Hate speech fine hike: Lai Mohammed acted unilaterally – NBC board

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A dispute has ensued between the minister of information and culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) board over the former’s unilateral review of the 6th edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code and subsequent increase of fine for hate speech.

In the amended code, the ministry increased the fine for hate speech from N500, 000 to N5 million.

Speaking at a press conference in Abuja yesterday, chairman of the NBC board, Mr. Ikra Bilbis said Mohammed, “erroneously” amended the sixth edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

Recall that Mohammed while unveiling the reviewed code on August 4 in Lagos had said the amendments were necessitated by a presidential directive in the wake of the 2019 general elections.

He explained that the aim was to reposition the NBC for optimum performance.

It also announced tougher regulation of web broadcast among others.

Bilbis said the procedures for the review which were undertaken every four years involving staff of the NBC, former directors general, retired directors and all other relevant stakeholders in broadcasting was flouted.

He said the minister carry along the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), Independent Broadcast Association of Nigeria, private media outfits, broadcasters, notable media intellectuals, communication experts, digit team and the academia and singlehandedly carried out the review.

“Following the 2019 national elections, some members of the federal executive council made observations to the honourable minister of information at a FEC meeting about the divisive broadcasts engaged in by some broadcast media before, during and after the elections and the need to strengthen the operations of the NBC to avert such future occurrence.

“This noble observation of Mr. President was unfortunately misunderstood by the honourable minister of information.

“Instead of studying and following the law, relevant rules and regulations, and direct the appropriate authorities as stipulated by the law to act on, he erroneously embarked on the review alone.

 “As a board, we have received and taken our time to compile the responses of numerous stakeholders which include our Nobel laureate, activists, legal practitioners, broadcasters, investors, BON, content creators, copyright experts, and professional organizations. Most of them have adduced reasonable reasons against the proposed amendment.

“The NBC was set up by law and there is an Act that guides its operations. The honourable minister therefore cannot usurp the powers of the board as clearly stated in the act. Any such action by the honourable minister is illegal,” he said.

Bilbis therefore said the board would not recognise Mohammed’s version of the review.

“The board of the NBC wishes to make it quite clear that as long as it is in place, the only National Broadcasting Code that we recognise and which we shall work within the setting of operating policies and standards for the NBC is the 6th edition of the National Broadcasting Code which was launched in 2019 in Kano,” he said.

He also said the board was not informed about the launch of the new code.

“You may all recall that by 26th march 2020, (the day of the ‘Public Presentation’ in Lagos), the federal government had already announced a COVID-19 lockdown of Lagos, Ogun states and the FCT.

“It was therefore not a sincere effort to present such an important ‘review document’ which affects people’s investments and livelihoods under such a situation,” he said.

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