The decision by the Federal High Court preventing the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) from fining broadcast stations “is ill-conceived and dead on arrival due to legal encumbrances.”
Mr. Nelson Orji, Director of the Legal Division, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, said as much.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday, he asserted that the contrary decision had already been made, stating that the NBC had the power to apply fines on deviant stations.
In April 2022, Justice N. E. Maha issued a decision in a case brought by seven organizations, including the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), against NBC.
The provision of Section 2(1)(n) of the NBC Act, 1992, was interpreted by Justice Maha in a Certified True Copy of the judgment that was made accessible to NAN.
“The Commission shall have the duties of determining and applying sanctions, including revocation of licenses of defaulting stations which fail to function in line with the broadcast code and in the public interest,” the article reads.
Justice Maha relied on the clause and stated, “The law is settled that a regulator could not have behaved unconstitutionally in the exercise of its powers by imposing fines under its enabling law.
The court ruled in Moses Ediru v. Federal Road Safety Commission and 20 ors (supra) that the FRSC Act grants the Commission the authority to impose and execute sanctions, and that this authority does not interfere with the court’s constitutionally guaranteed judicial authority.
In essence, the FRSC’s and the court’s authority do not overlap at any time.
The court in the Moses Ediru case went on to say, “In that case, the court further pointed out that FRSC and the court are complementary such that the FRSC powers of enforcement of sanctions is not a violation of the judicial powers of the court.”
Orji asserted that the same court of coordinating jurisdiction had made conflicting decisions regarding whether NBC could impose sanctions in relation to the two cases.
According to legal convention, “where there is a conflicting decision of courts of coordinate jurisdiction, a party can decide which of them to obey, and it will not be held in defiance of any court,” he stated.
It is important to highlight that Justice Maha’s decision is precedent-setting and is still in effect because no appeal court has overturned it.
NBC is still within its rights to continue imposing sanctions on broadcast organizations that break the NBC code in light of this.
The Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda petitioned Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, arguing that the NBC lacked the jurisdiction to penalize broadcast stations.