By Nwafor Sunday & Miftaudeen Raji

Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, has described the decision of the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, to revoke the licenses of 52 broadcast stations nationwide over indebtedness as a hasty decision, noting that it was ill advised.

Disclosing this in a statement signed by the National President, Chris Isiguzo, NUJ opined that NBC’s action was ill timed and reckless.

Recall that the Director General of the Commission, Malam Balarabe Ilelah, had said the 52 affected stations owed about N2.6 billion debt since 2015.

He noted that the Commission had in May 2022 published in the national dailies the names of stations that were yet to renew their licence and granted them two weeks to renew their licenses and pay their debt or get their licenses revoked, frequencies withdrawn and reassigned to others who were ready to abide by the necessary requirements.

Three months down the line, Balarabe said that some licences were yet to pay their outstanding debt in contravention of the Commission’s act CAP N11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, particularly section 10(a) of the third schedule of the Act.

In view of this NBC on Friday revoked their licenses and ordered the shutdown of the stations.

Reacting to this NUJ argued that: “The decision today by Industry Regulator , the National Broadcasting Commission – NBC, to revoke the licenses of 52 broadcast stations nationwide over indebtedness to the Commission was ill advised.

“The affected stations, according to NBC are said to owe arrears of licence fees amounting to N2.6 billon since 2015.

“Although the Director General of NBC, Malam Balarabe Shehu Ilelah claimed that this development had no political motives, yet we insist that the action was ill timed and reckless.

“It should be noted that this wholesale revocation of licences at this critical time of insecurity in the Country appears to be a decision taken without careful prior deliberation, consultation or counsel.

“While we regret the inability of these broadcast stations to fulfill their obligations to NBC, in-view of dwindling resources, we caution against such large scale clampdown of broadcast stations in disregard to security issues and the attendant consequence. We cannot afford the unpleasant outcome of such media blackout at this time.

“We call on NBC to exercise more restraint on this issue in consideration of national security and allow for more dialogue and consultation to find a better way of dealing with the situation.”

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