A lawsuit has been filed against President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), and the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
The lawsuit challenges the NBC’s arbitrary use of the NBC Act and broadcasting code to sanction and threaten broadcast stations in Nigeria over their legitimate coverage of the 2023 general elections. SERAP is seeking a declaration that the NBC’s actions are unconstitutional and unlawful, as they violate freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom.
They are also requesting an order of interim injunction to prevent the NBC and other defendants from threatening and sanctioning broadcast stations. SERAP argues that punishing and threatening broadcast stations while allowing perpetrators of electoral violence to escape accountability for their crimes is a travesty of justice.
They further contend that the NBC Act and Code would restrict freedom of expression, which is protected by the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties. The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by their lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare, Ms. Adelanke Aremo, and Ms. Valentina Adegoke, who argue that the NBC legislation and codes do not confer unfettered discretion for the restriction of freedom of expression and media freedom.
SERAP is therefore asking the court for the following reliefs:
A DECLARATION that the use of the NBC broadcasting code to sanction some broadcast stations and threaten to revoke the licences of others and shut them down for covering the general elections is a violation of the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.
A DECLARATION that the sanction of some broadcast stations and threat to revoke the licences of others and shut them down for simply carrying out their legitimate duties of covering the general elections is a violation of the right to fair hearing as provided for under the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) and human rights treaties which Nigeria has ratified.
A DECLARATION that the arbitrary action by NBC to sanction some broadcast stations and threaten to revoke the licences of others and shut them down for covering the general elections is a violation of section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.
AN ORDER compelling President Buhari to direct the NBC and Mr Mohammed to withdraw the sanction and threat against broadcast stations and to comply with the provisions of section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.
AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining President Buhari, the NBC, and Mr Muhammed whether jointly or severally or any other authority, person or group of persons from unilaterally sanctioning and threatening to revoke the licences of any broadcast stations and shutting down the stations on the grounds of covering the 2023 general elections.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.