The founder of DAAR Communications Plc, Raymond Dokpesi, has responded to the allegations made against the media organisation by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
He described the queries as “the high handedness of government in deploying all instruments of power to threaten, intimidate and harass the organisation for my affiliation with the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).”
The NBC, Nigeria’s broadcast regulatory commission, had threatened to sanction Daar Communications Group over the use of social media comments in one of its programmes, Kakaaki, and ‘unprofessional’ conducts by the media house.
It asked the media house to explain why it should not be sanctioned for broadcasting ‘inciting’ and ‘unfair’ contents. The allegations were contained in three separate letters written to the media house recently.
In the first letter dated May 27, NBC referred to an October 2018 letter warning the management of Daar Communications to exercise caution in the use of social media comments
It said the media house has refused to heed its warning and continues to broadcast ‘treasonable comments.’
In the second letter, the commission alleged that the media house featured a documentary titled ‘The Nigerian judiciary on trial: lessons from Kenya,’ accusing the judiciary of delayed judgments and the electoral umpire, INEC, of hoarding its server results due to rigging. It described the documentary as ‘prejudicial’.
And in a third letter, the NBC referred to a ‘one-sided and unfair allegations of news commentary on Justice Bulkachuwa’s membership of the Presidential Petition Tribunal.’
It warned the station to exercise caution in the discussion of issues pending in court.
In his response, Mr Dokpesi said the media house is not guilty of the charges and allegations raised by the NBC.
On the news commentary on Justice Bulkachuwa’s membership of presidential petition tribunal, Mr Dopkesi said the allegations “are preposterous and bizarre.” He added that the NBC “does not appear to know the difference between News and Commentary/Opinion/Editorial.
“I must, however, say very quickly here that the allegation of likely sponsors made by the NBC is a statement of guilt given the partisan outlook of the leadership of the NBC and the onus for the DG himself to recuse himself from the leadership of the NBC.”
For the documentary on the Nigerian Judiciary on Trial, he said the Kenyan example was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. According to him, the petition already laid before the tribunal at the time had become a public document.
“There were already ongoing robust and very engaging debates on the salient points of the petition before the Tribunal. All AIT simply did was add our voice to the conversation by addressing the minds of Nigerians to the Kenyan example at their Presidential elections in 2017,” he said.
On the third allegation regarding lack of ‘Editorial Responsibility’ in the use of content from social media, he said the allegation “is as absurd as it is self-contradictory.”
He explained that the programme, Kakaaki Social, curates the thoughts and opinions of ordinary Nigerians as expressed on social media regarding a variety of topics.
“It is important to note that this programme generates none of the content published but only curates and publishes the thoughts and opinions of the Nigerian public on critical issues.
“However, for some unknown reason, the programme was singled out by NBC and accused of issuing a call to war and being outrightly inciting. This accusation was made in spite of the fact that most of the comments published on the programme condemned the threats of secession and called for national unity.
“Again, we at AIT and RayPower plead not guilty to the NBC charges…
“The NBC must see itself as a national regulatory body that it is and not an organisation existing to protect the sole interests of the ruling party in government.”
The DAAR Communications boss said the commission came “with a well-scripted program of action to shut down the DAAR Communications brand from Nigeria’s broadcasting landscape” since 2015.
“Every broadcast which appears to them to offer a dissenting perspective to the position of Government is reprehended as a threat to national interest. Every reference and reportage from various sections of the country concerning injustice, inequality, and iniquity is reprehended as a threat to national security.
“We have suffered harassment from successive governments since the days of General Sani Abacha and the struggle for democracy in Nigeria.
“The demolition of our security infrastructure by the FCDA, the threatening letters and fines from the industry regulator and a number of other actions we have been duly notified of being plotted and in the pipelines, from desperate attempts to gag, muzzle, restrain and impair our operations and reportage,” he said.
He also alleged that some security agencies have threatened him with the “Okadigbo treatment”.
Mr Dopkesi, who described the Director General of the NBC, Ishaq Moddibo Kawu, as a partisan politician, urged him to resign from his position.
“Is he in a position to regulate freely and fairly? Is he devoid of partisan interest in regulating the industry? The fact that he lost his primaries and returned to resume as DG of the NBC is in itself despicable.
“He too must know that the right thing for him to do is to step down from the leadership of the NBC, at least until such a time that he is acquitted of the charges against him,” he said.
Mr Kawu is currently battling allegations of fraud in the law court.
Mr Dokpesi called on the media, national, international, and the global civil society and human rights groups for help.
“It is time to rise up to say, if the Executive arm of Government can muscle the Legislative arm, intimidate and cajole the Judiciary, there is nothing it can do about the Fourth Estate of the Realm, its existence or freedom to operate as it is constitutionally provided for.
“If indeed, we all exist to contribute meaningfully to the growth and development of Nigeria and its citizens, we must begin to see ourselves as partners and not as avowed enemies on the basis of our political, religious and other beliefs,” he said.