BROADCAST LICENCE: Editors, SERAP Sue Buhari, NBC As Stations Strive To Meet Deadline Today

The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have instituted a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) over the arbitrary use of the NBC Act and broadcasting code to threaten, revoke and shut down 53 broadcast stations in the country for failing to renew their licences.

Joined in the suit as defendant is the minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed.

However, to beat today’s deadline by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to revoke the broadcast licences of 53 stations over indebtedness to the regulatory commission, the stations have begun payment of their renewal licence fee.


In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1582/2022 filed yesterday at the Federal High Court, Lagos, the NGE and SERAP asked the court to determine whether section 10(a) of the Third Schedule to the National Broadcasting Act used by NBC to threaten, revoke the licences of 53 broadcast stations and shut them down is not inconsistent and incompatible with freedom of expression and access to information as contained in the 1999 constitution as amended.

In a statement by NGE general secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, and deputy director, SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare, the two groups asked the court for a declaration that section 10(a) of the Third Schedule to the National Broadcasting Act used by the NBC to threaten to revoke the licences of 53 broadcast stations and to shut down the broadcast stations is unconstitutional and unlawful, as it violates the freedom of expression.”

The NGE and SERAP are also seeking an order of interim injunction restraining NBC and its agents or privies from revoking the licences of 53 broadcast stations in the country and shutting their operations, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

In the suit, the two groups argued that “the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties on freedom of expression indicate that this right can be exercised through any medium.”

NGE and SERAP also said, “Effectively, these provisions recognise that every individual has the right to an equal opportunity to receive, seek and impart information through any communication medium without discrimination.

‘’The use of NBC Act and the NBC Code, in this case, would inadmissibly open the door to arbitrariness and would fundamentally restrict the freedom of expression that is an integral part of the public order protected the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.’’


The suit filed on behalf of NGE and SERAP by their lawyer Kolawole Oluwadare, read in part: “The media plays an essential role as a vehicle or instrument for the exercise of freedom of expression and information – in its individual and collective aspects – in a democratic society.

“Indeed, the media has the task of distributing all varieties of information and opinion on matters of general interest.

“The public has a right to receive and assess this information and opinion independently. Therefore, the existence of a free, independent, vigorous, pluralistic, and diverse media is essential for the proper functioning of a democratic society.

“Revoking the licences of 53 broadcast stations and shutting down their operations because they have not renewed their licences would both seriously undermine the rights of millions of Nigerians to express their thoughts, and their right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, in any medium they choose.”

NGE and SERAP, therefore, asked the court for the following reliefs: “A declaration that the arbitrary and unilateral action by NBC to threaten and or revoke the licences of the 53 broadcast stations and to shut down their operations because of the alleged failure to pay their licence fees is unnecessary and disproportionate sanction, and therefore contrary to the public interest and the guiding principles of freedom of expression.

“That section 10(a) of the National Broadcasting Act used by NBC to unilaterally revoke the licences of the broadcast stations and shut down the stations is a violation of the constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to fair hearing.

“That section 10(a) of the National Broadcasting Act or any such other laws enabling NBC to unilaterally revoke the licences of 53 broadcast stations and to shut down the stations is inconsistent and incompatible with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), and therefore null and void to the extent of its inconsistency and incompatibility.

“That the arbitrary action by NBC to revoke the licences and shut down the operations of the broadcast stations is directly in conflict with sections 6 and 39(1) of the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party, and therefore null and void and ultra vires.”

They also sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining President Buhari, NBC, and Muhammed any other authority, person, or group of persons from unilaterally revoking the licences of the 53 broadcast stations and shutting down the stations.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.


 If NBC Succeeds, 200 Broadcast Stations May Go – NUJ

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has warned that if the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is allowed to revoke the licences of 52 broadcast stations, about 200 of them may go out of business one day.

The NUJ, the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) and the Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU), amongst others,  have urged the NBC to reconsider its decision, considering the fact that the media industry was not exempted from the effect of the COVID-19.

But speaking at the #LeadershipSpaces,,  on Tuesday, the national president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr Chris Isiguzo, said the NBC has just mentioned 53 broadcast stations whose licences might be revoked adding that it could be 100 or 200 since the actual numbers of the defaulters had not been mentioned.

Isiguzo, who said that such a decision should have been taken after consultation with stakeholders, added that if such a decision stands, almost all the broadcast stations’ licences may be revoked.

“Nigerians will be denied access to information in this time that we are faced with insecurity challenges. Nigeria is yet to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. And the media is the worst hit.

“The free press is the oxygen of democracy. There is no democracy without a free press. We have to engage the stakeholders to ensure that the payments are made but revoking licences of 52 broadcast stations is throwing more Nigerians into the labour market, ” Isiguzo said.

According to him, the NUJ said that for such a decision to be taken to clamp down 53 broadcast stations in the country, the stakeholders ought to have been engaged for better discussion.

“If you look at the country, we are at a crossroads. We have issues to contend with – security issues that are plaguing on us, across the 36 states. We faced the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They are 53 broadcast stations now. We don’t actually know the number but if this decision stands, it could be 100, it could be 200 broadcast stations that may lose their licence, and you wake up one day without a broadcast station in the country.

“We must look at the realities; we are yet to recover from the pandemic and the media remains the worst hit. For us to become the whipping boys, it’s not good.

“Remove the media from democracy, there is no democracy. The media must be given the free hand to operate. Yes, we agreed there is money to be paid, but we must discuss better ways out of the issue, ” Isiguzo added.

A management staff of a Lagos-based radio station, Charles Ideho, while giving a vivid expression of the economic challenges the radio stations face, said there was a week they spent N8 million on diesel before spending N13 million to get Solar energy that is complementing their operations.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected them and that the government should give them palliatives to save the companies from collapse.

“If the broadcast stations are closed because we need to pay N5 million to the federal government, pay the state government and the local governments, it is still the Nigerian economy that will be hurt.

“As it is now, it is difficult for the radio stations to breathe, ” he said.

The editor – in-chief of LEADERSHIP Newspaper, Azubuike Ishiekwene, said even though NBC needs money from the licences to run its operations, the commission should show a human face.

“Without the payment, NBC may not get money to function or run its operations but Nigeria must take a leaf from Ghana, South Africa and others,” he said.

But despite the court action many of the affected stations moved to renew their licence fees in order to beat today’s deadline by NBC to revoke the broadcast licences of 53 stations over indebtedness to the regulatory commission.

Basically, a National Licence Fee for category A stations, which include Lagos, Kano, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, is N15 million per station, while category B stations, which are low-income states, pay N11,450,000.

Every five years, category A stations are expected to pay N15 million licence renewal fee, while category B stations are expected to pay N11,450,000 .

A top source in NBC who disclosed to LEADERSHIP said the licence renewal fee is paid by stations every five years, but some stations have an understanding with NBC to pay theirs annually.

On Friday, August 19, 2022, the NBC revoked the licences of the AIT/Ray Power FM (DAAR Communications Ltd), Silverbird TV Network and 50 other stations over indebtedness to the regulatory commission to the tune of over the N2.6 billion debts, a move that elicited angry reactions across the country.

In fact, director-general of the NBC, Malam Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, directed the commission’s state offices to liaise with security agencies to commence the enforcement of the operation within the next 24 hours.

Ilelah said the debt was between 2015 to 2021. However, 24 hours after issuing the deadline, NBC in a statement said the commission had extended the deadline to Wednesday, August 24 (today) following appeals from affected stations.

The DG said all affected broadcast stations that fail to defray their debts on or before August 23, 2022 (yesterday) should shut down by 12am today.

But professional media bodies sought understanding from NBC, asking it to rescind its decision on the 52 stations listed for shutdown and licence revocation.

The stakeholders urged NBC to rescind its decision, noting that its enforcement would lead to the proliferation of fake news and the loss of thousands of jobs in a country where jobs are scarce.

NBC Fines DSTV, TSTV, NTA, Trust TV N20m Over Documentary On Banditry

They said it is a known fact that media income had seriously nosedived as a result of the global impact of COVID-19 on the general economy which has had negative consequences on the income of television and radio stations.

Those who expressed their views on the issue include the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA).

However, the managing director, Anambra State government-owned broadcast station, Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), Mr Chido Obidiegwu said that his organisation had met the deadline given by the NBC to renew operational licences.

When contacted concerning the NBC deadline on renewal of operational licence to broadcast stations, Obidiegwu told LEADERSHIP, “All I can tell you is that we met the deadline”.

Meanwhile, when contacted about the development, the general manager of a privately-owned broadcast station based in the state, KPAKPANDO 101.9 FM station, Comrade Monic Okechukwu said its organisation was not affected by the NBC deadline.

Also, the Imo State Government said it had renewed the licence for the state broadcast station, Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC).

This was made known by the commissioner for Information and Strategy, Hon. Declan Emelumba while speaking with LEADERSHIP yesterday.

In Kwara State, the state government said it had paid the debt that the State Broadcasting Corporation (Radio Kwara) was owing the NBC.

The special adviser on Political Communication to the state governor, Alh Bashir Adigun disclosed this during a telephone interview with LEADERSHIP in Ilorin, the state capital yesterday.

In Borno State, the commissioner for Information, Culture and Home Affairs, Babakura Abba-Jato said the state’s officials met on Tuesday with NBC officials where every outstanding issue was discussed.

Abba-Jato further said that the state government was not owing the NBC as it had paid some money last year except for a few outstanding issues.

Also speaking, a senior staff of Borno Radio and Television (BRTV) who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the state through the Commissioner of information had last year paid the sum of N34.3m to the NBC and that the commissioner visited Abuja to sort out any other issue concerning the Corporation.

The acting general manager, Bridge Radio, Asana, Mr Gospel Amaliamifeobu, said NBC should be magnanimous by allowing the defaulting stations to do the needful by renewing their licences.

He lamented the fact that there was no palliative from the government to cushion the effect of insecurity and the economic hardship in the country.

“I am not comfortable with the position of NBC. It will not augur well for the industry. However, whoever is in business should do the needful by paying before the deadline. NBC was fair enough because there must have been a warning.”

Similarly, the chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Comrade Mike Ikeogwu, Delta State, said while not supporting media houses to default, the NBC to temper justice with mercy and open another window for them to pay up.

While warning media houses not to wait until NBC clamps down on them, especially carrying over to NBC how they owe workers for months/years without paying salaries, he said the effect will be monumental if broadcast stations are shut down leading to throwing workers into the labour market.

In Rivers State, senior staff of affected stations, who spoke to LEADERSHIP, could not ascertain if their stations met the NBC deadline or not. However, such could not be said about the Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation (RSBC) owned by the Rivers State government.

A senior staffer at the corporation told LEADERSHIP it will be difficult for the station to meet up with the NBC deadline.

In Cross River State, the general manager of the Cross River State Broadcasting Corporation (CRBC), Mr. Moritz Inok declined to make comments on the issue when speaking with LEADERSHIP correspondent in Calabar.

“I do not want to comment on the issue; we have been working round the clock to ensure that the issue is resolved,” Inok said.

When contacted, the management of the Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation (OGBC) on Tuesday said that the two stations in the state are not owing the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation.

In Niger State, the commissioner of Information and Strategy, Dr Emmanuel Musa, asked for an extension of the deadline and assured that the payment will be made to the Commission.


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