Tha National Broadcast Commission (NBC) has suspended the broadcast licence of DAAR Communications Plc, the owners of AIT, Raypower FM, Faaji FM, DaarSat.
This announcement by NBC comes 24 hours after the founder of the company, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, stormed the National Assembly to protest the intimidation of the broadcast house by the Presidency through the NBC.
NBC, through its Director-General, Mr. Is’haq Kawu, said Thursday evening it has had issues with DAAR Communications, including complaints against programmes like Political Platform and Kakaaki.
At a press conference at the company’s corporate headquarters in Abuja, alleged that staff were been trailed by unidentified gunmen while exiting the office premises.
In addition, he disclosed that perimeter fence around the company headquarters in the Asokoro District in Abuja was demolished by the Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA).
According to media reports Dokpesi complained that the NBC had imposed several fines on AIT and Raypower for its political commentaries.
He complained over the N500m licensing fees paid by private broadcasting organisations while government-owned broadcasters paid N10m.
“I believe very strongly that under the leadership of the current Director General of the NBC (Is’haq Kawu), press freedom has been greatly eroded. If this was not protected by the President at the top, is it possible that his body language is being interpreted?
“I have it on strict authority and very assured information that the highest echelons of government, the Presidency, queried and challenged the NBC that they were not doing their jobs: ‘How on earth could they be hearing and seeing on AIT what they termed hate speech?’
“Any criticism of this government is hate speech. The NBC is acting under the authority of the President and Commander-in-Chief…”.
“The licensing fees in Nigeria is one of the highest in the world. There is no country in the world where you have this type of exploitative fees. I have appealed for a reduction because the payments cannot be sustained by private broadcasters in Nigeria.
On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) condemned the NBC move against DAAR Communications alleging it is an attempt to cage the media.
In a statement, the party says it is evident that the attack on AIT is targeted at intimidating and gaging the media, repress constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and stifle public opinion, particularly as related to the determination by Nigerians to retrieve the stolen Presidential mandate at the tribunal.
It states further: “This clamp down on AIT as well as earlier siege on other media houses and journalists under the APC administration, ostensibly point to a plot to frighten and asphyxiate the media, shut down outlets perceived to hold dissenting views and ultimately foist a siege mentality on our citizenry to restrain their demand for fairness and justice in the polity.
“The APC is mortally afraid that a free press will raise the red flag and expose its manipulations and any attempt to subvert the course of justice, especially in the Presidential petition, hence this desperation to strangulate the media and cow Nigerians from freely expressing themselves.
“Moreover, the PDP invites Nigerians to note that the Director-General of the NBC, Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, is a card carrying member and frontline leader in the APC who was also an aspirant on the platform of the party for the governorship of Kwara state.
“The PDP notes that there can be no democracy without a free press. To stifle the media is an invitation to fascism and a return to the era of obnoxious military Decrees 2 and 4, which must be resisted by all.
Our party therefore calls on Nigerians and the International community to unite in condemning this desperation to gag the media and repress free speech in Nigeria.
“The PDP also charges the media to remain professional and steadfast in their constitutional role of holding government and its institutions accountable and not be intimidated by oppressive forces that seek to subjugate Nigerians”.