Nigeria: Chief Raymond Dokpesi and Daar Communications’ Broadcasting License Troubles
Again troubles have started for Chief Raymond Dokpesi since he made revelation about how the Nigeria State Security Service (SSS) pressured him to sack one of his staff Gbenga Aruleba from anchoring the famous programme on AIT Network Focus Nigeria, a current affairs programme. This ugly development has almost lost him his broadcasting license on TV network service (AIT) and also his sister station Ray Power FM.
Huhuonline.com gathered that a Federal High Court in Abuja has restrained the National Broadcasting Commission, the Ministry of Information and Communications and the Attorney General of the Federation from withdrawing the network license being held by the African Independent Television. Justice Adamu Bello gave this order following a motion ex-parte brought by Daar Communications Plc. The court directed the maintenance of the status quo and suspension of all acts tending towards revocation, suspension, withdrawal or cancellation of its existing licence pending the determination and hearing of the motion on notice filed before the court.
Huhuonline.com investigations to the ugly trend revealed that the network licence of DAAR Communications allows it to maintain multiple terrestrial stations in the country to transmit its radio and television programme on network basis in the country. The Federal Government granted the plaintiff the licence more than 14 years ago. But in an originating summons filed at the court by Daar Communications’ lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, the media outfit is asking the court to issue a separate order setting aside a purported bid for a fresh network licence held by the National Broadcasting Commission between September 6 and December 12, 2009 on the grounds that it was flawed, overreaching, wrongful, oppressive, unconscionable, null and void. The plaintiff also asked the court to order the NBC to issue it with a fresh network licence for radio and television broadcast upon payment of the appropriate fees if the court held that it did not possess a valid network service. The plaintiff further said the court must move in its favour before the government carried out its threat to shut down over 22 of its stations across Nigeria, which would force thousands of its workers back into the labour market.
The facts of the case are that between 1995 to today, the Federal Government had allowed the Daar Communications to enjoy the services of network broadcasting on both radio and television across Nigeria. That was after a lot of exchanges of correspondences between the plaintiff and the defendants on the request for and the grant of network licence by both parties. But sometimes in September this year, the NBC issued a directive for fresh bid for broadcast networks in the country. The commission directed that only one network each would be allowed for radio and television in addition to those of Nigerian Television Authority and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria.
The said release containing the directive was, however, silent on the existing network already being enjoyed by Daar Communications through its radio and television arms. The plaintiff though protested the directive of the NBC to the Ministry of Information and Communications, the ministry, however, advised it to obtain the application form first before forwarding a formal complaint to it. Based on the advice, DAAR Communications purchased the forms for N2m for radio and television network service and filed its complaints to the communication ministry. The plaintiff, in its affidavit accompanying the writ said it went through a technical evaluation with other bidders and emerged successful alongside Silverbird Communications and Megaletrics.
It said that it bid N720m for radio and N1.5bn for television on the first day of the financial bid opening to beat Silverbirds’ N250m and Megaletric’s N200m for radio and Silverbird‘s N300m for television. The plaintiff said that the NBC, however, rejected the bids on the grounds that none of the parties met the reserved price set by the commission. The plaintiff added that it believed that there was manipulation of the reserve price by NBC as evident from the progression of the price bided by Silverbird Communications of N1.5bn for radio and N3.5bn for television as against its N725m for radio and N1.510bn for television.