‘Why Broadcasters Must Imbibe NBC Code, Patriotic Spirit’


A few weeks ago, the social media space was inundated with attacks on National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for the ‘ban of some Nigerian music’ on radio as well as the shutting down of some radio stations across the country.

Last week, the Director General of the commission, Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, briefed journalists in Lagos regarding the misunderstanding of the nature of work NBC does.

According to him, the issues arising from Ekiti elections led to the shut down of a number of stations in the state – the state’s radio and television stations and a private station.

According to him, “We did that because of the circumstances and there were issues of protests that followed, which we have put in the public space for the last couple of weeks.

There was the fact that when the elections were coming, Ekiti State Government appointed the director-general of the radio and television, as director of campaign for one of the parties.

“This was not in the spirit of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code. So, we did letters to them that this was not acceptable, but we were ignored.

Then in the lead to the election, when the president of the republic visited, the governor of the state, Fayose made a broadcast to the people of the state not to welcome the president of the country. This was also not in the spirit of NBC code.

“The station was fined. But the final point was that the lawful authority to announce election result in Nigeria is the INEC, but the state government began to announce its own election result, and at that point we closed down the station.

The responses we received from so many people, including citizens of the state, made us know it was a popular decision we took.”

Kawu further said the shutdown was to avoid a repeat of 1983 incident that led to mayhem in that part of the country, when election result was announced by unauthorised body.

“We saw that there was likely to be a repeat of that scenario,” he continued, “so, we forestall that. We are working hard to ensure we get the station reopened, and that they meet all their obligation under the Nigerian Broadcasting code; they must give us an undertaking that they are going to respect the code and that they are going to pay all monies they owe NBC. Once these are done, certainly we will allow them to go back on air.”

On the ban placed on the music of some Nigerian artistes, with the most recent being that of Falz’s song ‘This Is Nigeria,’ Kawu stated, “What NBC objected to in the song was that point where he said ‘this is Nigeria, we are all criminals’.

I mean, we are not all criminals. His father happens to be my very good friend and I know he is not a criminal.

I don’t see the basis of his generalization. We don’t ban songs but issue to our licensees that such songs are Not To Be Broadcast (NTBB) because of the nature of the lyrics and the videos.”

He advised artistes to produce broadcast and club versions of such songs, adding, “Any song that must go into radio or television must be a song that children can listen to.

About 75 per cent of our population is under 35 years; 45 per cent under 15 years; 63 per cent under 25 years, so this makes us a very young country.”

Kawu noted that the influence artistes have on the lives of young people is enormous, hence they need to be part of a national process ordering lives in a positive manner.

“Olamide’s song ‘woo’ on Youtube has over 10 million hits, and this is the nature of the contemporary society today,” he said.

“One of the ways we are trying to respond to this reality is that we are hoping to have a process; we are going to have a conference that would bring Nigerian artistes together with NBC, NDLE and Nigerian Video and Film Censorship Board, and hopefully, the office of the first lady.

These young people are some of the greatest exports of Nigeria today in terms of their artistic work, and we are not trying to affect artistic liberty or license but we want artistes to imbibe a patriotic spirit so that they help us to mold our country.”

The DG also spoke on the banning of Africa Independent Television’s (AIT) Political Platform programme, where he stressed that despite several warnings and engagements with the station, it remained adamant, noting, “The presenters also become a part of the story.

It was not their personal views they are supposed to express as anchors, but to mediate.”

Kawu stated that on a quarterly basis NBC releases the profile of breaches in the country, which can be found on the commission’s website: “These sanctions are done across the federation without any preconceived notions about particular stations.

Our duty is to ensure that the Nigerian broadcaster works the narrow path of the NBC code; when you stray, you are sanctioned. This is very simple for us.”

On the demolition of Yinka Adefeleye’s station, he stated that machineries were being set in place to look into it: “When we had similar problem in Nasarawa State, we engaged the licensee and the state government, and some decisions were taken.

I hope we are able to find a proper answer that would satisfy the young man, who put a lot of money into that building, and who employs a lot of Nigerians also.”

On Digital Switch Over process, Kawu said the government wants to accelerate the process of completion in Nigeria, as a new committee had been put in place to find a better way of financing the project.

According to him, “Government has seen the importance of this. One of the many things we are trying to do is to do value addition to the proposition.

We are looking at the possibility of using Abuja and Kaduna for the pilot, where we would deploy set top boxes that people can now purchase, just like video on demand. NBC will work along with Nigerian Bank of Commerce and Industry because they finance about 50 Nigerian films.

“This will enable us take out the carpet from under the feet of pirates.

They have almost completed installation in Gombe State and we have also chosen the next set of six states that we want to go to, but if the government provides the funding as we think it would, we might even go beyond the six states and move as fast as possible.”

Kawu, however, lamented the most abused format of broadcasting in Nigeria, the phone-in programmes, “The talent of production is almost dead; it’s easy for people to put up a programme and tell people to call in and in some stations, it seems to be the only thing they do.

Phone-in is not properly done in Nigeria.

In other climes, there is a delayed mechanism on the phone so people don’t just say anything on air.”

He stressed that every licensee has an obligation to ensure that radio and television stations are not used to damage Nigeria’s reputation.

Meanwhile, the meeting also afforded the group of campus radio operators under the auspices of Association of Nigerian Campus Broadcasting Stations (ANCBS) to interact with the management of NBC on some issues that were closely connected with how to uplift the campus radio services in the country.

In order to chart a way forward and in view of the critical role broadcasting could play in stabilising the polity, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) recently held its 4th annual lecture, which had ‘Broadcasting and Nigeria’s Ethno-Cultural and Religious Divide: Bridging the Gap’ as theme.

Guest lecturer and former Ambassador of Nigeria to the United Nations, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, observed that radio and television have the capacity to transform societies, but they could also destroy if they are not used in line with what has been prescribed in the National Broadcasting Code.

Gambari stated that the Nigeria Broadcasting Code is clear about what broadcasting should do or not do as the cardinal responsibility of broadcasting is to inform, educate and entertain, and this should not be at the expense of national interest, unity and cohesion of Nigeria’s diverse, social, cultural, economic, political and religious configuration.

He argued that the real divide in Nigeria is not ethnicity, culture or religion but the misuse of these elements and the perpetration of inequality along class and regional lines in our country.

The former envoy noted that the growing poverty, economic inequality, violent extremism and terrorism are contributing to the divide, stressing that just as the perpetrators do not respect or recognise national boundaries, they do not respect religious, ethnic or cultural affinities hence, “we have to unite against and defeat them by adopting and implementing national, regional, continental and global strategies.”

Gambari posited that the gap must be bridged through conscious national integration efforts aimed at promoting unity and equitable socio-economic development and democratic consolidation.

He added that in bridging the gap, new messages of national solidarity and strength in diversity should be escalated to counter the dubious narratives of ethno-cultural and religious divide being perpetrated, especially by politicians close to national election times in order to continue to divide and rule the country.

He said, “Of all the vices, which have reared their ugly heads in enmity against the Nigerian state, it seems to me the misuse of ethnicity and religion and cultural diversity ranks as one of the most dangerous.

In my view, no measure can blunt ethnic, cultural and religious jingoism and advance the cause of national unity more than a determined and sustained efforts to isolate the perpetrators while at the same time making honest and manifest efforts to treat all Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnic origin equally before the law as well as the promotion of, and respect for, the human rights of all Nigerians.”

Gambari, who noted that the country is facing a new challenge of the new media, which provides a platform easily accessible to individuals and could reach a wide range of people even in the remotest places unrestrained.

He added that these new challenges where millions are reached without control constitute a challenge in broadcasting.

He pointed out that due to the combined reach of radio and television, one could only imagine how effective they could be in spreading information, real or fake, and combined with the power of the social media, broadcasting has become a double-edged sword that can develop or destroy.

According to him, concerted efforts must be made through institutional reforms to curb the excesses of social media, especially with regards to hate speech.