Sanni Onogu, Abuja
Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, on Tuesday asked the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to stop abridging the right of Nigerians to free speech and arbitrary enforcement of laws it does not have.
Abaribe in a statement by his Media Adviser, Uchenna Awom, in Abuja, in reaction to the imposition of fine of N3million each on the African Independent Television (AIT), Channels Television and Arise Television over their reportage of the Lekki Tollgate shootings in Lagos by the NBC, said the commission, by that unfortunate action, breached Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution.
Section 39 of the Constitution, he pointed out, specifically made it clear that: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
The Minority Leader insisted that Section 39 (2) of the Constitution also states without equivocation that “Without prejudice to the generality of Subsection (1) of this Section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions”.
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Senator Abaribe therefore asked the NBC to rescind the decision to sanction the broadcast outfits on the basis that they violated the broadcasting code during the #EndSARS protest, particularly the alleged shooting of protesters at the Lekki tollgate.
“The sanction is illegal, provocative and clear case of willful abuse of power and a deliberate assault on the freedom of the press and of free speech.
“This time, as precarious as we know, calls for deep introspection and empathy for victims and their families.
“It is not a time for this kind of illegal actions by the agencies of government, as no law passed by the National Assembly nor the Constitution gives the NBC powers to impose such sanctions,” he said.
Senator Abaribe also advised the three broadcast stations to approach the court for the enforcement of their fundamental rights in the circumstance.