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A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday ordered the re-opening of Daar Communications Plc., owners of Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower Radio.
The broadcasting house was shut down by the NBC on Thursday evening, suspending the licence until further notice.
Director-General of NBC, Modibbo Kawu, who announced the shutdown said the action was taken for failure of the TV and radio stations to abide by the broadcasting code and non-payment of renewal fee.
Daar Communication Plc, represented by its founder, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, in an ex-parte motion which had the Federal Ministry of Information and the Attorney General of the Federation as defendants, prayed the court to order the maintenance of status quo ante bellum as at 30th May, this year, pending the hearing and determination of its suit challenging the closure of its broadcast stations.
The company also prayed the court to restrain the defendants from blocking and/or interfering with the air waves of Daar Communication Plc in any way and manner howsoever, in its broadcast and airing of news, views, documentaries, or any other legitimate broadcast material that is usually associated with television, radio or social media broadcast pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed along with the ex-parte application.
The plaintiff also prayed the court to restrain the defendants from invading or closing down the premises of Daar Communication, its operations or broadcast services, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed along with this application.
Alternatively, the plaintiff prayed for an order for maintenance of status quo ante bellum, as at May 30, 2019, pending the hearing and final determination of the Motion on Notice filed along with the ex-parte application.
But the trial Judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, in his ruling, after he had perused the affidavit in support of the ex-parte motion deposed to by one Kelly Elisha and heard from plaintiff counsel, Benson Igbanoi, held that, he woulf not grant prayers one and two of the plaintiff without hearing from other parties.
“I have noted the eight grounds upon which the ex-parte application was hinged, application of this nature must be considered judicially and judiciously, that, I have done.
“I hereby order that parties shall maintain status quo ante bellum as at May 30, 2019 pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed in this case”, Justice Inyang stated and ordered the defendants to appear before the court on June 13, 2019 to show cause why they should not be stopped from interfering with the operations of Daar Communication PLC.
Other grounds include that: “The Plaintiff/Applicant has in the best tenets and tradition of broadcast and in compliance with section 22 of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as altered, carried out its duties legally, legitimately, morally and nationalistically, in informing, educating and entertaining Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora on sundry matters, which activities have energized and contributed to national development and also nurtured, widened, deepened and strengthened democracy, rule of law, human rights and anti-corruption in Nigeria.
“Since the emergence of the present government, the Plaintiff /Applicant has been under its close surveillance and undue monitoring of its operations by the present government which wrongly believes that the Plaintiff/Applicant had been too supportive of the immediate past government.
“That sometimes on 16th April, 2019, agents of the Federal Government represented by the 1st Defendant, in a Gestapo- like- manner, attacked and pulled down the two buildings and gates leading to the Plaintiff/Applicant’s operational Headquarters which damage and destruction run into hundreds of millions of naira.
“The Defendants and their agents have been writing series of letters with which they harassed and intimidated the Plaintiff over the contents of their broadcast, particularly of late, concerning its social media segment of its morning flagship broadcast show called KAAKAKI (the African Voice).
“Credible information just reaching the Plaintiff has it that the Defendants have concluded plans to invade and shut down the premises of the Plaintiff and/or part thereof, in the next few days.
“Shutting down the broadcast services of the Plaintiff will deny majority of Nigerians access to information which is constitutionally guaranteed and its teaming workers of their means of livelihood.
“That it is extremely urgent to hear and grant these prayers pending the hearing of the motion on notice, so as prevent irreparable damage which cannot be compensated for on monetary terms from being inflicted on the Plaintiff/Applicant”.
The plaintiff, Daar Communication Plc, is the first privately owned Independent Broadcasting Organisation in Nigeria, having been licensed to broadcast on television and radio since 1996 and currently, operating the African Independent Television (AIT), Ray Power 100.5 FM, Faji FM and Darsat stations.