Yesterday, it was announced that Africa Independent Television and Ray Power, the TV and radio stations owned by Raymond Dokpesi’s Daar Communications would have their operating licenses suspended by the National Broadcasting Commission. Through the explainer below, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview of what exactly is going on.
Who are the key parties involved?
AIT is a TV station operated by DAAR Communications. Founded in 1996, the station was one of the first private satellite stations on this side of the world.
The National Broadcasting Commission is responsible for the regulation of all terrestrial radio and broadcasting services in Nigeria.
Why was AIT’s license suspended?
— Government of Nigeria (@AsoRock) June 6, 2019
In its statement announcing the suspension, the NBC cited programmes like Political Platform and Kakaaki and what it described as AIT’s use of “Hate speech, divisive and inciting comments” in the “discussion of national issues in breach of the provisions of the NBC act and Broadcast Code”. It provided a timeline of its “issues” with the network in a bid to provide the context and nuance for its decision.
The real trigger point appears to have been AIT’s broadcast of a documentary on the Presidential Election Tribunal which is subjudice i.e under judicial consideration and thus, prohibited from public discussion. The NBC also claimed it also sanctioned the company for its inability to pay its fees when due and criticized the channel for using its platforms to fight its personal battles contrary to the statutory requirements of the law.
Is there a political twist?
Undoubtedly. There are two subplots at play.
The NBC Director General, Dr. Modibbo Kawu has an interesting background. A career journalist, Mr. Kawu has reported for titles like Radio Nigeria, Radio France International, Radio Netherlands and BBC World Service. He was the pioneer general manager of Kwara State Television Authority and also went on to edit and chair the editorial board of the Daily Trust Newspaper- one of the most popular papers in Northern Nigeria. Dr. Kawu who’s from Kwara sought the governorship ticket under the umbrella of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In March, he wrote an op-ed in the aftermath of Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s loss of his Kwara Central seat describing it as “a whitewash and the definitive end of a dubious, monstrous and incredibly arrogant hegemony, that systematically underdeveloped Kwara State; which was built as an elaborate fraud and a platform of heist that had no parallel in Nigeria’s political history.”
Daar Communications is promoted by Dr. Raymond Dokpesi. For all intents and purposes, Dr. Dokpesi is a card carrying member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In 2017, he contested for the party’s Chairmanship position losing to current Chairman, Uche Secondus. Dr. Dokpesi’s allegiances have generally been reflected in his station’s coverage. For instance, AIT settled a defamation suit with APC chieftain, Bola Tinubu after its publication of a Lion of Bourdillon documentary tendering an unreserved apology and agreeing to retract the documentary.
Based on this, it’s clear both parties are not exactly saintly in their methods and this is essentially a proxy war between the two major parties.
What do we expect to happen?
The NBC’s shutdown is for an indefinite period of time. AIT will in all likelihood pursue legal action while the pressure on the Federal Government and the well justified criticisms of censorship and the clampdown on free speech will pay off with a compromise of some sorts.
The Federal Government needs to do a better job of enforcing its regulatory framework. Regulators should not be seen to be partisan and permitting Dr. Kawu to act as he has without any sanction is setting a negative precedent.
AIT on the other hand needs to be slightly more responsible in carrying out its duties. The press are an important tool in holding the government to account and any missteps it makes risk eroding public trust. Dr Dokpesi’s outfit could do a better job of calling the government to order without making a show out of its opposition and being more circumspect in its choice of content.