NBC Appeals Judgment Stopping Imposition of Fines on Broadcast Stations

The National Broadcasting Commission has filed an appeal against the ruling of the Federal High Court which dismissed the commission’s motion to set aside a May 2023 judgment restraining it from imposing fines on radio and television stations.

In a 4-ground notice of appeal filed by NBC’s lead counsel, Mr. Babajide Koku (SAN), it complained about the decision of the lower court while asking the appellate to set aside the earlier judgment.

An Abuja-based lawyer, Mr. Noah Ajare, in a suit instituted on behalf of Media Rights Agenda, had challenged the powers of the NBC to fine broadcasters, following the imposition of N500,000 fine each on 45 broadcast stations for alleged contraventions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code in 2019.

Giving his ruling, Justice James Omotosho, held that only courts of law were empowered to impose sanctions for criminal offences, noting that NBC was “neither a court nor a judicial tribunal to make pronouncements on the guilt of broadcast stations notwithstanding the NBC code, thereby violating the constitution.”

In its first ground of appeal, the NBC argued that Justice Omotosho erred in law when he refused to set aside the judgment, which it alleged, was demonstrated before him to have been deceitfully obtained on the ground that the commission was indolent and ought to have raised the objection in the substantive suit timeously.

It said the law confers on a court the inherent power to review and set aside its earlier judgment on grounds of fraud and deceit if those grounds are subsequently brought to its knowledge and demonstrated to exist.

The second ground of appeal is that the judge erred in law when he held that he would not set aside his earlier judgment because “res judicata” was not a ground for settling aside a default judgment.

The NBC’s third ground of appeal is that the judge erred in law when he held that “In the final analysis, the application by the respondent/applicant (NBC) has no substance for being an afterthought and a belated attempt at challenging the jurisdiction of the court.”

In its fourth ground of appeal, the commission said the judge erred in law when he found that “a party who is the victim of a default judgment fraudulently obtained would not be entitled to the indulgence of a court of law if it applies to set aside the judgment belatedly without having taken the opportunity of appearing to raise those issues in its defence to the substantive claim.”

The NBC argued that the law and, in particular, the rules of the Federal High Court, permit a party against whom a default judgment was obtained to subsequently apply to have such a judgment set aside on recognized grounds.