In a groundbreaking ruling, the Abuja Federal High Court has barred the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from imposing fines on Nigerian broadcast stations. The decision, made by Presiding Judge James Omotosho, states that the NBC lacks the judicial authority to levy penalties on media outlets.
Judge Omotosho issued a perpetual injunction order, restraining the NBC from imposing fines on broadcast stations across the country. Additionally, he nullified the N500,000 fines that were previously imposed on each of the 45 broadcast stations on March 1, 2019.
The court held that the NBC, not being a court of law, does not possess the power to impose sanctions or punishments on broadcast stations. This ruling was based on the conflict between the NBC Code, which grants the commission sanctioning power, and Section 6 of the Constitution, which exclusively vests judicial power in the courts.
Judge Omotosho emphasized that the court would not passively witness arbitrary fines imposed without adherence to the law. He pointed out that the NBC had acted as both complainant and judge in its own matter, failing to comply with legal procedures.
Furthermore, the judge agreed that while the Nigeria Broadcasting Code can authorize an administrative body like the NBC to enforce its provisions, it cannot confer judicial powers on the commission to impose criminal sanctions or penalties such as fines. He also asserted that the NBC, not being akin to the Nigerian police, lacks the authority to conduct criminal investigations leading to trials and subsequent sanctions.
Judge Omotosho’s ruling underscores the importance of preventing the concentration of excessive powers in a single entity, highlighting the significance of checks and balances within the legal framework.