Despite Video Evidence, Lai Mohammed Denies Announcing N5m hate speech fine

Three months after the federal government raised hate speech fine from N500,000 to N5 million, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed says he didn’t announce the fine.

Mohammed announced the increase in hate speech fine during the unveiling of the Reviewed Broadcasting code in August.

Days after the announcement, the minister while featuring on a TVC live Programme, “This Morning” on Friday, August 7, 2020, explained that the fine was increased to deter people who are willingly violating the provision to destabilise the country.

However, in a counter-affidavit in response to an originating motion filed before a Federal High Court in Lagos, by human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong to challenge the fine, the minister said he did not announce any fine for hate speech.

According to Punch, Effiong is challenging the imposition of N5m fine on Nigeria Info 99.3FM over alleged hate speech.

The affidavit deposed to by a Litigation Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Sunday Ojobo, reads, “Paragraph 19 is denied. The 2nd defendant (Mohammed) did not announce an increment in any fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5,000,000 or any other because there is a governmental body or institution mandated to regulate and enforce the Nigerian Broadcasting Code.”

Mohammed further said that the constitution allows for human rights to be suspended for the sake of national interest, adding that the NBC Act gives the commission the power to sanction stations that contravene its code.

The minister also argued that Effiong lacked the legal right to challenge NBC’s Code because he is not directly affected by the commission’s sanction.

He said, “The 1st respondent (NBC) has powers in determining and applying sanctions including revocation of licences of defaulting stations which do not operate in accordance with the broadcast code and in the public interest.

“A public affairs commentator, anchor of programmes and the media are not to use their platform to incite public violence or disorder or in a manner detrimental to the national interest.

“It is within the purview of the Federal Government of Nigeria to maintain public safety, public order in the interest of all citizens of Nigeria to avoid breakdown of law and order.”

In its response to the suit, the NBC backed the minister’s claim, saying it had the right to sanction errant stations.

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