TEXT OF SPEECH BY DIRECTOR GENERAL, NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMMISSION (NBC), IS’HAQ MODIBBO KAWU, AT THE STAKEHOLDERS’ MEETING WITH THE LICENSEES OF THE NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMMISSION, SHERATON HOTEL, IKEJA, LAGOS; MONDAY, 27TH AUGUST, 2018
On behalf of the Board of Management (BOM) of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), I will like to thank our colleagues, from all over the country, for coming to attend this gathering. That you hearkened to our call, is indicative of the generally positive relationship between regulator and licensee, which is essential to the good health of the Nigerian broadcasting industry. A gathering like this, offers the opportunity to explore collectively, some of the salient issues that underline the work we do together to offer the Nigerian people a very dynamic broadcasting industry. We are in an era of exciting developments in broadcasting in our country, especially with the exponential increases we are witnessing in the number of broadcasting outfits all over the country; as well as the continued interest by several people to become players in the industry. There are strides in the digitization process, especially with the renewed commitment by the present administration, to find the resources for a rapid conclusion of the DSO, that give us tremendous levels of optimism at the NBC.
We also think that it was proper to hold this gathering, because our licensees have not been able to meet members of the Board of the Commission, who were inaugurated earlier this year. The Board of the Commission is headed by Alhaji Ikra Aliyu Bilbis, who has a CV, that is literally as long as an arm: he was at different points, Local Government Chairman in Zamfara State; Member of the House of Representatives and Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He has brought that multi-faceted experience to bear, in the manner that our work at the NBC, has witnessed a qualitative edge. He is here with us today. We also have in our Board a former Director General of the NBC, the ace Broadcaster, former Commissioner for Information in Sokoto State, Kogunan Sokoto, Malam Nasir Danladi Bako. Similarly, there is on the Board, Honourable Salihu Bandele Aluko, a lawyer, who was a Member of the Kwara State House of Assembly, and Chairman of several Boards, over the past couple of years. We also have other members of our new Board, coming from different backgrounds, with different levels of experience, that collectively enrich the work of the NBC. I am sure in the next few years, we would harvest the positive impact of their work for the National Broadcasting Commission in particular, and the Nigerian broadcasting industry in general.
But the main item of our gathering today, is related to the huge levels of indebtedness of broadcast outfits to the National Broadcasting Commission. This refusal to meet licensing obligations, has been a persistent pattern of behaviour of our licensees. At our last stakeholders’ gathering on Wednesday, 27th February, 2017, I had touched upon the issue. Permit me to quote from my speech on the occasion:
there are very worrisome issues in our operations. The first, is the situation whereby many stations have refused to pay their license fees; even the statutory act of informing the NBC, six months before the expiration of license and signifying intention to continue as a licensee is ignored. Our licensees carry on, as if they have their licenses for keeps and the NBC cannot withdraw licenses. It is important to remind us all that ALL licenses are PROVISIONAL, no matter how long you have held them. And for emphasis, I want to let you know that stations are owing over N5Billion as license fees. I will like to use this medium to inform you, that the NBC would be invoking the relevant laws against erring stations. Consequently, ALL stations without exception, are expected to complete all payments owed to the Commission by the 15th of March, 2017.
In response to my statement, the Chairman of the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON), Mr. John Momoh, had pleaded for a less than severe approach to the retrieval of these payments, while also admonishing his colleagues to remember that the payment of license fees, was an obligation that broadcasters must fulfil. One and a half years later, licensees have continued to owe the NBC over N4.2Billion! The consequence is a near paralysis of the operations of the Commission. The NBC carries out its statutory functions on the basis of the obligatory license fees that broadcasters pay. But the pattern is refusal on the part of licensees to pay, and in some cases, a few arrogantly tell us they cannot pay, because the sums are too high; or they claim that the business environment is not good enough, so NBC should accept whatever they choose to pay! And in the past, some licensees exploited their political connections and get the presidency to lean on the NBC, to look the other way, while they operate as if they carry a veto over the regulator.
As Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission, I will have to own up to the fact that there was a historic pattern of relationship between regulator and licensee, which was based upon a notion of “nurturing” their stations. This was at the beginning of a deregulated broadcasting industry, when there were just a few private operators in the business. So a notion emerged, that they should be “nurtured” and not allowed to go down under. So a rigorous regime of license fee payment, was not enforced. That approach might have had an altruistic motive, but was immediately seen as a point of weakness by licensees, who then began to proffer all manner of excuses, as to why they cannot pay their obligatory license fees, either on time, or in many cases, at all. It is this pattern of what might literally be called an ‘incestuous relationship’ that has led us to where we are today: licensees refusing to pay, and an indebtedness reaching over N4Billion, while the Commission is unable to carry out its functions.
All of us gathered here this morning, know that other regulatory organizations within the same Nigerian economy do not allow the accumulation of license fees. They are basic, obligatory and non-negotiable. The plea that the economy is in a bad way, is an absolutely unacceptable excuse for refusing to pay license fee. We all know how FIRS enforces its laws, or NCC and other sister regulatory agencies. Just a few weeks ago, the Osun State Inland Revenue Services closed down the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile Ife, because of issues related to financial obligations. There has also developed a myth that no station should be allowed to close down, even if that means they would refuse to pay their license fees. We can no longer allow such emotions to becloud the objective reality of licensing obligations. The cycles of capitalist enterprise are very clear: not all companies or broadcast outfits can or must survive. That is the iron logic of capitalism!
I will therefore like to inform this gathering, that the National Broadcasting Commission is determined to FULLY COLLECT ALL license fees that it is owed. We are prepared to work with our licensees for an acceptable payment formula, which must be in place by the 15th of September, 2018. Thereafter, we would be obliged to enforce the provisions of the law. Once more, I will like to thank you all for attending today’s event. Welcome to Lagos!
Thank you very much for your attention.