Zamfara: Gov. Matawalle under fire for ordering shutdown of broadcast stations

Gov. Bello Matawalle of  of Zamfara State

Gov. Bello Matawalle of of Zamfara State

Governor Bello Matawalle led Zamfara State Government has come under fire from regulatory agency, stakeholders and other interest group in the media for ordering the shutting down of some broadcast organisations operating in the state.

The stakeholders also warned the police against implementing the order they described as an affront of freedom of information, the practice of democracy in Nigeria ad the 2022 Electoral Act among others.

The Zamfara government had on Saturday ordered the shutdown of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Gusau and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN)’s Pride FM, Gamji TV, Gamji FM and Al umma TV for allegedly violating government order and journalism practice.

Dosara said the closure of the stations was approved by the State Security Council.

He added that the Commissioner of Police has been directed to arrest and prosecute personnel of the affected stations caught violating the order.

The closure order contained in a statement issued by Zamfara Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Dosara, followed clashes between supporters of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the state.

The clashes, which reportedly followed a rally by the governorship candidate of PDP resulted in the death of a member of APC while 18 other people were injured.

The Zamfara State Government had accused the media organisations of violating its order on suspension of political activities in the state by covering the campaign of PDP.

But the government has come under criticisms for its obvious attempt to assume the role of a regulator of media practice in Nigeria.

While condemning the shutdown order, the International Press Institute (IPI) Nigeria, in the statement signed by its President, Musikilu Mojeed, IPI said that the Zamfara State government does not have the power to shut down media houses.

It called on the Zamfara State Police Commissioner not to enforce the directive by the government.

The statement enumerates that the order by the state government clearly violates the 1999 Constitution as amended, and has no place in Nigeria .

“Shutting down media houses is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the Constitution of Nigeria.

“If any media organisation has flouted any law, the only option opened to the Zamfara State government is to approach the court for redress.

“Resorting to self help as done by the Zamfara State government threatens the rule of law and could lead to anarchy,” the statement explained.

It asserted that by shutting down media houses, the Zamfara State government has taken the law into its own hands.

IPI Nigeria, therefore reiterates its demand for immediate withdrawal of all directives impeding freedom of expression in Zamfara State.

It also demands an apology from the state government for its act.

It calls on federal authorities to direct the Zamfara State governor to comply with the dictates of the rule of law.

The statement said this should be done by immediately withdrawing the order for the shutting down of the media organisations.

Also, the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission’s (NBC’s) has strongly condemned the order for the closure of the media Houses by the Zamfara State government.

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“The National Broadcasting Commission has noted with serious concern the illegal action of Zamfara State Government by directing the shutdown of operations of licensees of the Commission in the State, on Saturday, October 15, 2022,” the Director-General of the NBC, Balarabe Illela, said.

“The NBC has clearly notified the State Government of the gravity of the illegality and requested it to expeditiously reverse the directive and apologize to the people of the State.

“We also urge the Security Agencies to ignore the call to restrict Staff of the affected Stations from conducting their legitimate duties.

“The Commission wishes to further emphasize that it will resist ANY attempt to cause a breach of law and order ANYWHERE through the misuse of the broadcast media in Nigeria, before, during, and after the 2023 national elections.

“We call on ALL industry stakeholders to resist ANY attempt to truncate the hard-earned democratic gains in Nigeria

“ANY aggrieved Person or Institution with genuine complaints) arising from unprofessional conduct or action by ANY licensed broadcaster in Nigeria is hereby requested to follow the laid down processes enshrined in the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

“The Commission will not relent to discharge its mandate according to the NBC Act, CAP. NII, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. All broadcast license holders are urged to ensure strict compliance and avoid ANY action inimical to democratic governance and peaceful coexistence in Nigeria.

“Kindly extend the warmest high regards and assurances of the Director-General and the Board of management of the NBC, to ALL Nigerians.”

On its part, the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria(BON) in a statement by its Executive Secretary, Yemisi Bamgbose said Governor Matawalle not only lacks the constitutional power to issue such an order, the order is also an arbitrary and a naked abuse and misuse of executive power.

“The power to licence or withdraw the licence of a broadcast media is vested in the National Broadcasting Commission established by an Act of Parliament. Even at that, the Constitution and the Act did not give any room for arbitrariness in the exercise of the power to impose sanctions talk less of closure of broadcast media on any agency or any level of government including the Federal Government, without following the laid down procedure and seeking an order from a court of competent jurisdiction. This position of the law has been upheld by the law courts at various times.

“The closure of the Federal and private broadcast media by the Governor is equally an affront against the Electoral Act 2022 which should be curbed immediately before it destroys our nascent democracy. “

Also, the Northern Broadcast Media Owners Association (NBMOA), in a statement signed by Alhaji Abdullahi Yelwa, its Ag. Chairman, in Sokoto on Sunday, described the shutdown order as shocking.

“The job of the media world over is constitutionally guaranteed, just as the right of the citizens to freely express themselves.

“Therefore, the directive of the state government for the police to deny journalists access to their places of work is not only wrong, but also unconstitutional,” it said.

The statement added that the Nigerian press had survived the evil of colonialism and the dark and draconian days of military rule.

“It is ironic therefore for it to now be threatened with closure under the democratic dispensation it had helped to bequeath.

“The press will continue to uphold its obligations to be free, fair and balanced and open its doors to all political parties and shades of opinions in accordance with the law.

“We therefore salute the courage of the Zamfara Police Command for refusing to carry out the ‘unlawful’ order to harass the media in the state,” it added.

The group further commended the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) that similarly condemned the directive, while appealing to the police to offer more protection to working journalists.

It also assured all political parties in the region of its readiness to provide level-playing field for the promotion of democratic culture in Nigeria.

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