Human rights lawyer Femi Falana says the fine imposed on Channels Television by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is illegal.
He said the agency should publicly apologize and refund the fine, if it has already been paid.
The television channel was sanctioned for interviewing the spokesman for the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Inspiration FM was also ordered to pay a fine of N5 million for broadcasting an IPOB broadcast in which “secessionist claims” were allegedly made.
Speaking in Lagos on Thursday at the launch of a report from the Socio-Economic Rights and Responsibility Project (SERAP), Falana said that NBC did not allow a fair hearing, as stipulated in the broadcast law.
He said the agency did not comply with the provisions of the law, adding that the amendment code under which the television station was sanctioned “was never debated, discussed or agreed upon.”
“In the case of Television Channels, no provision of the law was complied with,” he said.
“It is not necessary to be a lawyer to know that NBC’s conduct is illegal, null and void, but that is not all, the NBC code that was supposedly amended was never debated, discussed or agreed, but a government that proclaims in voice high that operating under the rule of law is using the same instrument to impose sanctions on television channels and thus deny all Nigerians access to information.
“Therefore, I submit that if Channels Television paid the N5 million fine, it should be reimbursed without further delay.
Second, NBC should publicly apologize to Channels Television and to the Nigerian people for violating our collective rights.
“Also, the amended code should be withdrawn immediately because the chairman of the board who was supposed to preside over the meeting said that the amendment was never approved and no one has challenged it, and that is why that amendment should be crushed and voided.
“My suggestions have nothing to do with the alleged apology extracted from the Television Channels. In other words, after all channels have apologized, you can’t say no. An apology cannot void your rights. Since we say the amendment is illegal, any action taken under it is illegal.
“On the contrary, it is NBC that should apologize to the staff and management of Channels Television and to all Nigerians.”