By Joan Nwagwu
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has urged the federal government to urgently review downwards the operating licences of media organisations in the country in response to the prevailing harsh economic situation.
This is contained in a statement issued by the NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the call comes as the NBC notified the management of 52 electronic media organisations in the country of its decision to withdraw their licences for their inability to pay their licence renewal.
NAN reports that NBC had also on Aug. 20, extended the period which all affected media houses should pay their outstanding debts before Aug. 23.
Wabba however, described the action by the NBC as a “slippery road to press emasculation’’.
“The most palpable reason for the failure of many of the media houses to pay for the renewal of their operating licenses could be easily found in the deteriorating economic conditions in Nigeria.
“This is understandable given the severe stress and strain that businesses in Nigeria have been subjected to owing to fallout of the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
“The ongoing disruption in global and domestic energy supply, the foreign exchange volatilities, and the associated hyper-inflation, ’’he said.
He said that many media houses just like most businesses in Nigeria suffered the double jeopardy of escalating business costs and plummeting revenues.
“To compound the situation is the epileptic supply of electricity with the national grid collapsing intermittently for the umpteenth time in recent months,’’he said.
He also said this was in addition to the soaring and scary rising energy costs which hit electronic media houses hardest given that they must always be on air whether it makes economic sense or not.
“There are salaries to pay, maintenance services, and sundry basic operating costs to keep the media houses running and serving their listening and viewing public.
“Amidst these operational suffocations, how does the NBC expect the media houses to generate the money to renew their operating licenses?
“Indeed, Nigeria’s media houses should be eulogized for resilience, and tenacity in the face of prevailing economic blizzards, ’’he said.
Wabba noted that the action of the NBC also smacks of insensitivity to the welfare of the staff of the media houses which operations were been shut down.
He said it was unthinkable that in the middle of “very traumatic economic realities’’, government would be thinking of flinging many Nigerians into the unemployment market.
He noted that this was not new, as recently the Nigeria Governors Forum had made a case for the mass sack of Nigerians in government employment.
“The unsolicited advice which had been robustly deflated by the NLC reveals a very embarrassing underbelly in the thinking of those commanding the reins of power in Nigeria today- crass insensitivity.
“ This is very sad and unfortunate,’ ’Wabba said.
He said that in defence of the media, democratic and economic rights of Nigerians, the Congress called on the NBC to rescind its decision to withdraw the operating licenses of the affected 52 media houses.