MRA sues NBC for refusing to disclose status of license fee payment by broadcasting stations in Nigeria

Lagos, Monday, September 19, 2022: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today announced that it has filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) complaint in the Federal High Court in Lagos against the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for its refusal to act on the request for information from the organization requesting details of license fee payments by broadcasting stations and platforms operating in Nigeria and the amount of indebtedness of each station owing the license fee.

MRA asks the Court to declare that NBC’s refusal to provide it with the requested information constitutes a violation of its right of access to information as well as a flagrant violation of the FOI law and to order the Commission to pay him N1 million exemplary and aggravated damages for unlawfully withholding information from him.

NBC and the Federation Attorney General are named as respondents in the action brought on behalf of MRA by free speech lawyer Mr. Alimi Adamu, along with Ms. Obioma Okonkwo, Mr. Monday Arunsi and Ms. Opeyemi Yakubu.

In an ex parte motion brought under Order 34, Rules 1, 3(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009 and Rules 1(3) and 20 of the FOI Act, MRA seeks leave from the court to seek a review of NBC’s action under the Freedom of Information Act and seek the following remedies:

A statement that NBC’s denial of access to MRA information it requested by letter dated August 22, 2022 constitutes a violation of the organization’s access rights to information established and guaranteed by the Section 1(1) and 4 of the Freedom of Information Act;

A statement that NBC’s failure and/or refusal to give MRA written notice that access to any or all of the information it has requested will not be granted with the reasons for the refusal and the section of the FOI Act on which the Commission relied to deny the organization access to the requested information constitutes a flagrant violation of section 4 (b) and 7 (1) of the FOI Act;

A declaration that by failing to give MRA access to all or part of the information requested in its letter of August 22, 2022, within the time limit provided for by law, the NBC is deemed to have refused to give MRA access to the requested information, pursuant to Section 7(4) of the Freedom of Information Act;

· An order requiring NBC to disclose or make available to the MRA a list of all broadcasting stations and platforms operating in Nigeria under license from the Commission; the amount that each of them is required to pay for license fees; the payment status of each of the stations from the date of its license until August 22, 2022; for licensed broadcasting stations that are owed, the amount of the debt and the period covered by the amount; and for broadcasting companies owned by various state governments on the list of broadcasting stations whose broadcast licenses have been revoked by the Commission, as announced by its chief executive at its August 19 press conference 2022, a breakdown of the amount of indebtedness by each of the radio stations and each of the television stations owned by the respective public broadcasting companies.

· An order directing the CCNB to file the information requested by MRA with the court pending the decision on the lawsuit;

An order requiring the CCNB to pay MRA the sum of NOT$1 million in exemplary and aggravated damages for flagrant and unlawful violation of the organization’s right of access to information; and

An order directing the Attorney General of the Federation to institute criminal proceedings against NBC for the offense of wrongful denial of access to information under section 7(5) of the Freedom of Information Act ‘information.

Stating the grounds on which the lawsuit was filed, Mr. Adamu argued, among other things, that under Section 1 of the FOI Act, MRA has a right of access to information and may request information to any public institution such as NBC, which is an agency of the federal government and that, pursuant to the provisions of Article 1(1), the organization is not required to demonstrate a particular interest in the information requested.

According to him, although under section 4 of the Act, the NBC must respond to MRA’s request within seven days, the Commission not only failed to provide the information requested within that time, but it also failed to give the agency the notice required by section 4(b) of the Act that it would not grant the request.

Adamu argued that the information requested by the MRA does not fall within any of the statutory exceptions and that the court has jurisdiction to compel NBC to disclose the information requested under Sections 20 and 25 of the Act.

No date has been set for the hearing of the lawsuit.

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