MRA will challenge NBC for refusing to disclose license fees paid by broadcast stations.

By Jude-Ken Ojinnaka

Justice Ambrose Lewis Allagoa of a Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday granted a rights group, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), leave to proceed with its Freedom of Information (FOI) lawsuit against the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC)

The lawsuit is against NBC for refusing to disclose details of license fee payments by broadcasting stations and platforms operating in Nigeria and the amount owed to the Commission by the stations for license fees.

Judge Allagoa granted the authorization to proceed with the lawsuit following a preliminary motion submitted by MRA’s lawyer, Me Alimi Adamu, asking the Court to authorize the organization to file a lawsuit for the NBC’s failure to provide her with the information she requested in a letter dated August 22, 2022.

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In the suit in which the NBC and the Attorney General of the Federation are named respondents, MRA argues that the NBC’s refusal to provide it with the requested information amounts to a violation of its right of access to information as well as a flagrant violation of the FOI law.

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The ex parte motion brought by Mr Adamu pursuant to 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 Freedom of Information Act, asked the court to grant MRA leave to seek the following remedies:

“A statement that NBC’s denial of access to MRA of 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 FOI Act;

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“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 information requested, 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 BNC to file the information requested by MRA with the court pending the prosecution’s decision;

“An order directing NBC to pay MRA the sum of 1 million naira as exemplary and aggravated damages for the 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.

After hearing Mr. Adamu’s motion and after reviewing the motion materials as well as a copy of MRA’s request to NBC, Judge Allagoa granted the request as requested.

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