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Daar Communications takes FG to court over licence withdraw

By  Ise-Oluwa Ige
ABUJA — DAAR Communications Plc, owners of Ray Power 100.5 FM radio station and AIT, has requested a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to stop the Federal Government from actualising its plans to withdraw its network licence.
The network licence of DAAR Communication sought to be withdrawn allows it to maintain multiple terrestial stations in the country to transmit its radio and television programmes on network basis in the country.
The Federal Government granted it the licence more than 14 years ago.

In the originating summons lodged at the Registry of the Abuja Federal High Court, last Friday, by the Chambers of Chief Mike Ozekhome, the DAAR Communications also begged the court to issue a separate order setting aside a purported bid for fresh network licence held by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, between September 6 and December 12, 2009 on the account that it was flawed, overreaching, wrongful, oppressive, unconscionable, null and void.

Besides, it also begged the high court to order the National Broadcasting Commission to issue it forthwith a fresh network licence for radio and television broadcast upon payment of the appropriate fees in the event the court holds that it does not, at the moment, possess a valid network service.

The plaintiff media organisation said the court must move in its favour before the government carried out its threat of shutting down over 22 of its stations across Nigeria which would force thousands of its workers back into the labour market.

It also argued that the failure of the court to act fast would  deprive Nigerians of their constitutional rights to receive and impact ideas through its media while the investing public that have shares in it would be deprived of their means of livelihood.

Besides NBC, others named as defendants in the suit are the Ministry of Information and Communications and the Attorney-General of the Federation.

NBC was sued by DAAR because it is the Federal Government parastatal with the statutory responsibility of regulating and controlling the broadcasting industry in the country.

The Ministry of Information and Communications was sued because it has the statutory power of supervising and overseeing the activities of the NBC while the Attorney-General of the Federation was sued on behalf of the Federal Government, being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation.

In the originating process filed in court, Chief Mike Ozekhome on behalf of DAAR Communications formulated five fundamental cum statutory questions for the court to determine.

Should the questions be determined in his favour, he is asking for five declaratory and three injunctive reliefs including a declaration that having regard to the totality of the facts and the entire circumstances of the case, the plaintiff is entitled to be granted a fresh network licence for radio and television broadcast upon payment of the appropriate fees.

The background of the case before the court is that between 1995 till date, the Federal Government had allowed the DAAR Communications PLC to enjoy the services of network broadcasting on both radio and television across Nigeria.

That was after a lot of exchanges of correspondences between the plaintiff and the defendants on the request for and the grant of network licence by both parties.

But sometimes in September this year, the NBC issued a directive for fresh bid for broadcast networks in the country.
The Commission directed that only one network each would be allowed for radio and television in addition to those of NTA and FRCN.

The said release containing the directive was however silent on the existing network already being enjoyed by DAAR Communications through its radio and television arms.

The plaintiff though protested the directive of NBC to the Ministry of Information and Communication, the ministry however advised it to obtain the application form first before forwarding a formal complaint to it.

Based on the advice, DAAR Communications purchased the forms for N2million for radio and television network service and filed its complaints to the Communication Ministry.

The plaintiff, in its affidavit accompanying the writ said it went through a technical evaluation with other bidders and emerged successful alongside Silverbird Communications and Megaletrics.

It said that it bidded N720million for radio and N1.5 billion for television on the first day of the financial bid opening to beat Silverbirds’ N250million and Megaletric’s N200million for radio and Silverbird’s N300million for television.

The plaintiff said that NBC however rejected the bids on the ground that none of the parties met the reserved price set by the commission.

The plaintiff added that it believed that there was manipulation of the reserve price by NBC as evident from the progression of the price bided by Silverbird Communications of N1.5billion for radio and N3.5billion for television as against its N725 million for radio and N1.510billion for television.


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