Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Thursday gave approval for an out-of-court settlement of the dispute between the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and DAAR Communications Plc.
The approval was sequel to an oral application moved by Maliki Sylvanus, holding the brief for Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), counsel to Daar Communications Plc, owner of AIT and Ray Power FM.
At the resumed hearing yesterday Sylvanus informed the court that parties in the suit were engaged in talks with the aim of amicably settling the matter out of court.
He accordingly prayed the court for a date for parties to report settlement to the court.
Defence counsel in the matter did not raise any abjection to the application for out-of-court settlement.
Subsequently, Justice Ekwo adjourned until June 26 for report of settlement.
The NBC had on June 6 suspended the licence of DAAR Communications Plc, owners of African Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower “until further notice”.
The Director-General of NBC, Modibbo Kawu, who announced the shutdown, said the action was as a result of Daar Communications’ continued breach of broadcasting code.
Reacting to its suspension, the media outfit accordingly approached the court to declare NBC’s action as illegal, unlawful, ultra vires, null and void.
The plaintiff, represented by its founder, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, in a exparte motion, prayed the court to restrain the defendants from blocking and/or interfering with the air waves of Daar Communication Plc in any way and manner howsoever, in its broadcast and airing of news, views, documentaries, or any other legitimate broadcast material that is usually associated with television, radio or social media broadcast, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed along with the exparte application.
The plaintiff also prayed the court to restrain the defendants from invading or closing down the premises of Daar Communications, its operations or broadcast services, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed along with this application.
Alternatively, the plaintiff prayed for an order for maintenance of status quo ante bellum, as at May 30, 2019, pending the hearing and final determination of the motion on notice filed along with the exparte application.
Delivering ruling, trial judge, Justice Ekwo however ordered parties in the suit to maintain status quo ante bellum as at May 30, 2019, pending the hearing and determination of Daar Communications Plc’s suit challenging the closure of its broadcast stations.
He also ordered the NBC and other defendants in the suit to appear before the court on June 13, 2019 to show cause why they should not be stopped from interfering with the operations of Daar Communications Plc.
Following the suspension of the licence of DAAR Communications Plc., the President of the Nigerian Press Organisation ( NPO ) comprising the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Prince Nduka Obaigbena, had convened a meeting with all critical stakeholders in the sector.
The meeting which included the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria ( BON ), Nigerian Guild of Editors ( NGE) and Nigerian Union of Journalists ( NUJ), successfully proffered amicable solution to the issues in the interest of the country.
The stakeholders asked NBC to lift the suspension of the broadcast licence of DAAR Communications Plc, and also encouraged DAAR Communications to withdraw its case in court, against the NBC.