At long last, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has agreed to suspend the revocation of the operating licenses of 52 broadcast stations owing debt amounting to N2.6 billion in licensing fees until August 23, 2022.
The Director-General of NBC Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, said in a statement that the extension was due to appeal by the affected broadcast stations, relevant stakeholders, public spirited organisations and organisations. Ilelah said the commission would enforce the revocation order on the affected stations by August 24 if they fail defray their debts after the expiration of the grace.
In the statement which the agency titled, NBC Extends Enforcement of Revocation Order on Debtor Broadcast Stations from 24 Hours to Wednesday August 23, 2022, it stated categorically that, “This is to inform all the affected broadcast stations whose licenses were revoked and given 24 hours pay all outstanding license fees that the National Broadcasting Commission has extended the period which all outstanding debts are to be paid from 24 hours to Wednesday, August 23, 2022.
“All affected broadcast stations are to fall to defray their debts on or before August 23,2022 are directed to shut down by 12 am on August 24, 2022. “This extension is due to appeal by the affected broadcast stations, relevant stakeholders, public spirited organisations and organisations,” Ilelah said.
In another statement, the Nigerian chapter of International Press Institute (IPI) claimed the concession by the NBC followed its intervention and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) on how to explore amicable resolution of the dispute.
After the announcement, IPI Nigeria said following the revocation of the licenses of the stations on Friday, it engaged the Ministry of Information and Culture, the NBC and BON.
IPI Nigeria President, Musikilu Mojeed, said yesterday that Ilelah had graciously agreed to grant an extension on compassionate ground. He said although the concession was a temporary relief, IPI was hopeful that all parties would engage in few days with a view to arriving at a lasting resolution of the matter.
“We thank the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Mallam Illela for listening to us and allowing a window for dialogue.
“During our engagement with the Commission, the NBC explained that the commission had in the past granted several concessions to broadcast organisations, including writing off substantial parts of their debts and engaging them consistently to fulfil their financial obligations to the regulator,” Mojeed said.
He implored the affected broadcasting organisations to take advantage of the grace by reaching out to the NBC. “Nobody benefits when broadcasting stations are shut down. Members of the public have come to rely on these stations to know what their governments are doing to keep them safe in this challenging security environment. Other governments’ policies are also disseminated to the public through these channels.
“In view of the nation’s economic downturn, we further appeal to the affected broadcast stations and the NBC to agree a workable payment arrangement of the outstanding dues,” he added.
In revoking the licenses on Friday, the commission had ordered the stations off air beginning this Saturday, citing Section 10(a) of the 3rd Schedule of the National Broadcasting Commission Act CAP N11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. The provision says, “10. A licence may be revoked by the Commission in the following cases, that is (a) where the prescribed fee has not been paid on the due date…”