Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, says the fine imposed on Channels Television by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is illegal.
He said the agency should publicly apologise and refund the fine — if it has already been paid.
The TV station was sanctioned for interviewing the spokesperson of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Inspiration FM was also ordered to pay a fine of N5 million for airing a broadcast of IPOB wherein “secessionist claims” were allegedly made.
Speaking in Lagos on Thursday at the launch of a report by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Falana said NBC did not allow for fair hearing, as stipulated in the broadcasting act.
He said the agency didn’t comply with the provisions of law, adding that the amendment code under which the TV station was sanctioned “was never debated, discussed or agreed upon”.
“In the case of Channels Television, none of the provision of the law was complied with,” he said.
“You don’t need to be a lawyer to know that the conduct of NBC is illegal, null and void, but that is not all, the NBC code that was allegedly amended was never debated, discussed or agreed upon, yet a government that loudly proclaims to operate under the rule of law is using the same instrument to impose sanctions on Channels Television, and thereby deny the entirety of Nigerians access to information.
“I therefore submit that if the Channels Television paid the fine of N5 million, it should be refunded without any further delay.
“Secondly, the NBC should apologise publicly to the Channels Television and the Nigerian people for violating our collective rights.
“Furthermore, the amended code should be withdrawn forthwith because the chairman of the board who was supposed to preside over the meeting said that amendment was never passed, and nobody has challenged him, and that is why that amendment should be squashed and set aside.
“My suggestions have nothing to do with the allege apology extracted from the Channels Television. In other words, you can’t say after all Channels has apologised, No.
An apology cannot obliterate your rights. Since we are saying the amendment is illegal, any action taken under it is illegal.
“On the contrary, it is NBC that should apologise to the staff and management of Channels Television and to the entirety of Nigerians.”