Former vice President, Atiku Abubakar has reacted to the N5m fine issued against an Abuja radio station by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), for airing a live interview which featured former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Chief, Dr. Obadiah Mailaifa.
In his reaction Atiku accused the NBC of trying its best to exterminate the media under the watch of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The former vice President also joined Nigerians in condemning the new set of codes introduced by the NBC as well as the increase of the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million. Atiku alongside other prominent Nigerians like Wole Soyinka, described the move as an act of economic sabotage against Nigeria as well an attempt to stifle free speech and freedom of expression.
Reacting to the new NBC codes, Nigerians accused the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed of usurping the powers of the commission through the new codes. The board of the NBC also described the new amendments as illegal.
Atiku who added his voice to the uproar accused the Federal Government of stifling free speech while pretending to stop hate speech.
Excerpts from his statement read;
“It is globally acknowledged that one of the core functions of the mass media is to inform the society on all ranges of issues, not even to the exclusion of national security issues.
In many advanced democracies the world over, criminals on even wanted lists of law enforcement agencies have reached out to the media to express their opinions about the crimes that they had perpetrated and the media space was not denied to them.
“As a matter of fact, it seems somewhat contradictory that a country like ours, which is in the throes of national security skirmishes, would choose to shrink media access to critical information. It is not known if any society had won the war against terrorism by placing a restriction to access to information, in the way the NBC had done.”
Atiku Abubakar further condemned NBC’s N5 million fine against Nigeria Info FM for interviewing Dr. Mailaifa and asked the commission to reverse its decision and review the amended code.
“Whether or not what Dr. Mailafia said on the radio station was a false claim, it is outside of the objectives of a responsible regulatory framework to sanction a radio station for a comment an individual made, more so that the personality in question, Dr. Obadiah, had been quizzed and released by law enforcement agents.
“If for any reason the authorities are not satisfied with his explanations, they are at liberty to prosecute him in court, but not to make a scapegoat of the media platform that provides opportunities for citizens to ventilate their views.
“The claim by the management of NBC that ‘this (the penalty) is expected to serve as a deterrent to all other broadcast stations in Nigeria who are quick to provide platform for subversive rhetoric and expositions of spurious and unverifiable claims, to desist from such’, is a naked attempt to gag the media in Nigeria.”