HomeFeaturesAbia Radio/TV Invasion: BON, NUJ, NGE Lambast Police

Abia Radio/TV Invasion: BON, NUJ, NGE Lambast Police

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The Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, have lashed out at the Nigeria Police over its recent invasion of a Radio/Television station, ABN TV/Radio, based in Umuahia, Abia State.

The Eastern Updates had last week reported that men of the Nigerian Police had invaded ABN TV/Radio in Umuahia, during a live programme and arrested a guest and destroyed equipment.

The policemen attached to the Umuahia Area Command, allegedly destroyed equipment and other property worth millions of naira at the station.

BON’s Secretary General, Yemisi Bamgbose, who spoke to reporters on Monday condemned the action of police, describing it as barbaric and unwarranted.

Bamgbose said: “Ordinarily and in the first instance, the action of police is barbaric. Police was not expected in any way for whatever reason to go in to disrupt a live programme, let alone invade the station, even if through that programme, they noticed that the person they were looking for was there.“

“What they were supposed to have done was to wait patiently either outside or far away from the station to effect the arrest. But going there to arrest a suspect for whatever reason directly in the studio is highly condemnable.”

Commenting on what BON would do over the development, Bamgbose said: ‘‘The fact of the matter is this, incidentally, the station concerned is not a member of BON because it is an online broadcast station, but that notwithstanding, BON has been making frantic efforts to reach the owner of the station as we need to get some facts and clarifications before we take any action.

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“The fact of the matter is that, in the first instance, the action of Police is an action that should not even come up at all, whether that station is licenced by NBC or not, whether it is a member of BON or not. We condemn in totality the action of the invaders and We feel it is barbaric and something that should not have come up at all.’’

On its part, NUJ, President, Chief Chris Isiguzo, said yesterday: “Immediately it happened, we promptly condemned the action of the officers who reportedly invaded the station. There was nothing wrong with waiting till the end of the programme, instead of invading the station while the person in question was in a live programme.“

“However, I must commend the Commissioner of Police, Abia State Command, Mr. Kenechukwu Onwuemelie, for publicly apologising for his officers’ unprofessional conduct.

“The fact that he swiftly visited the place and not only apologised but also promised to ensure that damaged equipment were replaced goes to show how highly professional the Nigeria Police under IGP Egbetokun has become.

“Already, the CP assured that the officers in question would be disciplined in accordance with the law; it is also a welcome development. It’s sad that such could happen but we are hopeful that it would not repeat itself.

“The media is central to survival of democracy and as such, we will not be doing the nation any good when the media is muzzled in one way or the other.”

Similarly, NGE strongly criticised the invasion of ABN TV by a team of Policemen to arrest a guest during a Live-Programme in Umuahia, Abia State, recently.

NGE’s General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, in a statement, yesterday, said: “On January 16, 2024, policemen invaded the station during a live programme, Youth Rendezvous, to arrest a guest, Mr. Udensi Donald, during the programme, claiming that a senior brother of the guest had written a petition against him over a family matter.

“The Guild notes that despite repeated plead by the staff to the police officers to allow the programme to come to an end before the guest could be arrested, the police still whisked him away while the live programme was on.

“This action of the police is uncivilized, barbaric and confrontational. No matter the enormity of the alleged offence, the police officers could have without difficulty waited for the live programme to come to an end before swinging into action.

“The Guild, therefore, called on the Nigeria Police Force to thoroughly investigate the matter in ensuring that the affected officers are brought to book and the broadcast equipment belonging to the TV station, which were damaged in the course of the invasion, be replaced immediately.

“However, we are encouraged by the Inspector-General of Police’s promise to thoroughly investigate the action of the overzealous police officers,” the statement added.

The NGE also commended Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court, Abuja, for declaring null and void some provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, which authorised the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, to impose fines on broadcast stations for alleged breaches of the code.

Delivering judgment in a suit instituted by a pro-media rights group, the Media Rights Agenda, MRA, against the NBC, following the commission’s imposition of fines of N5 million each on three television stations in 2022 for allegedly undermining Nigeria’s national security by broadcasting documentaries on banditry in Nigeria, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia held that the NBC, not being a court of law, acted above its powers by imposing such fines.

The judge also commended the MRA for its legal challenge of the NBC’s action and issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the commission or anyone acting on its behalf from further imposing any fine on any media platform or broadcast station in Nigeria for any alleged offence committed under the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

Reacting to the judgement, the Guild, which is the umbrella body of editors and media executives in Nigeria, said Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia’s ruling has vindicated its consistent position over the years that the NBC could not be the accuser, the investigator and the judge on matters relating to alleged breaches of the broadcast code.

“Our position has always been that an independent body, institution or competent court of law should be the one to examine any perceived infraction by the broadcast stations, which should be given the opportunity to defend themselves.

“The court is right in its ruling – by saying that NBC had arrogated judiciary power to itself by imposing fine arbitrarily without recourse to the law,” the Guild stated.

The Guild reiterated its earlier resolution to engage President Bola Tinubu, the National Assembly and other stakeholders over the NBC Act and the Broadcast Code of Conduct, with a view to amending and reforming them to conform to global best practices.
The MRA had filed a suit asking the court to hold, among other things, the NBC’s action of imposing a fine on each of the media platforms and the station for broadcasting a documentary about the state of banditry and security in Zamfara State unlawful and unconstitutional and had a chilling effect on the freedom of media to impart information and ideas.

The pro-media rights group had contended that the NBC, not being a court of law and not having been constituted in a manner as to secure its independence and impartiality, had no power or competence to impose fines on broadcast stations as punishment or penalties for the commission of an offence as the competence to establish that an offence has been committed and to impose criminal sanctions or penalties belongs to the courts.

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