Chairman, Board of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Alhaji Ikra Aliyu Bilbis, has stated that the commission needs to know why Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, ignored the Board in the process leading to review of the recently released national broadcasting code.
Bilbis, a former minister of state for information, stated this in Abuja on Thursday while responding to questions at a press conference addressed by the Board on the 6th NBC Code, which it described as an illegality.
Responding to a question on the relationship between the Board and Moahmmed in the run-in to the code amendment, Bilbis said he discussed with Mohammed many times.
“I personally met the minister many times and we discussed so many things.
I believe that as a former minister in the same office, we have something we can advise him on. So, the commission needs to know why he cut off the Board. We have written to him,” he said.
At the press conference, members of the Board said the Code unveiled by the minister is of no effect, as the NBC Code had been finalised and presented in Kano last year. They branded the one presented by the minister as his own version, saying it has no legal force to regulate the industry.
Bilbis said aside from the board, the minister and a few loyalists excluded relevant stakeholders from the amendment process, which he said yielded dangerous provisions that could damage the industry. One of the most vexatious provisions in the code is the one prescribing a N5million fine for hate speech or fake news. The provision looks like it has claimed its first victim in Nigeria Info FM, which has been fined for a broadcast deemed inciting.
Many commentators have branded the provision anti-democratic and even illegal.
Former Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Professor Tony Iredia, described the provision as dangerous, as it easily lends itself to abuse. Iredia also accused the minister of teleguiding the NBC running the commission, something that should be Idachaba’s job.
A former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nimi Walson-Jack, described the hate speech/fake news provision in the code as illegal.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Walson-Jack argued that there is no offence known as hate speech or fake news to the laws of the country, saying the NBC cannot create either the offence or crime of fake news or hate speech. He similarly argued that there is no provision for payment of financial penalties in the NBC Act.
“The power to impose a financial penalty can only be given to the NBC by the law. The NBC cannot give itself the power to create offences and penalties. That power must be specifically conferred on the NBC, which the NBC Act has not,” argued Walson-Jack.
He stated that the only thing financial in nature in the NBC Act is the provision empowering the commission to prescribe fee payable by licenses.