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New NBC Bill: CSOs, IPC Reject Tariff Proposal for Satellite TV

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By Torkwase Nyiekaa Abuja

The International Press Centre (IPC), as well as Civil Society Organisations have rejected proposed tariff regulations for satellite television in the new National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act amendment bill.

Their views were made known on Wednesday in Abuja during the public hearing of a bill to amend the NBC Act organised by the House   Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values.

 In his presentation titled,  ‘Independence of NBC/depoliticised process of licensing, industry-sensitive pricing system, promotion of inclusivity and checking arbitrariness’, the Executive Director of  IPC, Mr.

Lanre Arogundade said fixing tariffs arbitrarily could lead to excessive pricing that has the potential of discouraging investment in the sector and the attendant job losses.

He added that giving the NBC the sole right over tariff issues which cannot be interfered with could be interpreted as an ouster clause that arrogates to it arbitrary powers that cannot be challenged even in the court of law.

Arogundade emphasised that the provisions must also not encourage the regulator to become a dictatorial behemoth whose powers and conduct cannot be questioned as such would negate democratic norms and values.

The Executive Director noted that unlike other regulatory institutions such as the National Communications Commission (NCC), the appointment of the Board, including the Director General, is not subject to the confirmation of the National Assembly. 

Arogundade pointed out that the conduct of the NBC overtime presented it as an extension of the office of the Minister of Information and Culture which rarely acts independently.

He stressed that  in recent times the NBC has taken actions against certain broadcast media that are believed to be politically motivated, adding that the time is therefore overripe to make the NBC truly independent.

Arogundade noted that the process of licensing broadcast stations is  politically compromised, as under the present NBC Act. 

He  stated: “Fixing tariffs arbitrarily could lead to excessive pricing that has the potential of discouraging investment in the sector and the attendant job losses.”

“Giving the NBC the sole right over tariff issues which cannot be interfered with could be interpreted as an ouster clause that arrogates to its arbitrary powers that cannot be challenged even in the court of law.”

Arogundade noted that the proposed tariff in the NBC Act amendment bill  represents a usurpation of the functions of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Act (FCCPC Act), which  has adequate provisions to deal with the often contentious issue of competition and pricing in Nigeria.

He lamented that the NBC currently operates as an institution that is an island unto itself, stressing that as it suits the whim and caprice of its Director General, it decides that an offence has been committed, decides on the punishment and goes ahead to apply the sanctions, which sometimes include shutdown of broadcast stations. 

In other words,  he said, the NBC is often the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in its own case. 

To this end, Arogundade said the NBC Act should provide for the right of appeal to the Board of NBC where sanctions applicable for alleged breach of Nigeria, saying broadcasting Code could include hefty fines, suspension or withdrawal of license.

Also, making his presentation on behalf of Ataguba and Ataguba solicitors,  Mr. Emmanuel Ataguba, said the intendment of this amendment  to regulate and control prices in the

interest of consumers of Digital Satellite Television Services is  against the objective of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection

Act which is to  “protect and promote the interests and welfare of consumers by providing

consumers with a wider variety of quality products (and services) at competitive prices”.

He pointed out that he does not consider that price regulation would benefit consumers, stressing that in public services where government subsidies are involved, price regulation may be relevant.

On his part, the  Executive Director, Institute for Media and Society,  Dr. Akin Akingbulu, said the most prominent gap in the NBC Act today is its failure to provide for the independence of the regulatory body.

He said lack of independence manifests in many ways such as in skewed decision-making, inconsistencies in attention to regulatory functions, inability to protect the industry and strengthen its professionalism, inability to meet international standards and, ultimately, failure to deliver on its mandate. 

Earlier in his presentation, the  Minister of Communication and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed said the bill should grant power to NBC to regulate internet broadcasting and all online media.

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Tinubu Charges Qatari Investors to Report Bribe Demanding Officials

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By David Torough

President Bola Tinubu yesterday in Doha, Qatar charged captains of industry in Qatar to report to him any government official who will demand a bribe or any form of inducement at any point in their business activities in Nigeria.

Speaking at the Nigeria-Qatar Business and Investment Forum in Doha yesterday Tinubu told Qatari investors that Africa’s largest economy is being reformed and upgraded.

He reassured the international business community that Nigeria is ready for serious business as his administration will deal decisively with any and all entrenched interests in the country who undermine investor confidence in the Nigerian economy, pledging to remove all bottlenecks standing in the way of profitable and legitimate enterprise.

The president said, “I am here to give you the assurance that reforms are going on; forget about whatever you heard in the past. Whatever is the obstacle or problem that some of you might have experienced; it is in the past, because there is no obstacle in the future.

“Do not offer a bribe to any of our people, and if it is requested or taken from you, report to us. You will have access to me. Nigeria will no longer be defined by the past, but by what we do now and moving forward. Do not let perceptions become a hindrance to your will to invest. Nigeria is serious about revolutionizing investment promotion.

“We are removing obstacles today and we are going to continue to remove all obstacles. We have done so much within nine months. And I assure you, it is free entry and free exit. Your funds will flow smoothly into and out of our country. Bring your investments.”

Tinubu noted that the war against corruption and insecurity in Nigeria had been significantly strengthened with the appointment of the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, as National Security Adviser (NSA).

“We have a man who has won many global awards for anti-corruption as an anti-corruption czar.

“My responsibility is to tell you that Nigeria is open for business and to assure you that your investments are safe in our hands. We have men and women of great reputation here. And we believe we can forge a good committee that will advance our discussions to fruitful conclusions.

“A nation is an artificial entity unless there are good people to drive it. People build great nations and we have great people. We are ready,” the President affirmed.

Tinubu noted that Nigeria possesses vast opportunities in various fields, telling his host: “We have oil and gas; we have solid minerals. I do not see why we cannot become prolific partners in exploring iron ore, as well as steel production, and energy across the board.

“I am here to give you assurances in all spheres: tourism, hospitality, healthcare, and many other opportunities that abound around us. Do not be the investors who miss out on the golden opportunity we present,” the President added.

Welcoming the Nigerian delegation in the presence of Qatari captains of industry, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Qassim Al Abdullah Al Thani, Qatar’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, said his country looks forward to exploring opportunities in Nigeria, owing to its population demography and market, as it seeks to prioritize new investments in low carbon initiatives, mineral products, petroleum chemicals, industry, and consumables.

“We look forward to working with our Nigerian counterparts to achieve our joint objectives in these sectors,” the Minister said.

The President of the Nigeria-Qatar Business and Investment Forum were: Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum; Kaduna State Governor, Senator Uba Sani; Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu; National Security Adviser (NSA), Ribadu; Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mr. Wale Edun; Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Dele Alake; Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate; Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola; Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite; Minister of Youth, Dr Jamila Bio Ibrahim; and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Gas), Mr. Ekperipe Ekpo.

Others at the meeting were Special Adviser on Energy, Mrs. Olu Verheijen; and the President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Mr. Dele Kelvin Oye.

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COVER

Mob Beat Two Policemen to Death after Road Crash

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By Our Reporter

Two policemen on escort duty were yesterday beaten to death, two others injured following a mob action at Ikpeshi in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State.

This happened after a Toyota Hilux vehicle belonging to the escort duty policemen in the convoy of former Edo House of Assembly member Emmanuel Agbaje hit a motorcycle, resulting in the death of the rider, a woman and her child.

Ikpeshi youths, according to sources, besieged the office of Edo State Security Vigilante Network, where the two policemen were taken, overpowered them and beat the policemen to death.

Two other policemen were rescued by the vigilante members.

The rescued police were taken hospital.

The four policemen were from Police Mobile Force (PMF) 19, Port Harcourt in Rivers State.

The chairman of Akoko-Edo local council, Tajudeen Alade who condemned the activities of Ikpeshi youths declared that the persons involved would be identified, arrested and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others.

Edo Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Chidi Nwabuzor, confirmed the incident.

He said investigation into the incident was ongoing after which the command would release more details to the public.

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NDIC Reimburses Depositors of 183 Rested Microfinance, Mortgage Banks

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) has reimbursed depositors of 179 rested microfinance and four mortgage banks across the country.

The Managing Director of the corporation, Dr Bello Hassan disclosed this at the NDIC Special Day during the just-concluded 45th Kaduna International Trade Fair.

Hassan, who was represented by the NDIC’s Deputy Director of Communication, Hauwa Gambo reiterated that the corporation’s priority was the protection of depositors’ funds of licensed banks in distress.

According to Hassan, in carrying out its statutory functions, the corporation has introduced the Single Customer View framework to expedite payment to depositors of liquidated banks.

He added that the NDIC has enhanced its collaboration with the judiciary for speedy prosecution of failed insured banks which has resulted in resolving long-drawn cases of closed banks such as Fortune and Triumph Banks liquidation.

According to the NDIC boss, the efforts have significantly improved the debt recovery rate, which enabled the corporation to declare 100 per cent liquidation dividends to uninsured depositors of more than 20 deposit money banks.

He said, “Our priority at NDIC is the protection of Nigerian depositors. We are dedicated to safeguarding depositors’ funds from the adverse effects of bank failure. The corporation has introduced the Single Customer View framework to expedite payment to depositors of closed banks.

“The corporation has enhanced collaboration with the judiciary for speedy prosecution of failed insured institutions. This concerted effort has resulted in resolving long-drawn cases of closed banks such as Fortune and Triumph Banks in liquidation.

“Moreover, we have utilised alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and out-of-court settlements, revitalising our liquidation activities. These efforts have significantly improved our debt recovery rate, enabling us to declare 100 per cent liquidation dividends to uninsured depositors of more than 20 deposit money banks in liquidation.”

Hassan also said that NDIC deployed digital remote payment strategies to facilitate electronic funds transfers to verified depositors’ alternate bank accounts.

To address the apathy among depositors with small balances, he said the NDIC launched the ‘Deposit Tracer’ in partnership with mobile operators, which allows depositors to access their unpaid balances through mobile accounts.

He urged depositors of banks in liquidation to utilise the various initiatives by the corporation to claim their funds trapped in closed banks.

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