'It's an attempt to gag the media' -- Atiku kicks against NBC code/ Atiku

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has described the newly launched code of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) as a calculated attempt to gag the media in Nigeria. 

The newly introduced code, which among other things, saw increase in fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million, has drawn the ire of several Nigerians.

Also weighing into the matter in a statement on Thursday, Atiku accused the All Progressives Congress-led government of attempting to to stiffle free speech in Nigeria. 

His words: “It is globally acknowledged that one of the core functions of  the mass media is to inform the society on all ranges of issues, not even to the exclusion of national security issues.

“In many advanced democracies the world over, criminals on even wanted lists of law enforcement agencies have reached out to the media to express their opinions about the crimes that they had perpetrated and the media space was not denied to them.

“As a matter of fact, it seems somewhat contradictory that a country like ours, which is in the throes of national security skirmishes, would choose to shrink media access to critical information.

“It is not known if any society had won the war against terrorism by placing a restriction to access to information, in the way the NBC had done.”

The former Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also faulted the NBC's move to sanction the 99.3 FM, Nigeria Info, over the comment of a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Obadiah Mailafia that the Boko Haram insurgent group is being led by a governor during one of its programme.

He added: “Whether or not what Dr. Mailafia said on the radio station was a false claim, it is outside of the objectives of a responsible regulatory framework to sanction a radio station for a comment an individual made, more so that the personality in question, Dr. Obadiah, had been quizzed and released by law enforcement agents.

“If for any reason the authorities are not satisfied with his explanations, they are at liberty to prosecute him in court, but not to make a scapegoat of the media platform that provides opportunities for citizens to ventilate their views.

“The claim by the management of NBC that ‘this (the penalty) is expected to serve as a deterrent to all other broadcast stations in Nigeria who are quick to provide platform for subversive rhetoric and expositions of spurious and unverifiable claims, to desist from such’, is a naked attempt to gag the media in Nigeria.”