The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has extended the revocation of the operating licences of 52 broadcast stations owing debt amounting to N2.6 billion in licensing fees until August 23, 2022.
This is coming as the Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU) has condemned the revocation of the 52 licences of broadcast stations.
In a statement signed Saturday by its Director-General, Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, NBC said the extension was due to appeal by the affected broadcast stations, relevant stakeholders, and public-spirited organisations.
Ilelah said the commission would enforce the revocation order on the affected stations by August 24 if they fail defray their debts after the expiration of the grace.
The statement was titled: ‘NBC Extends Enforcement of Revocation Order on Debtor Broadcast Stations from 24 Hours to Wednesday, August 23, 2022.’
“This is to inform all the affected broadcast stations whose licences were revoked and given 24 hours to pay all outstanding license fees that the National Broadcasting Commission has extended the period, which all outstanding debts are to be paid from 24 hours to Wednesday, August 23, 2022.
“All affected broadcast stations who fail to defray their debts on or before August 23, 2022 are directed to shut down by 12 am on August 24, 2022.
“This extension is due to appeal by the affected broadcast stations, relevant stakeholders, public-spirited organisations and organisations,” Ilelah said.
However, the Nigerian chapter of International Press Institute (IPI) said the concession by the NBC followed its intervention and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) on how to explore amicable resolution of the dispute.
IPI Nigeria said following the revocation of the licences of the stations on Friday, it had engaged the Ministry of Information and Culture, the NBC and BON.
IPI Nigeria President, Musikilu Mojeed, said yesterday that Ilelah had graciously agreed to grant an extension on compassionate ground.
He said although the concession was a temporary relief, IPI was hopeful that all parties would engage in few days with a view to arriving at a lasting resolution of the matter.
“We thank the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Mallam Illela for listening to us and allowing a window for dialogue,” the statement explained.
Meanwhile, the Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU) has condemned the revocation of 52 licences of broadcast stations by NBC.
It described the revocation as an untimely action with likely severe consequences.
A statement by the General Secretary of the union, Aniete Akpausoh, said that most broadcast stations are going through a lot of challenges, adding that the broadcast environment is not healthy and friendly.
RATTAWU said it has no other option but to caution NBC that “while it has the unreserved constitutional right to revoke the licences of radio and television stations that have not done the needful; however, the prevailing climate makes such an action untimely and with grave consequences. This is because most of these stations are yet to recover from the COVID-19 shock”.
It noted that during the lock-down, these stations did brave services of sustaining broadcasting.
RATTAWU also made a case that the broadcast stations be given special COVID-19 palliative, considering the laudable role they played.
“Just after the upliftment of COVID-19 lock-down, the Nigerian state got stuck in the unexplained muddy waters of hike in the prices of diesel, which most stations rely on to run their programmes in the near absence of power supply from the Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos).
“This is an issue that is, at best, embarrassing to the Nation.
“From the foregoing, it is needless to say that the broadcast environment is not healthy and friendly.
“Therefore, decisions that affect the broadcast environment should be taken with sapiential guidance and consideration.
“The action of the NBC is unilateral. It is not a product of stakeholders of the broadcast industry. Therefore, it stands to be half clever. This is because of the following reasons,” it said.
RATTAWU further expressed worry over the likely multiplier effects that the action of NBC would have on workers.
It said already, that the economic reality of the nation is not healthy.
“Please note that shutting down media stations invariably leads to disengagements of workers which is another influx into the unemployed market and its attendant consequences.
“Therefore, any government organisation that means well to citizens will not do anything that will compound the situation.
“It is on the strength of the foregoing that RATTAWU, while urging the debted stations to do the needful, also condemns the action of NBC, describing it as untimely and uncircumspect,” RATTAWU added.
It said the Nigerian state is preparing for the general election by 2023, adding that revoking the licenses of 52 stations and directing their total shutdown implies limiting the possibility of voter education and other electioneering activities.
“This portends great danger and disservice to the nation. Third, the ravaging insecurity of lives and properties required that the Nigerian state should make the free flow of information as much as possible.
“This will help the citizens to report to the authorities and the authorities in return will tell the citizens what needs to be done,” the statement said.
Olawale Ajimotokan and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja