The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South), has asked the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to stop abridging the rights of Nigerians to free speech and refrain from arbitrary enforcement of rules against the Constitution.
Senator Abaribe in a statement by his Media Adviser, Uchenna Awom, on Tuesday, spoke against the backdrop of the imposition of fine of N3m each on AIT, Channels and Arise News stations over their reportage of the Lekki shooting in Lagos by the NBC.
The lawmaker said the commission by that unfortunate action ran foul of Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and as such must rescind that decision.
Section 39 he pointed out specifically made it clear that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”.
Continuing, the Minority Leader opined that Section 39 (2) also stated without equivocation that “Without prejudice to the generality if Subsection (1) of this Section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions”.
Senator Abaribe therefore asked the NBC to rescind the decision to sanction the aforementioned broadcast stations on the basis that they violated the broadcasting code during the #Endsars protest, particularly the alleged shooting of protesters in Lekki toll gate.
“The sanction is illegal, provocative and clear case of willful abuse of power and a deliberate assault on the freedom of the press and of free speech. This time as precarious as we know calls for deep introspection and empathy for victims and their families.
“It is not a time for this kind of illegal actions by the agencies of government, as no law passed by the National Assembly nor the Constitution gives the NBC powers to impose such sanctions”, he said.
Senator Abaribe nonetheless advised the three broadcast stations to approach the court for the enforcement of their fundamental rights in the circumstance.