Remarks By The HMIC, Alh. Lai Mohammed, on The Occasion of The Submission of The Report of The NBC Reform Implementation Committee In Abuja

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REMARKS BY THE HONORABLE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, ON THE OCCASION OF THE SUBMISSION OF THE REPORT OF THE NBC REFORM IMPLEMENTATION COMMITTEE IN ABUJA ON TUESDAY, 19 NOV. 2019

Good afternoon gentlemen and welcome to this very important event.

2. As you might have realized, we are here today to receive the report of the NBC Reform Implementation Committee, which I inaugurated in this same room on the 10th of October 2019. Recall, gentlemen, that the committee was given six weeks to submit its report. I am glad to say that they have worked hard, they have met the deadline and they have come here today to present their report on schedule.

3. I want to therefore most sincerely thank the Chairman and members of the committee for their sacrifice, diligence and service to the nation. Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, who chaired the committee; Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa; J.K. Ehicheoya, Esq; Hajia Binta Adamu Bello, Mr. Ibrahim Jimoh; Hon. Agbo Kingsley Ndubuisi and Mr. Joe Mutah, I thank you all.

4. While inaugurating the committee, I gave it the following terms of reference:

(i) – To implement the recommendations of the committee on the NBC reforms as approved by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari.

(ii) – To Immediately commence work on all statutory, legal and regulatory framework for further legislative action on the review of the NBC Act by the National Assembly.

(iii) – To immediately assess and propose equipment, materials and training needed to make the NBC a modern and well-positioned regulator

(iv) – To liaise with relevant agencies to ensure the provision of the manpower needs of the Commission to enable it function optimally

(v) – To work out the modalities for a competitive and reasonable salaries, wages and other welfare needs of the staff of the Commission

(vi) – To establish necessary protocols for the establishment or appointment of professionals or technocrats (non-partisan personality) to run the agency, and appointment into the board of the NBC

(vii) – To immediately establish and publicize a new sanctioning, fines and penalty regime that is in line with international best practice, promote professionalism and serve as a deterrent to erring practitioners against misconduct, especially hate speech, violence and spread of fake news

(viii) – To establish and publish a new regulation for the licensing of Web and Internet broadcasters/International broadcasters in Nigeria.

(ix) – And finally to end all forms of monopoly detrimental to the actualization of the immense potential of the broadcast industry.

5. Gentlemen, I have read the report and I am satisfied with it. I can tell you that it is going to revolutionize the NBC in several ways. It is apparent to me that for the Nigerian Broadcast industry to play its critical role of providing information for national development, there is the urgent need to come up with regulations that will address existing challenges. In the light of this development, I will be directing the NBC to take the following actions in line with the report of the Implementation Committee:

(i) – To immediately come out with fresh regulations that will promote the local broadcast industry and protect the Nigerian broadcast industry from monopolistic tendencies. These regulations are also in the area of advertising tariffs and production of advertisements in Nigeria. The regulations will also ensure that all anti-competitive behaviors are deterred and sanctioned where they occur.

(ii) – To immediately come up with regulations for the broadcast of content on the Internet and the web. Of course, the regulations must not in any way gag the press or hinder their universal role of providing valuable information to the citizenry. The regulations shall however ensure that those who provide broadcast services on the Internet do so with responsibility.

(iii) – Some 27 years into the life of the NBC, there is the need to re-evaluate the applicability of some of its laws. Following the implementation framework presented to me, I will immediately commence the process of forwarding an Executive Bill for consideration of the Federal Executive Council and further legislative action. The Bill will address the existing lacuna in the areas of the regulation of the Internet, the ongoing Digital Switch Over, Digital Access Fee, and insulation of the regulator from partisan politics.

(iv) – An important aspect of Mr. President’s approval for the reform of the NBC is in the area of the welfare of staff. I will therefore be directing the NBC to commence work on an enhanced welfare package for the staffers of the Commission, with a view to implementing such as soon as possible

(v) – In this age of technology and the Internet of Things, a responsible and respectable broadcast industry regulator must be properly equipped. We shall therefore commence the process for the acquisition of modern broadcast equipment for the Commission for the purpose of monitoring and enforcement. Similarly, government shall commence the process of beefing up the material, training and manpower needs of the Commission.

(vi) – In line with Mr Presidents directive, the Commission will be mandated to amend the Code (through new Regulations) to reflect the

following:

– Upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency

– Wilful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station to attract suspension of license

– Upgrade of breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to ”Class A” offence in the Broadcasting Code.

(vii) – Over the years, there has been no love lost between the Regulator and the Industry. Government believes that a trustworthy relationship is key to the development of the industry. As a way of establishing that collaboration between the Industry and the Regulator, and to ensure transparency, the NBC Act will be amended to make provision for the appointment of a representative of the broadcasters Union for both public and private broadcasters on the Board of the Commission.

(viii) – And finally, we will be taking action to ensure that the approval of broadcast licences aligns with the government’s efforts on the Ease of Doing Business.

6. As you can see, gentlemen, these are far-reaching decisions that will impact on the future of our broadcast Industry.

7. Once again, I thank the members of the Implementation Committee for a job well done, and I thank you all for your kind attention