Barristers & Solicitors
Broadcast stations’ fee: Court grants MRA permission to challenge NBC

A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday granted Media Rights Agenda (MRA) leave to proceed with its Freedom of Information (FOI) suit against the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for refusing to disclose details of payments of licence fees by broadcast stations and platforms and the amount they owe as licence fees.

Justice Ambrose Lewis Alagoa paved the way for the suit to proceed upon a preliminary motion brought by MRA’s lawyer Alimi Adamu seeking leave to challenge NBC’s failure to provide it with the information it requested in an August 22, 2022 letter.

In the suit, in which the NBC and the Attorney General of the Federation are named as respondents, MRA is contending that the commission’s conduct amounted to a breach of its right of access to information as well as a violation of the FOI Act.

In the motion ex parte filed by Adamu under Order 34, Rules 1, 3(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009 and sections 1(3) and 20 of the FOI Act, the lawyer prayed the court to grant the organisation leave to seek the following reliefs, among others:

“A declaration that the NBC’s denial of access to MRA of the information it requested by a letter, dated August 22, 2022, constitutes a violation of the organisation’s rights of access to information established and guaranteed by sections 1(1) and 4 of the FOI Act;

“A declaration that the NBC’s failure and/or refusal to give MRA a written notice that access to all or part of the information it requested would not be granted with reasons for the denial and the section of the FOI Act upon which the Commission relied to deny the organisation access to the information requested amounts to a flagrant violation of sections 4 (b) and 7 (1) of the FOI Act;

“A declaration that by its failure to give MRA access to all or part of the information applied for in its letter, dated August 22, 2022, within the time limit set out in the Act, the NBC is deemed to have refused to give MRA access to the information requested, as provided under Section 7(4) of the FOI Act; among others.

Justice Alagoa granted the request as prayed.

“An order directing the NBC to disclose or make available to MRA a list of all broadcasting stations and platforms licensed by the commission; the amount that each of them is required to pay as licence fees; the status of payment of each of the station from the date of its licence to August 22, 2022; for those licensed broadcasting stations that are owing, the amount of indebtedness and the period covered by the amount; and for broadcasting corporations owned by various state governments included in the list of the broadcasting stations whose broadcast licences were revoked by the commission as announced by its Director General in his media briefing on August 19, 2022; a breakdown of the amount of indebtedness by each of the radio stations and each of the television stations owned by the respective state-owned broadcasting corporations.

“An order directing the NBC to pay to MRA the sum of N1 million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the flagrant and unlawful violation of the organisation’s right of access to information.”