A former Director-General of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Mr. Tonnie Iredia, has accused the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, of hijacking the duties of the director-general of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
Iredia added that as a politician, Mohammed cannot regulate broadcasting
Speaking during a live television programme yesterday, the former NTA DG faulted Mohammed’s involvement in the amendment of the Code of the NBC on Tuesday.
The controversial code, which increased fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million, is facing nationwide opposition.
Many Nigerians, including Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who described it as “economic sabotage,” said it targets press freedom.
Iredia, who is a professor of broadcast management and media law, said the minister has hijacked the duties of the director-general of the NBC.
He said: “Everybody expects a broadcasting commission to be an autonomous body that has no place in politics. If you listen to the news, who has been speaking? The minister of Information! Is he the director-general of the NBC?
“When the minister is speaking, there is no way broadcasters can see that the regulator is speaking. He is not a regulator.
“He should leave the broadcasters in the NBC to do their professional duty. The law gives him the right to supervise but not to take over the job.
“The moment the minister is speaking, no matter how well-intentioned he may be, the people become suspicious because he belongs to a political divide and whatever he says is likely to be used against the opposition and I think this is a natural thing.”
Iredia accused the NBC of shutting out stakeholders in the broadcast industry while drafting the new code.
“For the first time in the history of broadcasting in this country, the code was not done the way it used to be done,” he said.
“This time around, the NBC just rolled out a number of things that it felt should be in the code and did not hold consultations with the stakeholders like the previous managers of the system did where you first of all hold consultation and everybody will look at it.
“There will be a document (which) you will bring it out at the tail end, there will still be another kind of peer review and all kinds of things,” he said.
He added that the NBC code, which was supposed to be a professional guide and masterpiece that promotes professional excellence in broadcasting is now “filled with sanctions and what you will do and not do.”