The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has revoked the licences of the Africa Independent Television (AIT), Silverbird Television (STV) and 50 other television stations for an alleged refusal to renew them.
The commission's director-general, Malam Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, announced this on Friday at a press conference in Abuja.
He said the affected stations owed up to N2.6 billion.
According to him, in May 2022, the commission published in the national dailies names of stations that were yet to renew their licences and granted the stations two weeks to pay their debts or get their licences revoked, frequencies withdrawn and reassigned to others who would be ready to abide by the requirements.
He said that three months after the publication, some stations were yet to pay their outstanding debts, contravention of the commission’s act, CAP N11, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, particularly section 10(a) of the third schedule of the Act.
Announcing the revocation of the licences, Ilelah instructed that they shut down their operations within 24 hours.
He also called on all stations that have not renewed their licences for the current duration to do so within 30 days to avoid sanctions.
He called on all Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and all other broadcast stations streaming online to register with the commission to avoid disconnection.
Ilelah said before revoking their licences, the commission had been talking with the affected stations for a year, but they refused to cooperate and pay.
He said that even if the affected stations paid their fees, they would have to pay a recommencement to be able to go back on the air.
The affected broadcast stations include are Silverbird TV (Silverbird Communications Co. Ltd) Network; Rhythm FM (Silverbird Communications Ltd); AIT/Ray Power FM (DAAR Communication Itd); Greetings FM (Greetings Media Ltd); Tao FM (Ovidi Communications Ltd); Zuma FM (Zuma FM Ltd); Crowther FM (Crowther Communications Ltd); We FM (Kings Broadcasting Ltd); Linksman International ltd; Bomay Broadcasting Services Ltd; MITV (Murhi International Group Ltd); Classic FM (Pinkt Nigeria Ltd); Classic FM (Pinkt Nigeria Ltd); Classic, TV (Pinkt Nigeria Ltd); Beat FM (Megalectrics LTD) and Cooper Communications Ltd.
Others are Splash FM (West Midlands Ltd); Rock City FM (Boot Communications Itd); Family FM (Kalaks Investments Nig. Ltd); Space FM (Creazioni Nig. Ltd); Radio Jeremi (Radio Jeremi ltd); FM Abuja; FM Lagos; FM Yenagoa; FM Port-Harcourt; FM Jos; Wave FM (South Atlantic Media Ltd); Kogi State Broadcasting Corporation; Kwara State Broadcasting Corporation; Niger State Broadcasting Corporation; Benin Network.
Also, FM Network, FM Okene; FM Suleja; FM Abuja; FM Benin; Breeze FM (Bays Water ltd); Vibes FM (Vibes Communication Ltd); Family Love FM (Multimesh Broadcasting Co. Ltd), Port Harcourt.
Also affected were Lagos DSB and State Broadcasting Corporations, Osun, Ogun, Ondo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River, Imo, Anambra, Borno, Yobe, Sokoto, Zamfara, Jigawa, Kaduna and Katsina.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has said NBC’s decision to revoke the licences of 52 broadcast stations nationwide over-indebtedness to the commission was ill-advised.
The national NUJ president, Chris Isuguzo, in a statement issued yesterday, said, “Although the director-general of the NBC, Malam Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, claimed that this development had no political motives, we insist that the action was ill-timed and reckless.
“It should be noted that this wholesale revocation of licences at this critical time of insecurity in the country appears to be a decision taken without careful prior deliberation, consultation or counsel.
“While we regret the inability of these broadcast stations to fulfil their obligations to NBC because of dwindling resources, we caution against such large scale clampdown of broadcast stations in disregard to security issues and the attendant consequences. We cannot afford the unpleasant outcome of such a media blackout at this time.
“We call on the NBC to exercise more restraint on this issue in consideration of national security and allow for more dialogue and consultation to find a better way of dealing with the situation.”
Reacting to the development, the country director of ActionAid Nigeria (AAN), Ms Ene Obi, told Daily Trust Saturday that NBC’s action was condemnable.
“This action of the federal government to revoke the licences of broadcast media organisations is unacceptable. This is a time media freedom should be at its peak as we head to the 2023 elections, but we are having this revocation.
“Even state broadcasting organisations are included. What is the federal government trying to do?
“We stand in solidarity with the media. This action is bringing so many questions, and we urge it to be reversed,” Obi said.
Also, the coordinator African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Dr Chido Onumah, said the development was condemnable.
“Coming a few months to general elections and in an economy that is in a parlous state, the action of the NBC is insensitive and portends grave danger for our democracy and social cohesion.
“It is sad when government and its agencies give the impression that there is a political purpose behind every decision they take.
“The issues can be resolved without this unnecessary assault on the media and the livelihoods of millions of Nigerians who depend on the media industry for survival,” Onumah said.
Responding to the revocation, the Board and Management of DAAR Communications Plc assured audiences of AIT and Raypower of its engagement with NBC towards resolving the issue.
But a managing partner at NexTier SPD, an international consulting outfit, Dr Ndu Nwokolo, said the question was whether Daar Communication owed the prescribed fees or not.
“If issues are contestable, did they approach the court?” He asked.
He ruled out any political motivation, saying broadcast stations across the political divide were also hammered.
Also reacting, a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said if Daar Communications and other broadcast stations paid the relevant fees cited by the commission and they were unduly penalised, they could challenge the action in court.
Also, the Kwara State Government has reacted to NBC's ban on the state broadcasting corporations.
Speaking with our correspondent yesterday, the state Commissioner for Information, Bode Towoju, explained that the development resulted from an accumulated debt of about 12 years before the coming of the present administration.
He said, “The money is N30,000,500. When we came on board, we paid N10m last year precisely on December 23, 2021, out of it and pleaded to be allowed to pay the rest partly. But NBC refused and insisted everything should be paid at once.
“With the present situation, we will raise a memo immediately on Monday and get it paid because we cannot pay during the weekend.”
Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria