The lawyer says only the court of law has the mandate to issue fines.
A human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, has asked a Federal High Court in Lagos to set aside the N5 million penalty recently imposed by the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) as fine for hate speech on broadcasters.
One of the most infamous sections of the controversial sixth edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code (NBC) was the hike of fines for hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million.
The latest code edition was recently signed despite a wave of criticism from the public who noted that it’s an attempt to further trample on press freedom in the country, an allegation that has consistently trailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
The fine was used for the first time last week when the NBC accused Nigeria Info 99.3FM, a Lagos-based radio station, of providing a platform for the promotion of unverifiable and inciting views that could encourage or incite to crime, and lead to public disorder.
In his motion filed on Monday, August 17, 2020, Effiong challenged NBC’s action as a breach of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Section 39 of the Constitution.
The lawyer noted that administrative agencies have no power to impose fines and that it amounts to a breach of fair hearing for agencies like NBC to impose such on broadcasters.
He said broadcasters in Nigeria as well as their guests are entitled to a fair trial before a court of competent jurisdiction before they can be fined or punished with other penalties over comments made.
The respondents to the suit are listed as the NBC, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Mohammed has been the major influence pushing the new code and has been accused by the NBC board of acting alone in the signing of the code.
NBC board chairman, Ikra Bilbis, said last week Mohammed has failed to show the approval of the new amendment by President Buhari as the minister has claimed.
“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.
Mohammed has insisted that clamping down harshly on the promotion of divisive conduct is the most effective way of keeping the country united.