Nigerians on social media have blasted the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for suspending Channels Television over an alleged breach of the broadcasting code.
A letter was sent by NBC to the Managing Director of Channels Television stating that the offence was contrary to the broadcast code.
The suspension also come with a fine of N5 million.
NBC, in the letter, referred to Channels 7 pm live broadcast programme of Sunday, April 25, 2021, accusing the TV station of allowing a leader of the Indigenous people of Biafra to make secessionist and inciting declarations on air without being cautioned or reprimanded by the station.
It also accused the station of allowing the guest speaker to allegedly make derogatory and misleading statements about the Nigerian Army, despite being proscribed by a court of law.
This has attracted public outrage, many of whom have criticised the NBC and the Nigerian government over the issue.
Some claim the move by the NBC is a confirmation of the marginalisation against the South-East part of the country.
Others, especially legal practitioners, described it as an attack on freedom of the press in Nigeria.
A Twitter user, @FestusGreen said, “Channels TV offered their platform to Miyetti Allah, a terrorist organisation that has was ranked 'the fourth deadliest terror group in the world' by the USA. Nigeria Broadcasting Commission NBC did nothing. Same NBC banned Channels for interviewing IPOB. Terrorist Govt.”
In another tweet, he said, “So many people abducted, and presumably murdered in cold blood by Boko Haram terrorists. The government is not bothered. Even Bashir Ahmad is tweeting about #HalaMadrid. The National Broadcasting Commission even had to ban Channels TV for interviewing IPOB/ ESN. Bloodsuckers!”
Another user, @jagganiyu stated that there is obvious discrimination against people of other tribes in Nigeria apart from northerners.
He wrote, “With all that has been happening in Nigeria plus the fine that Channels TV has been slammed with, it's obvious that this administration recognises only one tribe as the supreme tribe.
"The rest of us are second-class citizens and it seems the Igbos have it worse.”
A legal practitioner, @Festusogun said, “NBC suspension of Channels TV for interviewing IPOB Leader is illegal and unjustifiable. Our court in the case of NOSDRA v. EXXONMOBIL held that regulatory agencies are not empowered to arbitrarily impose sanction without recourse to the court. The attack on free press must stop.
“The NBC, being a regulatory body, is not empowered by law to act as the prosecutor and the judge; all at the same time – this violates the principle of fair hearing enshrined under S 36 of the Constitution. A free press cannot thrive if these undemocratic fines are allowed to stand.”
Social media user, @ayemojubar tweeted, “We have over 50 million smartphones in the hands of Nigerians, at the moment Channels TV has over 3k live viewers on Youtube, and NBC thinks their sanction is of any threat. Brain deads!”
For @Stark91906017, the Nigerian government is trying to stall the freedom of the press. He said, “NTA has abdicated their functions, this is a station trying to save the face of the country. And they are being crippled. Need I remind you that we are in a democracy and there is freedom of information."
@ComrOkoro_P said, “FG is unable to fight terrorism in Nigeria but so effective at fighting freedom of expression and speech. Why suspend channels TV? Abi na because na southerner get am?"
@drpenking wrote: “If a child is trying to say something and an adult is busy trying to cover his mouth, check well. That child has some serious secrets to unfold. Why is FG trying so hard to cover IPOB’s mouth? Why ban Channels TV for interviewing them? These are the questions we should ask.”
Nigerian legal practitioner @segalink said, “I’ve never seen an administration that is this divisive at a time when the nation needs cohesion. So it’s okay for TV stations to honour/host the threats of Miyetti Allah without consequences but their broadcast licence is at risk for speaking with IPOB?
“Despite the killings & kidnappings ravaging the North & Middle-Belt with pockets of incidents in the collective south by Bandits, Fulani militia, Boko Haram et al, none of these ethnic/religious marauders have been proscribed by the Nigerian state? Yet IPOB is being pedestalised?
"Gumi is still making a case for bandits and getting front-page press daily. No suspension of licence. History will not be kind to this admin and every willfully blind folk defending the aberration of now. If you cannot govern, don’t destroy the country! #EndImpunity.”
@AyoBankole said: “With the suspension of Channels TV, all patriotic Nigerians living in Nigeria, who desire a better Nigeria & speak or advocate for it, need to be scared for their safety & future. No one is safe. There is no pretence to it anymore. The worst part is that the world doesn't care.”
@scad_official wrote: “If NBC can suspend Channels TV that has won best TV station for over 10 years because they interviewed IPOB leader, I'm afraid that what we practise is audio freedom of speech. You're surprised Jack picked Ghana over Nigeria? There you go.”