Senior Advocate of Nigeria and respected legal luminary, Chief Mike Ozekhome has advised the Federal Government to obey a court order issued by the Abuja Federal High Court earlier today, ordering the re-opening of AIT Television Station.
It will be recalled that on Thursday, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC shut down AIT on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari for allegedly violating Nigeria’s Broadcasting Code. Ozekhome, in a statement to Politics Nigeria, expressed his disapproval of the move. The Statement read;
“The Judiciary today again came unsung, to do what it knows best how to do-dispense justice to all manners of persons, irrespective of might, power, status or station in life. The Federal High Court,Abuja, in a ruling delivered by Justice Ekwo Inyang in an ex Ex parte motion filed by DAAR COMMUNICATIONS (AIT/Ray Power) lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome,SAN,ordered the NBC and the Federal Government to immediately open and make operational,the two stations which NBC had ordered shut down yesterday for alleged breach of its Code. The court, while adjourning further proceedings in the matter argued by Benson Igbanoi, Esq, holding the brief of Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, to 13th June 2019, specifically ordered as follows:
“An Order is hereby made that parties shall maintain status quo antebellum as at 30th May 2019 pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice filed in this case”
2.”Defendants are hereby ordered to show cause on the next date of hearing why the prayers on the Motion on Notice of the Plaintiff/Applicant ought not to be granted”.
By these clear extant orders, the Federal High Court has directed the NBC and the Federal Government to immediately return to the status quo as at 30th of May 2019, open and make operational, the AIT/Ray Power stations which it had illegally shut down yesterday with brute force.
“The “status quo ante bellum as at 30th May,2019″ simply refers to the unencumbered and unhindered period when AIT/Ray Power were fully operational and freely broadcasting on air to the whole world,before the illegal, unconstitutional highhanded and unconscionable shut down carried out yesterday by the NBC, even whilst the court proceedings were already pending before the court to the clear knowledge of the said NBC, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Ministry of Information, all of whom were sued as defendants.”
“This statement is to therefore humbly advise and urge the NBC and its parent proprietor, the Federal Government, to obey the order of the court and immediately, within 24 hours, open and make freely operational and broadcasting, the AIT/Ray Power stations. As a necessary corollary, they should also immediately withdraw their security agents, including the Police and DSS Operatives, which they had happily deployed yesterday to shut down the operations of AIT/Ray Power.”
“It must be emphasised that an independent press, aside from being specifically enshrined in sections 22 and 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, constitute the very bedrock of a constitutional democracy such as we operate. It allows for varied and disagreeable voices in a pluralistic, multi-ethnic,multi-religious and multi-linguistic society such as ours. A free press promotes healthy debate and different shades of opinion on critical national issues concerning good governance, rule of law, human rights and anti-corruption.”
“A free and independent press ensures transparency, accountability and responsibility of the government to the people on social, political, economic and cultural matters that affect Nigeria and Nigerians. A free and independent press constitutes a fundamental and inalienable constitutional right. It is not a privilege donated by a benevolent dictator, as in totalitarian, fascist and despotic nations to whom the word “democracy” is alien.”