On June 6, 2019, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigeria’s broadcast regulator, suspended indefinitely the broadcast license of Daar Communications PLC, owners of Africa Independent Television (AIT), RayPower FM radio and Faaji FM radio, for alleged failure to abide by the provisions of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code. Daar Communications is Nigeria’s first licensed private broadcast outfit and the largest private broadcasting network in the country.
Specifically, the Commission accused Daar Communications Plc of, among other offences, broadcasting a presidential elections documentary by the AIT, a matter pending before a tribunal; “unprofessional” conduct, failure to pay its license fees, and the use of “divisive and inciting contents from the social media.” The NBC alleged that Daar Communications broadcast “is patently partisan and one-sided and deliberately inciting and heating the polity.”
Announcing the suspension of Daar Communications’ broadcast licnese at a press briefing in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Is’haq Modibo Kawu, the NBC Director General, said: “Today the 6th of June, 2019, AIT/Rapower embarked on use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts, and media propaganda against the government and, the NBC for performing its statutory functions of regulating the broadcast industry in Nigeria.”
“Consequently, after several meetings with management of Daar Communications Plc and many letters of warning. The NBC, today 6th June, 2019 took a decision to suspend the licence of Daar Communications Plc for failure to abide by the Commission’s directives, the provisions of the NBC Act Cap N11”.
Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Founder and Chairman of Daar Communications Plc, had led a protest against a threat by the NBC to sanction the Daar Communications group for alleged infraction of the NBC Code in which the Commission requested Daar Communications to explain why it should not be sanctioned for broadcasting “inciting” and “unfair” contents. Chief Dokpesi denied that the station had violated any code of broadcasting as claimed by the NBC and alleged that the move to sanction the station was a ploy by the Government to gag the media and suppress free speech.
Mr. Kawu said the Commission drew its powers to suspend the Daar Communications from Section 10 of the Third Schedule of the NBC Act.
The sections, according to Mr. Kawu, gives the NBC the right to suspend a broadcast licence:
- “where in the opinion of the Commission the station has been used in a manner detrimental to national interest.
- “where there is willful or repeated failure to operate substantially as set forth in the licence.
- “where there is willful or repeated violation or willful or repeated failure to observe any provision of this Act or any rule or regulation of the Commission authorised by this Act or by a treaty ratified by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
- “where there is violation of or failure to observe any cease and desist order issued by the Commission;
- “where a provision of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code has been seriously breached.”
The NBC Director General said the Commission wrote three different letters to Daar Communications and had several meetings with its management but observed that “instead of making amends, the management of Daar Communications Plc resorted to the use of media propaganda against the regulator. Even the letters from the NBC were posted on social media platforms.”
Mr. Kawu further alleged that the Commission’s monitoring reports on AIT/Raypower indicate the use of divisive comments accredited to the segment of “Kakaaki”, tagged, “Kakaaki Social”, where inciting comments like “Nigeria is cursed”, “we declare independent state of Niger Delta”, “Nigeria irritates me”, “this country is gradually Islamizing” and other similar slogans are used without editorial control in breach of the Broadcasting Code.
He said the NBC was therefore constrained to issue Daar Communications a letter of warning dated May 27th, 2019.
The Commission, Mr. Kawu said, also observed from monitoring reports that AIT broadcast a documentary on the Presidential Election Tribunal, a pending election petition matter on May 22 and 23, 2019 without regard to the provisions of the Broadcasting Code.
He stressed that the suspension of the license of Daar Communications is “until further notice”.