The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigeria’s regulatory agency for the broadcast sector, imposed sanctions on a privately-owned radio station, Freedom Radio, for allegedly violating its Code.
The NBC banned the station, based in Kano in North West Nigeria, from broadcasting between 17 and 22 hours daily. In addition, Freedom Radio was ordered to pay the sum of N200,000 (about US$1,600) within 48 hours.The station was also banned from broadcasting any political programme, even after the present restriction on its broadcasting period is rescinded. In addition, the station was asked to stop airing specific programmes including: “Special programme”; “Kowa ya tuna bara”; “Kowane Gauta”; and “Kowane Tsuntsu”.
The NBC, in a letter dated March 27 ,2006, signed by its Director General, Dr. Silas Babajiya Yisa, and addressed to the General Manager of the station, accused it of not complying with political broadcast regulations of the NBC Code as well as violating regulations on talk show programming.The NBC alleged that its monitoring reports of the station’s political and talk-show programmes “indicated that the maturity required of such programmes was still lacking with guests and callers making unguarded comments that violate provisions of the NBC Code always tending to overheat the polity.
“The Commission claimed that its action was informed by the inability of the anchor persons on the station to handle the banned programmes professionally over time, from 2005 to date.But the station denied the charges, saying the NBC’s action was intended to stifle dissenting opinions in the country. Mouktar Mohammed, a retired officer in the Nigerian Air Force and chairman of the board of directors of the station, said the NBC’s action was a political vendetta as the Commission did not give the station a fair hearing as required by the Nigerian Broadcasting Code before taking the decision to ban some of its political programmes as well as the other sanctions.He said Freedom Radio does not broadcast programmes capable of jeopardizing peace in the country, observing that the action of the NBC was a deliberate attempt to deprive the country of an a free and independent source of information under a supposedly democratic country. Freedom Radio was licensed in 2002 and commenced operation on December 1, 2003. It is owned by Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu, a member of the opposition political party the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD).
The station broadcasts in ten languages, including major Nigerian languages such as Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Kanuri, Ebira, Fufulde, Igala in addition to English, French and Arabic. Its signals are received in the northern Nigerian states of Kano , Jigawa, Katsina, Kaduna , Plateau and Bauchi.The NBC lifted the restrictions after about two weeks after their imposition.Farouk Dalhatu, executive director of the station disclosed that the station received a letter from the NBC asking it to resume normal broadcasting operations. Dalhatu added that though the station did not pay the N200,000 fine imposed on it by the NBC, it was calculating the losses it incurred as a result of the restrictions