Closure of AIT, others: Court orders maintenance of status quo as at May 30

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted an order ex-parte for the maintenance of status quo, pending the determination of a motion filed by DAAR Communications Plc in its suit challenging the suspension of its operating licence by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a ruling on Friday, rejected two prayers by DAAR, for restraining orders against the respondents – NBC, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture (FMIC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).

In the first relief rejected by the court, DAAR Communications had sought to restrain the respondents “from blocking, jamming. stopping, removing from air and/or interfering with the air waves of the plaintiff/applicant in any way and manner howsoever, in its broadcast and airing of news, views, documentaries, or any other legitimate broadcast material that is usually associated with television, radio or social media broadcast pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed along with this application.”

It also, in the second relief, sought to restrain the respondents “from invading the premises of the plaintiff/applicant, or closing down, viet armis, the said premises, its operations or broadcast services, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed along with this application.”

Instead, Justice Ekwo granted the alternative relief: “an order for the maintenance of status quo ante bellum as at May 30, pending the hearing and final determination of the motion on notice filed along with this application.”

Justice Ekwo said the applicant, DAAR, would be penalised should it turn out, at the end of the day, that the order ought not to have been made.

The judge noted that, by the issues raised in its application by DAAR Communications, the respondents deserved to be heard.

He ordered the respondents – NBC, FMIC, AGF – “to appear in court on the next date to show cause why the prayers in the applicant’s motion should not be granted.”

Justice Ekwo adjourned further proceedings till June 13.

Daar Communications stated, in a supporting affidavit, that it is the first privately owned independent broadcasting organisation in Nigeria, having been licensed to broadcast on television and radio since 1996 and currently, operating the African Independent Television (AIT), Ray Power 100.5 fm, Faji FM and DARSAT stations.

“Plaintiff/applicant has in the best tenets and tradition of broadcast and in compliance with section 22 of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as altered, carried out its duties legally, legitimately, morally and nationalistically, in informing, educating and entertaining Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora on sundry matters, which activities have energized and contributed to national development and also nurtured, widened, deepened and strengthened democracy, rule of law, human rights and anti-corruption in Nigeria.

“Since the emergence of the present government, the plaintiff /applicant has been under its close surveillance and undue monitoring of its operations by the present government which wrongly believes that the plaintiff/applicant had been too supportive of the immediate past government.

“That sometimes on  April 16, agents of the Federal Government represented by the 1st  defendant (NBC), in a gestapo- like- manner, attacked and pulled down the two buildings and gates leading to the plaintiff/applicant’s operational headquarters which damage and destruction run into hundreds of millions of naira.

“The defendants and their agents have been writing a series of letters with which they harassed and intimidated the plaintiff over the contents of their broadcast, particularly of late, concerning its social media segment of its morning flagship broadcast show called Kaakaki (the African Voice).

“Credible information just reaching the plaintiff has it that the defendants have concluded plans to invade and shut down the premises of the plaintiff and/or part thereof, in the next few days.”

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