Former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, on Friday, claimed that the suspension of the broadcast licences of the Africa Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower FM by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was an attempt by the Buhari government to muzzle the media.
Frank, in a statement in Abuja, said the use of armed soldiers to seal the offices of the organisation located in Paduma Hills, Asokoro, was the height of impunity, tyranny and molestation against the Nigerian media which was the pastime of past military juntas in the country.
“This represents an unfortunate and lamentable oppression of the media and direct suppression of Press Freedom in the country by the General Muhammadu Buhari regime which must not be allowed to stand,” he declared.
He stated that having performed “woefully” in office in the last four years, the Buhari regime has increasingly turned predatory, exploitative, vindictive and rapacious against its citizens out of frustration.
“The ongoing pacification, intimidation and emasculation of the Nigerian Media to confer totalitarian powers on the General Muhammadu Buhari’s regime and enable it to ride roughshod over Nigerians without censure or criticism,” he lamented.
He wondered why a government that has not been able to solve five per cent of the humongous unemployed situation in the country would embark on acts that can directly kill a business concern and render all its employees jobless.
“This unfortunate action, I dare say, marks the beginning of the #NextLevel policy of intimidation and persecution of the Nigerian media by the General Buhari’s regime.
“Make no mistakes, this closure is meant to serve as a lesson to other media houses and forcefully stop them from exposing Buhari’s ineptness and cluelessness in governance to members of the public,” he stated.
Frank warned the media to brace up for more ferocious attacks by the present regime, saying that any media organisation that considers the ongoing effort to kill AIT and RayPower FM as an isolated incident should have a rethink.
“In January this year, armed soldiers invaded and occupied the offices of Media Trust Limited – Publishers of the Daily Trust Newspapers – in Maiduguri and Abuja, seized their laptops, computers, arrested and detained its top reporters and editors.
“We must not also forget the illegal detention of a Premium Times journalist, Samuel Ogundipe, for three days for publishing a story from a report on the invasion of the Senate authored by the immediate past IGP, Ibrahim Idris, to the President.”
He also recalled how the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested and illegally detained Jones Abiri – publisher of Weekly Source newspaper, based in Bayelsa state for over two years without trial.
He urged Nigerians to resist what he termed a “deliberate and systematic ploy to gag and tame the Nigerian Press by Buhari.”
He said: “Freedom of the press remains one of the indispensable indices of any genuine democratic governance. Those who trample on press freedom have invariably trampled on democracy and the inalienable rights and freedom of the people.”
“Where in the world would can you ask private broadcast outfits – without public power supply – to renew their licenses with N500million annually and yet expect them to meet their running cost, pay salaries and keep afloat in an already comatose economy?”
He stated that the action of the NBC’s boss, Mallam Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, is not only targeted at killing AIT and RayPower but to run the founder and Chairman Emeritus of DAAR Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi – a chieftain of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – aground economically.
He called on Kawu to immediately reverse his directives and refrain from trading in the AIT and Raypower to stop his trial over charges of alleged fraudulent diversion of a N2.5 billion seed grant for television Digital Switch-Over (DSO) programme of the Federal Government, dropped.
He also called on the military to remain professional by concentrating on their constitutional mandate which is to defend the territorial integrity of the country.