Femi Falana, foremost human rights lawyer has cautioned the Nigerian Broadcast commission against breaching constitutional provisions for shutting down media organisations.
He made the call in a statement to newsmen of Friday in the wake of the comissions seeming repression of press freedom in the country; the most recent being the shutting down of AIT and Ray Power.
Falana said, “The closure of media houses was a common phenomenon under the defunct military dictatorship in Nigeria.
“Since the restoration of civil rule 20 years ago, the dangerous trend has continued under succesive regimes either through military invasion of media houses or seizure of copies of newspapers.
“The NBC has just lifted the suspension of the licences of AIT and Raypower FM Radio stations in compliance with the ex parte order granted by the federal high court.
“It is hoped that the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force and State Srcurity Service will withdraw the armed goons mounting siege in the compound of the AIT/Raypower FM stations without any delay.
“As far as democratic forces in the country are concerned, the battle for press freedom has been won, once again. But it is a temporary victory which should not be celebrated without caution.
“Even under the most vicious military junta in Nigeria the courts ordered the reopening of the premises of the National Concord and Punch newspapers which were illegally closed down and occupied for months by armed troops. And the court orders were complied with by the military dictators.
“No doubt, the NBC has been empowered by the NBC Act to regulate all broadcasting organisations in the country.
“But in exercising its wide powers NBC has to be made to appreciate that it can no longer operate outside the ambit of the Constitution as was the case under military rule.
“Since fundamental rights including freedom of expression can no longer be curtailed or abrogated except in a manner permitted by law the NBC ought to realise that it cannot suspend licences of media houses, ban radio houses from playing records of artists or impose fines on alleged offenders without a court order.
“Therefore, the NBC cannot suo motu charge a media house with engaging in inciting, inflammatory or false broadcast, try the charge, convict and proceed to impose fines on the alleged offender.
“But as no freedom is absolute the NBC may be compelled by unforseen circumstances to suspend a media house in the public interest.
“For instance, a broadcasting house that decides to announce fake result of a general election may be temporarily shut down. Even in such an emergency situation the NBC will be required, as soon as possible thereafter, to apply for a court order to legitimise the closure.
“Alternatively, the NBC may request the Attorney-General to charge a media house for breaching the provisions of the NBC Act or penal statutes.
“Otherwise, the powers of the NBC may be arbitrarily exercised to the detriment of law and order in the society.”
Nyako vs EFCC: What happened in court on Wednesday
Maikyau made the oral application, on Wednesday, before Justice Okon Abang.
Nyako is the 1st defendant, his son, Sen. Abdulaziz Nyako, is the 2nd defendant while Zulkifik Abba is the 3rd defendant in the case.
The EFCC had charged the former governor, along with others, with N40 billion fraud.
They were arraigned on a 37-count charge bordering on money laundering allegedly perpetrated while Nyako was Adamawa governor.
Also arraigned along with them was Abubakar Aliyu and firms allegedly used to perpetrate the fraud which were joined as the 5th to the 9th defendants were Blue Opal Ltd, Pagoda Fortunes Ltd, Tower Assets Management Ltd and Crust Energy Ltd.
At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, had indicated his interest to close his case, having taken the evidence of Kobis Arithimni, who was Secretary to Adamawa State Government during Nyako’s administration, via video link in the last sitting.
DAILY POST reports that Justice Abang had, on Oct. 30, granted EFCC’s prayer to take Arithimni via video link.
Arithimni, who presently resides in the United Kingdom (UK), gave his testimony on Nov. 5.
However, Maikyau, who opposed to the closure of the case, on Wednesday, told the court that since the prosecution was unable to call all its witnesses on its list, the prosecution is under obligation, upon request by the defendant, to present such witnesses for purpose of cross examination by the defence.
“I stand to make the application on behalf of the 3rd defendant that the prosecution be directed by this honourable court to make available witnesses number 12, 26 and 27,” NAN quoted him as saying.
The lawyer, who noted that these witnesses were yet to be called by the EFCC, said the call became necessary in the spirit of fair hearing.
He acknowledged that though the prosecution is not bound to call all the witnesses listed by it, Maikyau said the 3rd defendant wanted to take advantage of the principle of law that has been made available to the defence which is only consistent to the principle of fair hearing.
Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Jacobs, who opposed the oral application, sought for more time to respond to the prayer and the earlier request by the 2nd defendant, Abdulaziz Nyako, to travel abroad.
Justice Abang adjourned until Nov. 19 to hear the prosecution’s reply.
AGF reveals implication of cancelling recruitment of 10,00 police constables
Malami, in a counter-affidavit filed by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata, SAN, opposed the suit instituted by the PSC to challenge the proprietary of the constables’ recruitment process by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
He told Justice Inyang Ekwo that cancelling the process which he said had gone through “significant stages,” as requested by the commission, would amount to an economic loss for the country.
Meanwhile, DAILY POST reports that the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, adjourned till Nov. 20 for the Police Service Commission (PSC) to respond to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF)’s counter-affidavit in a suit to stop the recruitment of 10, 000 police officers.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, who adjourned the case on the instance of the PSC, said the development was to allow its counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, to respond to the counter-affidavit.
Justice Ekwo, therefore, adjourned till Nov. 20 for the continuation of the matter.
PSC had taken the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to court over the recruitment of 10,000 constables.
Appeal Court affirms Udom Emmanuel as Akwa Ibom governor, fines Nsima Ekere
The tribunal had held that the petitioner could not lead credible evidence to prove his claims that the elections were not conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.
Delivering judgement in the Appeal filed by Mr Nsima Ekere, the Governorship Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) challenging the re-election of His Excellency, Mr Udom Emmanuel in the March 9, 2019 Gubernatorial Elections, the five-man panel gave her judgement on all the issues set out by parties in the appeal.
The Appellate Court first affirmed the decision of the tribunal rejecting series of documents filed by the Petitioner at the tribunal and held that the reasoning of the tribunal were unassailable,vciting that the documents which were all public documents could not be admissible if they were not properly brought as Certified True Copies of the public documents sought to be tendered.
Furthermore, on whether the tribunal was right in holding that the Petitioner/Appellant did not lead credible evidence to prove their case, the Court of Appeal affirmed the tribunal’s judgement and upheld the tribunal’s findings on evidence.
The Appellate Court noted that out of the results of twenty one (21) Local Government Areas challenged, the Petitioner did not lead any evidence to prove their case in eight (8) and led very scanty evidence which on cross examination were rendered very impotent in the other Local Governments where they made any effort to prove their claims. The court again held that the decision of the tribunal was unassailable on that score and therefore affirmed same.
The court also agreed with the Lower Tribunal for not relying on documents dumped on the tribunal by the Petitioners/Appellants without being linked by them to any of the issues raised and canvassed by the petitioner. The court thereupon affirmed the victory of His Excellency, Mr Udom Emmanuel as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State from the Gubernatorial elections held on March 9, 2019, and awarded the cost of 500,000 naira in favour of the First Respondent to be paid by the Appellants. The lead judgement was affirmed by all the other justices of the Court of Appeal.
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