Code. It would unfortunately be the architect of its own fate, if it persists with the breaches of the instrument of regulation of the Nigerian broadcasting industry and that is the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.”
Dates and cases in which AIT flouted the NBC code, as listed by Kawu:
“On Monday 19th August, 2019 a documentary titled “Who is a Nigerian” was aired between 10:00pm to 10:47pm. It centered on how the former provinces of Northern Cameroun became a Nigerian enclave. Track ups were given to some respondents who made statements like “Atiku is indeed a Nigerian”. This came a day after the APC had asked the Presidential Election tribunal to strike out Atiku/PDP petition on the basis of Section 131(a) of the Nigerian Constitution, which mandates that a presidential candidate must be Nigerian by birth.
“On Tuesday 20th August, 2019 between 10:00pm to 11:00pm, AIT aired another documentary titled “The Many Troubles of INEC: A Documentary on Mahmood Yakubu and the chequered Road to 2019”. This documentary contained an allegation that the 2019 Presidential Election was marred by a well-organised manipulation, violence and intimidations. It alleged that some actions taken by INEC were premeditated and schemed to favour the APC. It ended with Atiku’s petition seeking relief to be declared winner of the 2019 Presidential election on the nullification of the election.
“Then on Wednesday 21st August, 2019, from 10:00pm to 10:36pm, a similar documentary to “Who is a Nigerian” was also broadcast. References were made to how some communities, like Daura Emirate, were allegedly formerly part of Niger Republic, and have now become part of Nigeria. It queried what becomes of persons whose citizenship has been declared to be non-Nigerian. The program also appeared to promote the cause of the proscribed IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) saying their agitation is legitimate, under the United Nation Charter on Universal Declaration of Human and People’s Rights.
“Again, on Thursday 22nd August, 2019 between 10:00pm and 10:30pm, there was a repeat of the documentary “Nigerian Judiciary on Trial: Lessons from Kenya” first aired on 23rd May 2019, and for which the station was warned.
On Friday 23rd August, 2019 another documentary “INEC and the Agony of a Nation” started and ended after one minute; a documentary on Akwa Ibom was taken instead.
“Similarly, on Saturday 24th August, 2019 the same documentary on INEC and the Agony of a Nation was fully aired and it made assertions that “manipulations” of 2019 Presidential Election, have not only disrupted democratic consolidation in Nigeria but have robbed the people of their fundamental right to make choices. The current INEC Chairman Prof. Yakubu Mahmood’s tenure was also described as the worst in the history of INEC.
“Again, on Sunday 25th August, 2019 another documentary was aired with title “INEC and Qualification Requirements. The facts, The Issues” from 10:40pm to 10:56pm. The documentary called on the court, as the last hope of the common man, to correct an alleged dereliction of duty on the part of INEC in allowing an individual who is not eligible to contest an election to do so.”
“On 10th September, 2019 during the highlight of the News hour, there was a Vox Pop taken that centered on the outcome of the Presidential Election judgment. The standpoint of the station was clear from what the newscaster said, “Residents of Enugu State, South East Nigeria express concern on the inability of the Nation’s Judiciary to serve justice to the people”. They already questioned the judgment of the tribunal before it was declared, even when they know that there should be no comments on any matter that is before the law court.”