Media Rights Group Seeks Clarification on Purported New Powers Granted NBC
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has asked the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) through an application made pursuant to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 to provide it with details of the independence reportedly granted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the commission in the exercise of its regulatory functions.
A statement released by the MRA quoted the NBC’s Director General, Mallam Balarabe Ilelah, as having announced at a media briefing in Abuja on February 9, 2023, that the president had approved the independence of the commission from any political interference in the exercise of its functions, particularly with respect to the issuance and withdrawal of broadcasting licences.
But the statement signed by the MRA’s Communications Officer, Idowu Adewale, said that the organisation in an FOI request addressed to the director general and endorsed by Mr. Monday Arunsi, a Legal Officer, has asked the NBC for further details on the nature and scope of the new independence granted it.
In particular, MRA asked for information on whether the power vested in the minister of information under Section 6 of the NBC Act to give the commission directives with regard to the exercise by the commission of its functions had been abolished and if so, whether there are plans to amend Section 6 of the Act accordingly.
The organisation also asked whether the NBC is now the final authority responsible for the issuance of broadcast licences as against the extant practice under Section 2(b) of the NBC Act which requires the commission to merely recommend applications through the minister of information to the president for the grant of radio and television licences.
In addition, it said, if the NBC is now vested with final authority to issue radio and television licences it wanted to know if there are plans to amend Section 2(b) of the NBC Act accordingly.
MRA also asked the NBC to provide it with information about other issues regarding the commission’s independence that have been affected by the president’s approval as well as other provisions of the NBC Act that are being considered for amendment as a result.
It asked the NBC to provide it with a copy of the communication from the president through which the approval of the independence of the NBC was conveyed to the Commission.
MRA said it hoped to receive the information from the NBC no later than the seven days response time stipulated in the FOI Act.