On Wednesday, the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court gave an order of perpetual injunction restraining the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from imposing fines on broadcast stations in the country.
Justice James Omotosho also set aside a N500,000 fine imposed on each of the 45 broadcast stations across the country on March 1, 2019.
Mr Omotosho held that NBC, not being a court of law, had no power to impose sanctions as punishment on broadcast stations.
He further held that the NBC Code, which gives the commission the power to impose a sanction, conflicted with section 6 of the constitution, which vested judicial power in the court of law.
The judge said the court would not condone a body arbitrarily imposing a fine without recourse to the law and that the NBC did not comply with the law when it sat as a complainant and simultaneously, the court and the judge on its matter.
The judge agreed that the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, a subsidiary legislation that empowers an administrative body such as the NBC to enforce its provisions, cannot confer judicial powers on the commission to impose criminal sanctions or penalties such as fines.
He also noted that NBC, not being the Nigerian police, had no power to conduct a criminal investigation that would lead to criminal trial and imposition of sanctions.
This will go against the doctrine of separation of powers, the judge said.
Mr Omotosho held that the doctrine sought to prevent tyranny by concentrating too much power in one organ.
The action of the respondent qualifies as excessiveness as it had ascribed to itself the judicial and executive powers.
On March 1, 2019, NBC imposed N500,000 each on 45 broadcast stations in the country over an alleged violation of its code.
However, in an originating motion marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1386/2021, the Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda sued NBC as the sole respondent.
In the motion dated November 9, 2021, by its lawyer, Noah Ajare, the group sought a declaration that the sanctions procedure applied by NBC in imposing N500,00o fines on each of the 45 broadcast stations on March 1, 2019, was a violation of the rules of natural justice.
They, therefore, sought an order setting aside the N500,000 fines purportedly imposed by NBC on each of the 45 broadcast stations on Friday, March 1, 2019.