By Emmanuel Elebeke
The Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission, Dr. Modibbo Kawu says the suspension of DAAR Communications Plc, operators of AIT and Ray Power FM has nothing to do with his membership of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC.
Reacting to question, ‘‘if the suspension of DAAR Communications Plc was not partisan’’, from newsmen, shortly after announcing the suspension of the two broadcast stations, Kawu said the Commission was consistent in the pattern of monitoring every single broadcast station in Nigeria and as such could not have been partisan in taking such decision.
He maintained that even though the owner of the two stations, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi is a chieftain of the major opposition party, the PDP, he was not given the broadcast license on the partisan basis, maintaining that both stations violated the broadcasting code and must face the full wroth of the law.
‘‘We were very consistent in the pattern of monitoring every single radio and television station in Nigeria. When DAAR Communications was given a license, it was not given the license on the partisan basis, there are basic steps that you take and when you look at the license, there are obligations that you have to meet in terms of running a broadcast outfit.
‘‘It did not matter whether Raymond Dokpesi, owner of DAAR Communications Plc belongs to a political party. I joined the APC in October 2018, when I ran for Governorship position in my state. So it is not about the political party I belong to. I am a media professional and there are certain basic responsibilities that every broadcasting station owe to the Nigerian state.
‘‘We are not a censorship institution. We made it clear to all broadcast stations that the obligation they have is to have Nigeria first before you have broadcasting or any social institution. The way and manner they uphold the integrity of their country is what matters. I have been very deliberate in my regulatory responsibility because I know them very very well.’’
Possibility for Negotiation
On the possibility of negotiation with the management of DAAR Communications, the NBC DG answered in affirmative but added that there is certain condition the company must meet, one of which is to clear all the debts it owe the Commission.
‘‘There are certain basic steps that you take when your licenses are suspended. One is that DAAR Communications have to pay entirely all the money they own NBC, have to take certain other steps that would come up as we go along. It is not adversarial relationship; we are not targeting them as an institution,’’ he added.
On whether he was acting on the directive of the Presidency, Kawu said no, but pointed out that the action of NBC was in full compliance with the Nigerian Broadcasting Act and the Nigerian Broadcasting code.
‘‘The regulator and the licensee have a relationship which has been codified by the Nigerian laws and those laws are basic: the Nigerian Broadcasting Act and Nigerian broadcasting code. These are the platforms upon which every licensee must operate. There is no licensee no matter how big or small bigger than the regulator. What has happened is that over the years, DAAR Communications have behaved as if they cannot be regulated. And there is no institution in Nigeria that cannot be regulated, you either fall in obeying the law, walking down the narrow part or you are out of business. We are not going to have a horsiest state of nature in Nigeria, especially in broadcasting.’’
How to get back the licenses
How to get back the licenses, he said DAAR Communications must follow due process in retrieving the revoked licenses in line with the laid down rules, after clearing all the accrued debts.
‘‘There are always steps that ought to be taken to get back their license but they must walk down the straight and narrow part, must adhere to the terms of their license, must pay every single kobo they owe NBC because if they did not pay they ought not be on air.
‘‘Our position on license fee is that they are supposed to pay the license fee six months to the ending by signifying intension to pay. They have never taken the proper and right steps. We have held several meetings with them about their payment structure. They will not tell us how they are supposed to pay because the regulator makes the law in terms of that. The licensee cannot determine how he operates. It does not happen anywhere in the world because there are set down laws that you must follow to be a broadcaster in the Nigerian society.’’
On government stations that more
When asked what the NBC is doing on government broadcast stations that own more than what private media houses own Kawu said, the Commission would not use DAAR’s platform as bases upon which they will relate with other licensees but added that they have the same level of relationship with government owned media in terms of what they are owing the Commission.
‘‘Because somebody commits an offence and you say because other people are committing the same offence that person should not be sanctioned. We will not use that platform as bases upon which we will relate with other licensees.
‘‘In terms of government stations, we have the same level of relationship in terms of what they are owing us. We make amend on permanent basis. For us, the withdrawal of DAAR licenses is not a reactionary action.’’