“We Are Not A Conquered People”— Lawyer Files Case Against NBC, FG; Cites Breach In Freedom Of Speech

by on August 18, 2020

Nigerian lawyer Inibehe Effiong on Monday called out Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed and the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission NBC for actions which the lawyer deemed as a breach of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Section 39 of the Constitution.

Recall that The National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, recently attempted to fine a radio station, Nigerian Info 99.3FM, Lagos N5 million for allowing a former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mailafia Obadiah to use its platform to air views that NBC said “can cause unrest and disorder in the country”.

Obadiah had during an interview on the station’s programme “Morning Cross Fire” accused the government aiding the crisis in the Southern part of Kaduna.

Countering the NBC fine, The Socio-economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to restrain the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from threatening Nigerians with punishment if they “insult President, governors, senators other leaders.”

This is coming after the N5million (Five Million Naira) fine imposed on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM by the NBC, over a recent comment made by Obadiah Mailafia, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), regarding insecurity.

Mailafia had said, “Some of us also have our intelligence networks. I have met with some of the bandits; we have met with some of their high commanders – one or two who have repented – they have sat down with us not once, not twice.”

SERAP in a tweet, on Thursday said that speaking against leaders is a constitutional right and as such, hinted about dragging the NBC to court if it keeps suppressing opposing views.

The commission said, “We urge President Buhari to caution the National Broadcasting Commission to refrain from threatening Nigerians with punishment if they insult President, governors, senators other leaders. We’ll see in court if the NBC continues to undermine Nigerians’ human rights.”

SERAP called on the Federal Government to repeal all laws punishing Nigerians simply for exercising their human rights, and to ensure full respect for the human rights of everyone.

In a similar vein, Nigerian lawyer Inibehe Effiong said:

“On Monday, 17th August, 2020, I filed a fundamental rights suit against the NBC, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, and the FG at the Federal High Court in Lagos over the imposition of N5m on @NigeriainfoFM and the threat to sanction other broadcast stations in Nigeria.

“Imposition of a fine is a judicial act, which only a court of law can perform. The courts have held in many cases that administrative agencies have no power to impose fines, and that it amounts to a breach of fair hearing for agencies like the NBC to impose a sentence of fines.

“The actions of the NBC amounts to a breach of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Section 39 of the Constitution.

“ There is no law in Nigeria that has created or defined hate speech as a criminal offence. Therefore, the NBC cannot penalize stations for “hate speech”.

“Barring citizens from making “abusive” and “insulting” comments about the President, Governors and other public office holders is a flagrant violation of the right to free speech. “Abuse” or “insult” of public office holders cannot be criminalized in a democracy. It’s outrageous.

“I believe the judiciary is the only solace of the Nigerian people at this point against a regime that is determined to truncate our constitutional democracy and foist civilian dictatorship on the country. Lai Mohammed should not be allowed to destroy the fabric of our liberties.

“I’ve asked the court to set aside the fines imposed on radio and television stations in the country by the NBC. We’re not a conquered people. Those who came to power through the instrumentality of protests and free speech should not be allowed to turn Nigeria into a police state”.

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