The Nigerian Broadcasting Code being applied by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to impose sanctions and fines on erring broadcast stations has been declared a violation of the freedom of expression guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
The Court of the Economic Community of West African States sitting in Abuja gave the judgment in a suit filed by an NGO — Expression Now Human Rights Initiative (ENHRI) — against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The court held that the Nigerian government had failed in its responsibility to align its domestic legislation with its international obligations.
Persecondnews recalls that the applicant (ENHRI) had challenged the use of the NBC Code by the federal government to arbitrarily impose sanctions including fines on broadcast stations (radio and TV).
Justice Dupe Atoki, who presided by over the ECOWAS Court, said in enacting laws “member states must give due consideration to its alignment with international guarantees and obligations like those under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.”
Specifically, the applicant, represented by Mr Solomon Okedara, had challenged Articles 3 (1) (1), 3(1) 2), 15(2) (1) of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code (6th Edition) and Article 15 (5) (1) of the Amendments to the Nigeria Broadcasting Code (6th Edition) that they contravene the principle of freedom of expression.
The court noted that Article 3(1) (1) of the Code is “infinite in scope” and therefore violates the provisions of Article 9(1) and (2) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
According to the court, the provisions of Article 3(1) (2) of the Code are “too ambiguous and vague and can lead to curtailment of the right to freedom of expression.”
The court also ordered that the Nigerian government aligns Articles 3 (1) (1), 3(1) (2), 15(2) (1) of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code (6th Edition) and Article 15 (5) (1) of the Amendments to the Nigeria Broadcasting Code (6th Edition) in line with its obligations under Article 1 of the ACHPR and to cease giving effect to the provisions until it has aligned the same as ordered.
The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) had In May 2023, hailed the ruling of a Federal High Court, Abuja, granting an order of perpetual injunction restraining the National Broadcasting Commission from imposing fines on broadcast stations in the country.
Justice James Omotosho held that NBC not being a court of law, had no power to impose sanctions as punishment on broadcast stations.
Persecondnews recalls that most of the NBC fines and sanctions took place during the administration of ex-President Muhammadu Buhari.