Founder/Chairman Emeritus, DAAR Communication PLC, Dokesi.
By Ibeawuchi Ambs Uwaleke
The National Broadcasting Commission has suspended the operating license of DAAR Communications operators of AIT and Raypower radio until further notice.The Director General of the NBC Ishaq Modibbo Kawu made the announcement on Thursday evening during a press conference. He accused DAAR communications of repeated violations of the NBC code and failure to pay up its license fee. The DG also pushed back accusations of partisanship and that his commission is stifling free speech.
This development came hours after the founder and chairman emeritus of DAAR Communication PLC, owners of Africa Independent Television, AIT, RayPower FM and FAAJ FM, Dr. Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi, on Thursday staged a one-man protest at the National Assembly to complain against what he described as a plot by the Federal Government to intimidate, harass and gag the media to suppress free speech, particularly his broadcast stations, which he alleged the government is accusing for spreading ‘hate speech’.
Before he proceeded to the National Assembly he held a world press conference at the company’s headquarters in Abuja where he opened up to tell the world that the Nigerian Government through the regulator of broadcasting in the country, Nigerian Broadcasting Cooperation (NBC) is doing everything possible to stop free speech by stopping AIT and RayPower from broadcasting.
His words: “The Africa Independent Television and RayPower FM, are being persecuted by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on instructions from the Presidency”.
He revealed that he had received reports of several media personalities under AIT being trailed by unidentified gunmen while exiting the office premises.
The media mogul noted that even the perimeter fencing of the DAAR headquarters had equally been destroyed by the Federal Capital Development Agency, FCDA, exposing the property to external attacks.
Dokpesi stated further that NBC had imposed several fines on AIT and Raypower over its political commentaries, despite the use of editorials and commentaries by media organisations as a standard feature to communicate their positions on issues of public interest.
The Chairman Emeritus decried the imposition of N500million as licensing fees to private broadcasting organisations while government-owned broadcasting firms pay only N10million.
As he put it, “I believe very strongly that under the leadership of the current Director General, DG, of NBC Is’haq Kawu, press freedom has been greatly eroded.
He continued: “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 AIT go on with what they termed their hate speech broadcasting?’ “Any criticism of this government is hate speech. The NBC is acting under the authority of the President and Commander-in-Chief”.
He was not done yet as he said: “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”.
“This economy has plummeted. This government has called this organisation unprintable names which has deterred several advertisers from patronising AIT. I sought an audience with the NBC DG. I called, sent letters and sent text messages to him, but he refused to respond. In spite of the fact that we have to run generators 24-hours of a day, I remain committed to keeping the spirit of broadcasting alive, Chief Dokpesi summed up his perplexion.”
The NBC had late last month written a warning letter to AIT accusing it of allowing what it described as treasonable rhetoric on its flagship programmes on radio and television. Kawu said AIT and Raypower will only be reopened if DAAR Communications pays up its license fees while demonstrating a willingness to abide by the NBC code.