Heavily fortified security operatives of the Nigeria Police Force and the State Security Service have surrounded the premises of African Independent Television (AIT) after the station came back on air late Friday.
Group Managing Director of DAAR Communication Mr. Tony Akiotu speaking to newsmen said shortly after AIT commenced operation, security forces gathered around the station’s premises
He decried the action saying the action of the Nigeria Police Force and the State Security Service was an ‘unwarranted threat’ on AIT.
He explained that by 12.30 a.m. Saturday morning, the premises of DAAR Communications Plc was surrounded by security operatives of the Nigeria Police Force and the State Security Service.
He went further to say the “heavily fortified security operatives were carrying out surveillance on the premises,”
Mr Akiotu said this is “unusual” and the motive “unclear” but the sation will not be deterrd as “the station is still transmitting signals on its national and global beam,” adding that the action of the security operatives was “unwarranted threat” .
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, had granted an ex-parte order that restored the operating license of DAAR Communications Plc, owners of African Independent Television, AIT, and Ray Power FM, which was earlier suspended by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC.
The court ordered both DAAR Communications Plc and NBC to revert to the status quo that was in existence as at May 30, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit before it. The order followed a suit the media establishment lodged to challenge the suspension of its operating licence on Thursday by the NBC.
The NBC had based its action on allegation that the media outfit breached its rules and regulations. Meanwhile, cited as Respondents in the suit the plaintiff filed through its lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, were the NBC, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture (FMIC) and the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF.
The plaintiff equally filed an affidavit of urgency, wherein it urged the court to quickly intervene in the matter. Out of three principal reliefs that DAAR Communications Plc sought in its motion ex-parte, the court declined to grant two of them.
Specifically, the plaintiff had sought to restrain the Respondents, its agents or privies, from interfering with its operations in any manner whatsoever, pending the determination of its application for injunctive reliefs. However, in his ruling, Justice Inyang Ekwo, said he was minded to grant the alternative relief to restore the status quo that was in existence as at when the matter was brought before the court for adjudication.
The court therefore issued, “An order for the maintenance of status quo ante bellum as at 30th of May, 2019, pending the hearing and final determination of the motion on notice filed along with this application”. Justice Ekwo said he would not hesitate to sanction the plaintiff, if the court is later convinced that the order was made in error.
More so, the court ordered all the Respondents to appear before it on June 13, “to show cause why the prayers in the applicant’s motion should not be granted”. DAAR Communications Plc had in its affidavit of urgency that was deposed to by one Mr. Kelly Elisha, prayed the court to wade into the matter that led to NBC’s sanction against it.
“The timeous intervention by this Honourable Court is necessary to prevent irreparable damage from being done to the Plaintiff, thus foisting a situation of complete helplessness on this Honourable Court”, it pleaded. In the motion, the embattled media organisation sought for, “An order of interlocutory Injunction in favour of DAAR Communication Plc, the Plaintiff/Applicant (operators of African Independent Television (AIT), RAYPOWER 100.5 FM, FAJI FM and DARSAT), restraining the Defendants, whether by themselves, their agents, operatives, servants and/or privies, howsoever called, 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 substantive suit.
As well as, “An order of interlocutory Injunction in favour of DAAR Communication Plc, the Plaintiff/Applicant (African Independent Television (AIT), RAYPOWER 100.5 FM, FAJI FM and DARSAT), restraining the Defendants, whether by themselves, their agents, operatives, servants and/or privies, howsoever called 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 substantive suit”. As part of its grounds for making the application, the Plaintiff/Applicant, told the court that it was the first privately owned Independent Broadcasting Organisation in Nigeria, having been licensed to broadcast on television and radio since 1996.
“The 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 16th April, 2019, agents of the Federal Government represented by the 1st Defendant, in a Gestapo- like- manner, attacked and pulled down the two gates leading to the Plaintiff/Applicant’s operational Headquarters which damage and destruction run into of hundreds of millions of naira.
“The Defendants and their agents have been writing 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 KAKAKI (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. “Shutting down the broadcast services of the Plaintiff will deny majority of Nigerians access to information which is constitutionally guaranteed, and its teaming workers of their means of livelihood.
“That it is extremely urgent to hear and grant these prayers pending the hearing of the substantive suit, so as prevent irreparable damage which cannot be compensated for on monetary terms from being inflicted on the Plaintiff/Applicant”, it added. NGE condemns suspension of DAAR communications licences, demands reversal
The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has condemned the suspension of the licences of the African Independent Television (AIT) and Ray Power by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and demanded its reversal. The NGE expressed its view in a statement in Abuja on Friday.
In the statement signed by President of the Guild, Mrs Funke Egbemode, the editors appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari, to use his good offices to call the NBC to order to revoke the suspension. The Guild demanded in clear terms the revocation of the suspension order as it runs contrary to the ideals of free speech and the fine tenets of press freedom.
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