President Muhammadu Buhari has been given a 48-hour ultimatum to direct the Minister of Culture and Information, Lai Mohammed to withdraw the threat of shutting down broadcast stations over their coverage of elections and post-election matters.
The ultimatum comes following last week’s threat by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to revoke the licenses of broadcast stations and shut them down “if they continue to allow unpatriotic individuals on their platforms to make utterances that are subversive, hateful, and inciting, and negative conversations particularly in the post-2023 Presidential Election.”
Responding via a letter dated March 11, 2023, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) through its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare stated that if not withdrawn, the warning would limit freedom of expression and “the ability of broadcast stations to cover important issues around the 2023 general elections.”
“Threatening to shut down and revoke the licences of broadcast stations simply for carrying out their ‘watchdog role’ is clearly incompatible with Nigeria’s constitutional and international human rights obligations.
“Political expression is a fundamental right. The threat by NBC creates a significant risk that legitimate expression may be prohibited.
“Such unlawful prohibition may prevent transparency and dissemination of information on legitimate issues of public interest around the 2023 general elections.”
“We would be grateful if the requested action is taken within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”
“The threat may produce a direct impact on the work of broadcast stations in ways that are inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.”
“Your government has a legal responsibility to ensure an environment in which a diverse range of political opinions and ideas around the general elections can be freely and openly expressed and debated.”
“The threat by the NBC is neither necessary nor proportionate, as it would unduly intrude upon Nigerians’ right to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom”, part of the statement reads.