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Court stops NBC from shutting down broadcast stations

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The Federal High Court in Lagos has stopped the President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Broadcasting Commission from revoking the licenses of 53 broadcast stations in the country, and shutting down the stations for allegedly failing to renew their licenses.

Justice Akintayo Aluko (Court 8) on Monday, granted an order of interim injunction following the hearing of an argument on motion exparte by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and the Nigerian Guild of Editors.

SERAP and the NGE had last week filed a lawsuit against Buhari and the NBC, asking the court for “a declaration that section 10(a) of the Third Schedule to the NBC Act used by the NBC to threaten to revoke the licenses of 53 broadcast stations and to shut down the stations is unconstitutional and unlawful, as it violates freedom of expression.”

In the suit, SERAP and the NGE had asked the court for “an order of interim injunction restraining Buhari and NBC, their agents from revoking the licenses of 53 broadcast stations in the country and shutting their down operations, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously in this suit.”

The suit is adjourned to September 8, 2022, for the hearing of the Motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction.

The suit followed the decision by the NBC to revoke the licenses of the 53 broadcast stations and shut down their operations within 24 hours over alleged N2.6 billion debt.

In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1582/2022, SERAP and the NGE are asking the court to determine “whether section 10(a) of the Third Schedule to the NBC Act used by the NBC to threaten revoke the licenses of 53 broadcast stations and shut them down is not in inconsistent with freedom of expression and access to information.”

SERAP and the the NGE are also seeking “a declaration that section 10(a) of the National Broadcasting Act used by the NBC to unilaterally revoke the licenses of the broadcast stations and shutdown the stations is a violation of the constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to fair hearing.”

The suit, read in part, “The provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties on freedom of expression indicate that this right can be exercised through any medium.”

“Effectively, these provisions recognize that every individual has the right to an equal opportunity to receive, seek and impart information through any communication medium without discrimination.”

“The use of the NBC Act and Code in this case would inadmissibly open the door to arbitrariness and would fundamentally restrict the freedom of expression that is an integral part of the public order protected the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“The media plays an essential role as a vehicle or instrument for the exercise of freedom of expression and information – in its individual and collective aspects – in a democratic society.”

“Indeed, the media has the task of distributing all varieties of information and opinion on matters of general interest.”

“The public has a right to receive and assess this information and opinion independently. Therefore, the