On June 6, 2019, Nigerians woke up only to be assailed with news of the indefinite suspension and closure of African Independent Television (AIT) by Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC). The broadcasting regulation agency gave reasons why AIT had to be closed down. Most Nigerians saw the closure as clampdown on press freedom of speech. They even went as far as calling President Muhammadu Buhari dictator who is hell bent on muscling free media.
Here is how premiumtimes, an online newspaper, reported the meeting where the dispute was permanently resolved: — A statement by the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) said the truce was secured on Sunday night by a committee that was set up to look into the face-off between NBC and Daar Communications’ AIT and Ray Power FM.The NBC will lift its ban on the stations, while Daar will withdraw its lawsuit, both sides agreed. —.
Although, AIT went to court and got favorable judgment instructing that the media house should resume operation. AIT has since resumed operation. Many Nigerians argued that NBC is not constitutionally empowered to close down based on the infraction it said AIT had made. They argued that one cannot be a judge in his own case. The appropriate step, according to them, would have been for NBC to approach the court with the plethora of evidence of infraction of broadcasting guideline it said it has; and seek for the order of the court to close down the media house.
The NBC vs AIT feud would have been lingering by now, but for the timely intervention of Mallam Isah Funtua-led group of patriots. We have three levels of court in Nigeria; these effectively means that NBC could have approached the court of appeal by way of appealing high court ruling in favor of AIT or even go for stay of execution of the judgment. None of these happened, indicating that Isah Funtua and his group swung into action immediately AIT was closed down to see that the polity is not heated up. The result of their shuttle diplomacy saw complete cessation of hostility by both sides.
Who is Mallam Isah Funtua? He is the Patron of Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), a very important and strategic organization in Nigeria. NPAN is strategic because main stream media owners as well as editors are members. It regulates journalism profession generally. The stability of a country is largely dependent on internal harmony in media reportage of events within a country. Whenever there is cry of press gag within a country, the impression being created is that such country is slipping into dictatorship and this scenario is bad for the image of such country. If the situation becomes desperate with deafening shout of government gagging of free press, the country risk becoming a pariah nation. The attendant consequence of isolation of a country is better imagined than experienced.
When the impression is given that a country is intolerant of free press, international investors will become reluctant in investing in such a country. To avoid such tag and the attendant implications, NPAN is strategically positioned in Nigeria, to avoid negative impression being created about the country. It is heartwarming to note that Mallam Isah Funtua led NPAN is silently and effectively maintaining a balance between the fourth estate of the realm, and government in order to ensure favorable environment where the media discharges its responsibility without hindrance.
Mallam Isah Funtua led NPAN has shown time and time again, that much can be achieved by being silently effective. Probably, Isah Funtua’s unassuming personality is responsible for the great results NPAN has been recording in terms of its role in balancing, and stability of the media environment responsibility. He maintains good relationship with everybody, irrespective of his or her ethnic or religious background. On his lifestyle, he is not flamboyant type. He is always accessible to everyone. He lives in a modest house in Abuja. No wonder, NPAN has been serving as polity stabilizer irrespective of the government in power.
Nigerians are surely happy with the manner AIT and NBC rift was amicably settled in the interest of the country’s progress, all thanks to NPAN’s timely intervention.
Information Management Consultant and Researcher
Wrote in from Garki-Abuja