The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Broadcasting Commission. Allegedly, Buahri and the NBC threatened to revoke the license of broadcast stations in the country. Furthermore, they also threatened to shut them down over their coverage of the 2023 general elections
The lawsuit also includes Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture as a defendant.
NBC last week sanctioned 25 broadcasters and issued 16 “final warnings” for violating provisions of the Nigerian Broadcasting Act during the February 25, 2023, presidential and National Assembly elections.
But in the suit number FHC/L/CS/469/2023 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Lagos, SERAP is asking the court to determine whether the broadcasting code used by NBC is inconsistent and incompatible with freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.
The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers: Kolawole Oluwadare, Ms Adelanke Aremo, and Ms Valentina Adegoke.
In the suit, SERAP is asking the court for –
“a declaration that the sanctioning of some broadcast stations and threat by the NBC to revoke the licences and shut down other stations for their lawful coverage of the general elections is unconstitutional and unlawful, as it violates freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.
SERAP is seeking –
“an order of interim injunction restraining President Buhari, NBC and Mr Mohammed from threatening and sanctioning broadcast stations in the country simply for carrying out their constitutional duties, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously in this suit.
In the suit, SERAP is arguing that;
“It is a travesty of justice to punish and threaten broadcast stations seeking to promote election integrity and citizens’ engagement and participation while allowing perpetrators of electoral violence and grave human rights violations escape accountability for their alleged crimes.
“Rather than promptly investigating allegations of election-related violence and other infractions of the Electoral Act and the Nigerian Constitution, and going after suspected perpetrators, the Nigerian government is scapegoating the media by targeting and punishing broadcast stations.
“The use of NBC Act and Code, in this case, would open the door to arbitrariness and fundamentally restrict freedom of expression that is an integral part of the public order protected by the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
cc: Punch Ng