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MRA Inducts Voice of Nigeria into FOI ‘Hall of Shame’

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Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has named the Voice of Nigeria (VON) into its Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame, accusing it of failing to promote the FOI Act and ensuring its effective implementation as a public service media organisation as well as non-compliance with its obligations under the Act as a public institution.

 

In a statement in Lagos, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA’s director of Programmes, noted that the Voice of Nigeria, as a national radio station established to inform the world on national issues and developments, should ordinarily be at the forefront of promoting the FOI Act and seeking compliance with the provisions of the Law by other public institutions as this would evidently enhance its performance of its statutory functions as well as enable it discharge its duties with greater ease and effectiveness.

 

He, however, expressed disappointment that the station not only failed to promote the Act or advocate compliance by other public institutions, but has itself refused to comply with its obligations under the Act.

 

The Voice of Nigeria is the second Federal Government-owned media institution to be inducted into the FOI Hall of Shame since the inception of the programme in 2017, following the conferment of the dubious award on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) on September 11, 2017 for similarly failing to promote the Act, ensure its effective implementation and for its non-compliance with its obligations under the Act as a public institution.

 

The objectives of the Voice of Nigeria, as provided in the Act establishing it, are to project Nigeria’s positive image externally, to inform the world on national and African issues and developments, to change the perspectives of the world on Nigeria and the black world, to unite Africa and the black world and to engender positive contribution of Africans in the Diaspora to the growth and development of the continent.

 

Mr. Longe said there was no doubt that the institution’s lack of transparency and accountability had eroded public trust and confidence in it, which would affect its credibility and ultimately, its ability to deliver on its statutory mandate.

 

According to him, “being a national radio network broadcasting in seven languages, including English, Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, French, Arabic, Kiswahili and Fulfulde, the Voice of Nigeria is uniquely positioned to overcome the language limitation that most other media organizations have and be able to promote the Act among Nigerians of different linguistic backgrounds. Instead, this national broadcaster has itself been consistently in blatant disregard of its statutory duties and obligations as a public institution covered by the Act, thereby undermining its implementation and effectiveness.”

 

Mr. Longe stressed that “all public institutions established by Law, including the Voice of Nigeria, are expected to proactively disclose certain types of information listed in Section 2(3) (a) to (f) of the FOI Act, by various means including print, electronic and online sources. But the Voice of Nigeria has not fulfilled its proactive disclosure obligations under Section 2 of the Act as it has not published the itemized categories of information either on its website or anywhere else, as it is required to do by the FOI Act.”

 

He described the failure of the Voice of Nigeria to designate an official of the institution to whom requests for information by members of the public should be sent as well as its failure to proactively publish the title and address of such an officer as an inexcusable breach of the provisions of the FOI Act, particularly in the light of repeated demands by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation issued to all public institutions to appoint such officials and send their details to the Federal Ministry of Justice, which is the coordinating institution for matters related to the implementation of the Act.

 

Mr. Longe also noted that although Section 13 of the FOI Act requires all public institutions to ensure the provision of appropriate training for their officials on the public’s right to access information and records held by the government or public institutions as well as to ensure the effective implementation of the Act, the Voice of Nigeria had not organized any such training for its officials since the Act was passed into Law.

 

He observed that over the last seven years, the Voice of Nigeria has consistently failed to comply with its obligation under Section 29 of the FOI Act, which requires each public institution to submit to the Attorney-General of the Federation, on or before February 1 of each year, a report covering the preceding fiscal year of its implementation of the Act. He stressed that the Voice of Nigeria had not submitted any such report for any year since 2011.

 

Mr. Longe said: “Such egregious violation of the clear provisions of the Law by a public institution which should know better is certainly unacceptable. The relevant authorities of the Federal Government must make clear that they do not condone such acts of impunity and take urgent steps to rein in public institutions such as the Voice of Nigeria, which disdainfully disregard the Laws of the Land.”

 

Launched on July 3, 2017, the FOI Hall of Shame spotlights on a weekly basis public officials or institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.

 

 

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StarTimes Boosts Nigerian Economy with $220m Investment, Pays $25m Tax

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StarTimes, a direct-to-home pay-tv service said it has invested over $220 million in Nigeria, in the last eight years to boost entertainment and enrich the country’s television viewers’ experiences.

 

Mr. Joshua Wang, who represented the CEO of NTA-STAR TV, said Startimes commenced operation in 2010 in Nigeria through NTA-Star TV, adding that it has actively promoted leading Chinese programmes in local languages, like Hausa and Yoruba.

 

Wang, a director of the organisation, stated this in Abuja at the celebration of Chinese Film Festival and cinema show of the “Operation Red Sea Movie”.

 

He said, “So far, we have invested $220m in Nigeria, developed a network of nearly 3,000 distributors in the country, and developed around four million subscribers. We are actively involved in corporate social responsibility and have paid a total of $25m in tax, recruited more than 1,300 local staff, 97 per cent of whom are Nigerians.”

 

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture, represented by Grace Isu Gekpe, permanent secretary, said, “Cultures are what make countries unique. I believe we will understand each other’s culture better if we have the opportunity to watch movies from both cultures.”

 

Mr. Lin Jing, Charge d’affair of the Chinese Embassy to Nigeria pledged that the Chinese Government is committed to the agreements reached with Nigeria and other African countries to bring rapid development to the continent.

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NCC Reaffirms Suspension of COSON’s Operating License

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Mr. Afam Ezekude, director general of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), has reaffirmed to stakeholders and the general public that the Operating License of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (Ltd/Gte) (COSON) is and remains suspended until further notice.

Mr. Afam Ezekude disclosed this while responding to recent social media publications made by COSON claiming that the Federal High Court had ordered the NCC to suspend all actions, proceedings and processes relating to the suspension of its license and the freezing of its bank account.

He stressed that the commission has not been served with any order of the Federal High Court as regards the suspension of the operating license of COSON, and is not aware of any such order.

The DG noted that the said publication did not disclose the particulars of the case in which the Order was made such as, the suit number of the case; the Judge of the Federal High Court that made the order nor the date that the order was made and therefore urged stakeholders and the general public to disregard COSON’s claims.

Speaking further, Mr. Ezekude disclosed that following the suspension of COSON’s operating license by the Commission in April 2018, some members of COSON instituted an action in suit No.FHC/EN/CS/58/2018 at Enugu division of the Federal High Court against the Commission and some of its officials challenging the suspension of the operating license of COSON.

In a preliminary objection to the suit filed by the Commission, the court presided over by Justice Liman struck out the Commission as a party in that case on June 11, 2018. No order was made against the Commission.

Similarly, a case was instituted by some members of COSON purporting to act on behalf of the society in suit No. FHC/L/CS/6006/18 (Copyright Society of Nigeria & Ors Vs Efe Omoregbe & 7 Ors) at the Lagos division of the Federal High Court with the Commission listed as a defendant in the case.

The matter which is currently pending before Justice Seidu has been adjourned to September 26, 2018. No order has so far been made against the Commission in that case.

By virtue of the suspension which is still in force, the DG, reiterates that COSON is not entitled to carry out any functions of a Collecting Society; to wit; soliciting, negotiating for copyright license; or collecting royalties for and on behalf of owners of Copyright in Music and Sound Recordings; until otherwise determined.

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Again, Court Rules Against Multichoice Over Tariff Hike

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A judge, Nnamdi Dimgba, in Abuja has rejected an appeal by Multichoice Nigeria against an interim order prohibiting any increase in its DStv or GOtv subscription rates.

Multichoice Nigeria had on August 24 filed an appeal against the order of the Federal High Court, Abuja stopping it from increasing the subscription rates to its cable television services. The order was given on August 20.

The restraining order was issued in respect of Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/894/18 brought before the court by the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) in the light of the public outcry raised.

In his order, Mr Dimgba said the interim injunction restrains Multichoice Nigeria or its agents and representatives from “continuing the implementation of any increase in subscription rates or price review policy imposing increased charges and costs on the consumers pending the determination of the motion on notice.”

Besides, the court also restrained DSTV from “further carrying on or continuing any conduct or activity which interferes with or has effect of circumventing the outcome of ongoing investigations by the CPC into the company’s compliance or non-compliance with the February 16, 2016 order pending the determination of the motion on notice”.

When the appeal was made, the CPC explained that the order stopping implementation of the new tariffs will subsist till the appeal has been heard and ruling given by the court.

This means that the subscription tariffs for Dstv and Gotv ought not to have increased but consumers have been paying the increased tariffs since August.

Under the new price regime, the company said the Premium package subscribers pay about 7.5 per cent more (about N15,800) from about N14,700 every month.

Also, their Compact Plus customers still pay N10,650, from N9,900; Compact bouquets, N6,800, from N6,300, while the family package was increased from N3,800 to N4,000, with Access from N1,900 to N2,000

On Monday, during the court hearing, the judge also refused the application by MultiChoice to adjourn the matter indefinitely.

When asked of the measures taken to ensure Multichoice’s compliance, Babatunde Irukera, director general, CPC, said CPC still holds the position that consumers should be paying the old tariff.

“However, the council’s understanding is that Multichoice is not complying with that order of court so that’s why it was important for the court to agree to clarify the situation,” he said.

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