NBC Code Amendment: Lai Mohammed acted alone ― NBC Chairman

• maintains reviewed code threatens broadcast industry growth

Chairman National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Board, Ikra Aliyu Bilbis has washed his hands off the controversial amendment to the Nation’s broadcasting code.

The about 1000 per cent upward review which saw the fine for hate speech rising from N500,000 to N5million was unilaterally amended by the Minister of Information, Culture and National Orientation. Bilbis said.

The controversial amendment which was launched in Lagos in spite of stiff opposition by industry players met with the adamant posture of the Minister in the guise of the position of the Federal government he said.

He also pointed out that while the debate on the controversy rage, Minister Lai Mohammed was yet to produce his copy with the President’s Approval.

In the amendment, provision for sub-licensing of all broadcast contents among others was also reviewed.

Bilbis at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday said he received not less than 50 position papers for the sixth amendment of the broadcasting code but none was considered for input into the presently controversial reviewed code.

It would be recalled that In June, Armstrong Idachaba, NBC acting director-general (DG), disowned a call for position papers by the board of the commission on the amendments.

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Bilbis said the minister embarked on the review alone without consulting experts in the commission to take the usual route of engaging stakeholders in the industry to produce an acceptable document

He maintained that, while there was a Presidential directive for the review post-2019 general elections over divisive content, the Minister of information took the task to a rather usurp the powers of the Board, this he said was unacceptable and remained illegal.

His words: “Following the 2019 national elections, some members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) made observations to the Honourable Minister of Information at a FEC meeting about the divisive broadcasts engaged in by some broadcast media before, during and after the elections and the need to strengthen the operations of the NBC to avert such future occurrence,” the chairman said.

“This noble observation of Mr President was unfortunately misunderstood by the Hon. Minister of Information.

“Instead of studying and following the law, relevant rules and regulations, and direct the appropriate authorities as stipulated by the law to act on, he erroneously embarked on the review alone.

“As a board, we have received and taken our time to compile the responses of numerous stakeholders which include our Nobel Laureate, activists, legal practitioners, broadcasters, investors, BON, Content Creators, Copyright experts and professional organisations. Most of them have adduced reasonable reasons against the proposed amendment.

“The NBC was set up by law and there is an Act that guides its operations. The Honourable Minister, therefore, cannot usurp the powers of the board as clearly stated in the Act. Any such action by the Honourable Minister is illegal.

“The board of the NBC wishes to make it quite clear that as long as it is in place, the only NB Code that we recognise and which we shall work within the setting of operating policies and standards for the NBC is the 6th edition of the NB code which was launched in 2019 in Kano.”

He said the minister further circumvented the Board to launch the code in the with only four Representatives of a 60 member stakeholder group, thereby ignoring majority view.

“You may all recall that by 26th march 2020, (the day of the ‘Public Presentation’ in Lagos), the federal government had already announced a COVID-19 lockdown of Lagos, Ogun states and the FCT,” he said.

“It was therefore not a sincere effort to present such an important ‘review document’ which affects people’s investments and livelihoods under such a situation.”

Biblis surmised that such document threatens the survival of the industry as it would stifle investments and lead to job losses which in turn would paralyse the industry.



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