SERAP Sues Buhari, NBC Over Threat To Shut Broadcast Stations
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) over the threat to shut down some broadcast stations in the country.
Joined in the suit as Defendant is Mr Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture.
The NBC had last week reportedly sanctioned 25 broadcast stations and issued ‘final warnings’ to 16 others for allegedly violating provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code during the February 25, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
But in the suit number FHC/L/CS/469/2023 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Lagos, SERAP is asking the court to determine “whether the broadcasting code used by the NBC to sanction some broadcast stations and threaten to shut down others is not in inconsistent and incompatible with freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.”
SERAP is asking the court for “a declaration that the sanctioning of some broadcast stations and threat by the NBC to revoke the licences and shut down other stations for their lawful coverage of the general elections is unconstitutional and unlawful, as it violates freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.”
SERAP is seeking “an order of interim injunction restraining President Buhari, the NBC and Mr Mohammed from threatening and sanctioning broadcast stations in the country simply for carrying out their constitutional duties, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously in this suit.”
In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “It is a travesty of justice to punish and threaten broadcast stations seeking to promote election integrity and citizens’ engagement and participation, while allowing perpetrators of electoral violence and grave human rights violations escape accountability for their alleged crimes.”
According to SERAP, “Rather than promptly investigating allegations of election-related violence and other infractions of the Electoral Act and the Nigerian Constitution, and going after suspected perpetrators, the Nigerian government is scapegoating the media by targeting and punishing broadcast stations.”
SERAP is also arguing that, “the use of NBC Act and Code in this case would open the door to arbitrariness and fundamentally restrict freedom of expression that is an integral part of the public order protected by the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Ms Adelanke Aremo, and Ms Valentina Adegoke, read in part: “The media plays an essential role as a vehicle or instrument for the exercise of freedom of expression and information in a democratic society.
“The NBC legislation and codes do not confer unfettered discretion for the restriction of freedom of expression and media freedom on those charged with their implementation.
“The sanctioning of some broadcast stations and threat by the NBC to revoke the licences of others and shut them down is neither necessary nor proportionate, as it would unduly intrude upon Nigerians’ right to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom.
“The use of vague and undefined phrases such as ‘unpatriotic individuals’ ‘subversive, hateful, and inciting utterances, particularly post-election’, as grounds to sanction and threaten to broadcast stations is inconsistent and incompatible with human rights requirements.
“The Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties impose legal obligations on the Nigerian government to refrain from imposing restrictions which are not consistent with human rights requirements, including on discussion of political and election-related issues.
“It is also inconsistent with constitutional and international human rights requirements to sanction and threaten broadcast stations solely for their coverage of the issues around the general elections on the basis of vague phrases such as ‘unguarded statements’, and ‘negative conversations’ used by the NBC.
“The sanction and threat also represent a serious hindrance to the exercise of journalism, media diversity and independence, media freedom, and participation.
“Media coverage of the general elections and post-election matters, and media freedom are closely connected, as access to information is an essential requirement for the realization of the rights to freedom of expression and participation.
“Similarly, the phrases used by the NBC lack sufficient clarity and can be arbitrarily or discriminatorily applied and enforced.
“The sanction, ‘last warning’ and threat by the NBC would seem not to meet the strict requirements of the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations. In particular, it is unclear the scope or object of what these wordings seek to prohibit.
“Under the constitutional and international requirement of legality, it is not enough that restrictions on freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom are formally stated in press releases and regulations.
“The requirement of legality also serves to define the scope of legal discretion conferred on implementing authorities in order to provide adequate protection against arbitrary implementation.”
SERAP is therefore asking the court for the following reliefs:
A DECLARATION that the use of the NBC broadcasting code to sanction some broadcast stations and threaten to revoke the licences of others and shut them down for covering the general elections is a violation of the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.
A DECLARATION that the sanction of some broadcast stations and threat to revoke the licences of others and shut them down for simply carrying out their legitimate duties of covering the general elections is a violation of the right to fair hearing as provided for under the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) and human rights treaties which Nigeria has ratified.
A DECLARATION that the arbitrary action by NBC to sanction some broadcast stations and threaten to revoke the licences of others and shut them down for covering the general elections is a violation of section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.
AN ORDER compelling President Buhari to direct the NBC and Mohammed to withdraw the sanction and threat against broadcast stations and to comply with the provisions of section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.
AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining President Buhari, the NBC, and Muhammed whether jointly or severally or any other authority, person or group of persons from unilaterally sanctioning and threatening to revoke the licences of any broadcast stations and shutting down the stations on the grounds of covering the 2023 general elections.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
We’ll Expand Socio-Economic Opportunities For All Rivers People -Fubara ……As Wike Bows Out
Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has declared his administration’s resolve to expand the existing socio-economic opportunities in order to engender prosperity for all Rivers people.
Fubara made this declaration on Monday at the General Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Elekahia, venue of his swearing-in as the sixth democratically elected governor of Rivers State.
Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Simeon Amadi, administered the oath of office on the new governor and his deputy, Prof. Ngozi Odu.
Thereafter, the former governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, handed over the flag of Rivers State and handover notes to his successor.
Fubara, in his inaugural address titled “Together, Let’s Consolidate the New Rivers State”, noted the poor state of the national economy, but promised that his administration would take measures to diversify Rivers economy and insulate it so that it can grow.
He also assured of promoting the climate of ease of doing business in the State to attract direct foreign investment capable of empowering Rivers people.
“The primary responsibility of a new government is to do its best to advance the security and well-being of the State and its citizens.
“Therefore, as we undertake our responsibilities, we promise to stay the course, commit to cooperative governance and expand opportunities for everyone. The wishes of our people for a happy life are our mission in politics.
“We will prioritise the well-being of the State and citizens with a renewed focus on economic growth, people-centred projects and social services”, he said.
He said further that, “We will improve the ease of doing business and sustain a congenial fiscal regime to attract local and foreign direct investments to stimulate greater economic activities, create wealth and improve citizens’ livelihoods.
“We will adopt a re-industrialization policy master plan and partner with the private sector to revive or establish viable industries to create jobs and empower our people.
“We will also support the growth of small businesses and encourage commercial agriculture to achieve food security, industrialization and improved living standards for citizens.”
Fubara added that his administration is already building on the successes of his predecessor and will construct more projects including the Port Harcourt ring road.
According to him, there shall be healthy partnership with private investors to provide integrated inter-modular public transportation system in the State.
“We witnessed unprecedented growth in infrastructure in the last eight years, but there’s still more to do.
“We will follow our leader’s footsteps to invest in capital projects, including roads, bridges, electricity supply to our rural areas, and social housing.
“We will, therefore, partner with the private sector to develop an integrated multimodal public transportation system to advance mass mobility and access to socio-economic opportunities across the state.
“We will also construct the Port Harcourt Ring Road to enhance the mobility of goods and services across the State”.
Fubara said the challenges in the health sector like inadequate manpower and corruption would be addressed to achieve optimal performance.
In the education sector, he promised to provide smart classrooms for students to prepare for global competition, empower the youths with skills to become economically active while being connected to small and medium scale business opportunities.
He said, “We care about our youth. We know they need jobs, opportunities, empowerment and the freedom to build sound, promising futures. We will not abandon our youth to their fate. We will continue prioritizing education at all levels and empower our youth with the relevant skills and opportunities to become economically active, productive and prosperous.
“We believe in the job creation capacity of small and medium enterprises. And so, we shall facilitate targeted access to low-interest funds for youth entrepreneurs to start or improve their businesses, earn decent incomes and generate employment for themselves and others.”
The governor particularly acknowledged the achievements of his predecessor in the health sector saying, “We are also proud of the state’s achievements in the healthcare sector, particularly the construction of new primary healthcare centres, the Mother and Child Hospital, the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, the Dr. Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases Diagnostic and Treatment Centre and the contributory Healthcare Insurance Law.
“With what is on the ground, it is evident that the primary challenges with our healthcare system are more with inadequate manpower, corruption, indiscipline and ineffective management”.
Fubara gave a firm assurance by saying: “I assure you that apart from completing all ongoing healthcare infrastructure projects, we will deal with all identified challenges and ensure that the healthcare system functions optimally to deliver affordable and efficient healthcare to citizens.
“We are equally proud of the State’s unprecedented educational advancement, especially in the last four years. Our public schools at all levels, irrespective of location, are some of the lovely and best-resourced in the country.”
According to him, his administration will consolidate on the progress made so far by “introducing smart schools and classrooms across the State to empower our children with world-class learning experiences and make Rivers State a knowledge hub.”
Fubara vowed to be hard on crime and criminality in the State saying, “We will be hard on crime and criminality. We will swiftly and firmly deal with anyone, regardless of status or position, rich or poor, who breaks our laws or dares to violate our environment, peace and security”.
The governor thanked civil servants for their support and promised regular payment of salary, gratuity, more training, promotion for them and housing for low income earners.
Describing the civil servants as members of his constituency, he said, “To our civil servants, I thank all of you for your invaluable contributions to the state’s progress over the years.
“We appreciate your indispensability and promise to meet all our obligations to you, including regular payment of wages, pensions, gratuity, training and promotions. All we ask is your continued patriotism, dedication, and enthusiasm in the execution of your official duties”.
He further promised to govern Rivers people with the fear of God, cognizance of the fact that Rivers is a Christian state.
He also assured the church and spiritual leaders of his administration robust partnership to enhance the moral and spiritual wellbeing of Rivers people.
“Rivers State is a Christian State, and God is our foundation. We shall govern with the fear of God and stay strong to our Christian values of trust, faith, love, care and sacrifice.”
“We shall deepen the inseparable ties between the Church and the State government for the benefit of our people. We assure the Christian Association of Nigeria and other spiritual leaders of our sincere friendship, support and solidarity.
“We will continue to support and work with the Church to defend our faith, advance our values and enhance our people’s moral and spiritual well-being”, he assured.
At the Government House, Port Harcourt, the governor hung the official portraits of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his own and that of his predecessor, Wike.
… Appoints Nwaeke HoS, Ideozu Acountant General
The Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has approved two new strategic appointments in the state Civil Service.
In the latest development, the governor has approved the appointment of the most senior civil servant and permanent secretary, Dr. George Nwaeke as Head of Service, Rivers State.
He also approved the appointment of Dr Uche Ideozu as the new Accountant General of Rivers State.
A statement signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communications in Rivers State, Ibiwari Clapton-Ogolo, Esq, said that the appointments take immediate effect.
The two fresh appointments bring to six the number of appointments already made by the governor since assuming duties on Monday, May 29.
The first set of appointments was the nomination of four former commissioners under Governor Nyesom Wike as commissioner-designates.
The names are Prof Zaccheaus Adangor, Dr Dakorima George-Kelly, Isaac Kamalu, and Prof Prince Chinedu Mmom.
While Adangor was attorney general and commissioner for justice, George-Kelly was works commissioner, Kamalu was finance commissioner, and Mmom was education commissioner.
Fuel Scarcity: Tinubu Resumes Work, Meet With Emefiele, Kyari
President Bola Tinubu yesterday officially resumed work at the Presidential Villa, Abuja where he met with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele and the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Mr. Mele Kyari.
This was the first official assignment by the President after his inauguration as the 16th President of the country at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on Monday.
The President arrived at the forecourt of the State House at about 2:30 pm through the quarter guard gate, which is his official entrance gate and was received by the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, the Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and the outgoing Director of Protocol, DOP.
Others who received him were Emefiele, Kyari and a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. James Faleke, among others.
The President went straight to his office with Emefiele, Kyari, Gbajabiamila, Faleke and others.
Although the agenda of the meeting was not made public, it may not be unconnected with the removal of fuel subsidy and the attendant fuel scarcity.
It is expected that the issue of unification of foreign exchange, recent Naira redesign, among others will also be discussed.
Recall that President Tinubu had during his inaugural speech announced that the subsidy has been removed and this immediately made filling stations to shut down operations across the country.