The Chairman of the Board of the National Broadcasting Commission, Alhaji Ikra Aliyu Bilbis, has described the 6th National Broadcasting Code as an illegality perpetrated by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and acting Director-General of the Commission, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba.
The Chairman made this known at a press briefing on Thursday in Abuja.
According to Bilbis, the actions of Mohammed and Idachaba amounted to usurpation of the powers of the Commission.
The Chairman said Mohammed went beyond the schedule of his legal responsibility by amending the code in a manner that threatens to destroy investments and lead to loss of jobs.
He stated previous Ministers never interfered with the review of the code as the NBC Act empowers the Commission to regulate industry practice standards, not the Information Minister.
He added that the process of the code review, which holds every four years, is marked by the participation of former Directors-General, retired directors and staff of the Commission, broadcasting organisations and media scholars.
Bilbis noted that the amendment was at the instance of members of the Federal Executive Council, who wanted the NBC strengthened to ensure it could prevent a repeat of the divisive broadcasts recorded before, during and after the 2019 elections.
The suggestion was of the FEC members was accepted by President Muhammadu Buhari, who gave a go-ahead for the review, which Bilbis said was misunderstood by Mohammed.
He said: “Instead of studying and following the law, relevant rules and regulations, and direct the appropriate authorities as stipulated by the law to act on, he erroneously embarked on the review alone.
“The Minister has constantly dropped the name of President Muhammadu Buhari as having approved his own version of the code review.
“The NBC Code is a regulatory framework put together jointly by stakeholders to guide their operations in the industry.
“It is therefore not a unilateral government instrument and is already covered by law, hence not requiring any further presidential approval.
“This might be the reason why till date the Minister cannot show us a copy of the Presidential approval.”
Bilbis declared that Mohammed’s version of the NBC Code falls short of basic regulation-making and standards as it is marked by indifference to stakeholder inclusiveness.
Bilbis described as false the claim of the NBC acting Director-General that the Board endorsed the Code prior to its presentation in Lagos, an event he said the Board was neither informed of nor represented at.
Following public criticism of the review, Bilbis said the Board called for stakeholder perspectives, but the move was thwarted by Idachaba, who said the did not endorse it.
He said: “There are very serious and disturbing amendments, which have been unilaterally carried out by the Minister.
“This has attracted very critical comments, with threats of litigation from concerned organisations and individuals.”
Bilbis explained that the Board was in agreement with the reasons for which many stakeholders are opposed to the code.
Such stakeholders, he said, include Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, activists, legal practitioners, broadcasters, investors, content creators, copyright experts and professional organisations.