Since the inception of this government in 2015, the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has faced a lot of regulatory policies which has hindered media from its professionalism. This was done under the office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who believes there is the need to regulate the media on the kind of information they broadcast, as some of the information can be misleading.
He went further to say, “hate speech” or “propaganda” can lead to war especially in a country like Nigeria with multi-ethnic groups and religious differences.
Nevertheless, people have accused the government of making the media silent from reporting the happenings in the country. They see the government hiding the truth from its citizens which may likely turn against them.
In August 2013, the NBC slammed 5 million naira find on Nigeria Info FM over the statement of former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr Obadiah Mailafia on the activities and plans of Boko Haram alongside who is funding them.
Recently, the NBC slammed another 3 million naira find on Channel TV, Arise TV, and AIT each due to the report and coverage carried out by the media houses during the #EndSARS protest.
According to the Acting Director General of NBC, Mr Armstrong Idachaba, “Base on Section 5.6.9 of the NBC that the broadcasters shall be held liable for any breach of the code emanation from the use of materials from User Generated Source, the commission thereby, sanctioned Channel TV, Arise TV and AIT in line with the provision of the broadcasting code”.
A lot of people see this as a distraction, coming in when the country is tensed and all eyes on the government to see how they handle and manage the issues on ground. As a result, there were counter actions from Socio-Economic Right Accountability Project alongside over 200 concerned Nigerians, civil society organisations, and media groups on what right does the NBC has to sanction the media from covering live events happening the country.
This was contained in a statement made by the Deputy Director of SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare who said, “if the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed are allowed to continue to use these oppressive provisions against independent media in the guise of performing their statutory duties, the end result will be authoritarianism and denial of freedom and liberty”.
On the same issue, the President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, in an interview with Sunday Politics when asked if the media need further regulation, he said, “are we saying regulate or shutdown? What are we saying because we hear them using regulate, we hear the minister of information use the word ‘sanitize’. I just say to myself, what are we trying to do? The timing is suspicious”.
Generally, people believe that the social media was instrumental during political campaign. For instance, a Lagos State House of Assembly Member, Desmond Elliot who admitted that the social media was instrumental to his political campaign. But today the same media the government is trying to hijack and pocket.
The fear of many Nigerians is the fact that, time will come when all media house well no longer operate, and freedom of speech and information denied.