A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has criticized the fine of N5 million placed on a radio station, Nigeria Info 99.3 FM, by the National Broadcast Corporation, NBC.
NBC placed the fine on the radio station after it conducted an interview with a former CBN deputy governor, Obadiah Mailafia.
The interview had Mailafia reveal that a northern governor is the leader of Boko Haram. This the NBC described as hate speech leading to Nigeria Info 99.3 FM getting fined N5 million.
The fine has now been described as illegal by Falana who recalled that the NBC board recently said that the amendment which raised the fine for hate speech to N5 million has not been approved.
Falana said, “The chairman of the NBC board disclosed that the amendment of the code authorising the payment of the fine of N5 million was not approved by the board. That means that the amendment of the code has not come into force.
“Assuming that the code was properly amended the board cannot charge a suspect with criminal offences, prosecute, convict and impose a fine on him. The investigation being conducted into Dr. Obadiah’s interview by the State Security Service has not been concluded. So why was NBC in a hurry to violate the fundamental right of the broadcasting station to fair hearing?
“Section 33 (4) of the constitution provides that anyone charged with a criminal offence shall be tried before a competent court or tribunal. Only a competent court of law is empowered to try, convict and impose a fine on a criminal suspect after a trial has been conducted before a competent court. In Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited in Suit FHC/UY/CS/1623/2016 – National Oil Spill Detection & Response Agency (NOSDRA) vs. Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited the federal high court per honourable Justice Ojukwu held that the imposition of fines by regulatory agencies was unlawful. The judgment of the learned trial judge was upheld by the court of appeal in the case of Nosdra v Exxon Mobil (2018) JELR 41137 (CA).
“In view of the fact that the imposition of the N5 million fine was anchored on a purported amendment of the code and since the NBC lacks the legal competence to impose a fine on any broadcasting station without a finding of guilt by a properly constituted criminal court the NBC should suo mutu quash the illegal fine.”