A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, gave an order of perpetual injunction restraining the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from imposing fines on broadcast stations in the country henceforth.

Justice James Omotosho, who gave the order in a judgment he delivered in a suit filed by the Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda also, set aside the N500,000 fines imposed on March 1, 2019, on each of the 45 broadcast stations.

Justice Omotosho held that the NBC, not being a court of law, had no power to impose sanctions as punishment on broadcast stations and further held that the NBC Code, which gives the commission the power to impose sanctions, is in conflict with Section 6 of the Constitution that vested judicial power in the court of law.

He asserted that the court would not remain silent and watch while a body imposed a fine arbitrarily without following the law, and that the commission had broken the law by sitting before the court and the judge on its own case while also acting as a complaint.

The judge concluded that the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, which gives administrative bodies like the NBC the authority to enforce its requirements, cannot grant the commission judicial authority to impose criminal sanctions or penalties like fines.

He also concurred that the commission lacked the authority to launch a criminal inquiry that would result in a criminal prosecution and the application of sanctions because it was not the Nigerian police.

According to the Judge, “This will go against the doctrine of separation of powers”, and held that what the doctrine sought to achieve was to prevent tyranny by concentrating too much powers in one organ.

Justice Omotosho said the action of the respondent qualifies as excessiveness as it had ascribed to itself the judicial and executive powers.

Justice Omotosho described NBC’s act as being ultra vires and held that the fines imposed by NBC as punishment for commission of various offences under its code were contrary to the law and hereby declared unconstitutional, null and void.

NBC had, on March 1, 2019, imposed the sum of N500,000 each on 45 broadcast stations in the country over alleged violation of its code.

However, the Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda sued the NBA in an originating motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1386/2021.

By gvoice

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