IN DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACY
Gentlemen of the press, Thank you for honouring our invitation.
I address you today with a deep sense of apprehension over the decision of National Broadcasting Commission, NBC to shut down Jay FM Jos.
The directive which came in a letter in the night of Friday 1st March, 2019 referred to previous letters of warning and fine on two separate issues dated 16th February, 2019 and 18th February, 2019 respectively. While the former was a warning for airing a News Sound Bite by Bishop David Abioye charging his followers on how they should vote, the latter was a N100, 000 (One Hundred Thousand Naira Only) fine for airing a News Commentary titled “Does Buhari Deserve a Second Term?”, authored by a listener.
In shutting down Jay FM, the commission claimed that the Station’s continued broadcast may lead to break down of law and order. As groundbreaking as this allegation appears to be, the commission did not give one instance after the two previous cases when the Station was involved in any form of breach or improper conduct that would warrant a heavy sanction as a shutdown. The Jos Zonal Office only said it has been directed that the Station should shut down operations. To all discerning minds, this suggests that the directive may have been handed down from above, which in itself is an anomaly. The normal and usual process would have been for the zonal office to monitor, sanction, and report to the headquarters. But where the shutdown of Jay FM Jos is concerned, there are sound reasons to doubt if that is the case. To us this is a typical case of the voice of Jacob and the hands of Esau.
While announcing sanctions meted to a cross section of media houses across the country on 1st March, 2018, the Director General of the NBC Mallam Is’haq Modibo while referring to Bishop David Abioye’s message, said Jay FM Jos was sanctioned for inciting broadcast by a preacher who moved away from religion into the arena of politics. That is the sanction of 16th February, 2019 which we complied with immediately when the commission drew our attention to it. So, for the NBC to punish us for the same breach a second time amounts to double jeopardy, and that is not equity neither is it justice. However, the question will be that between the 18th of February 2019 when JAYFM was sanctioned and the 1st of March, 2019 when JAYFM was shut down, what exactly did JAY FM aired to warrant a shut down?
On Thursday 28th February, 2019 at about 3:00pm, operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, stormed our premises and demanded that the Station Manager Mr. Mangna Yusuf Wamyil must come with them to their office. Being that the Station Manager was not available at that time, they insisted that a senior staff must go with them, hence they took the Head of Engineering Mr. Ojingwa Oji, who was eventually released around 5pm the same day on the condition that the Station Manager reports to their office the following day at 10:30am.
On 1st March, 2019, the Station Manager reported to the DSS and was questioned about the robust coverage Jay FM gave to the impasse in Jos North Local Government Area when results of February 23rd Presidential and National Assembly Elections were cancelled in Tudun Wada/Kabong Ward which handed the APC an advantage over the PDP. The Station Manager was later released and asked to return with me, the Managing Director by 5pm. We honoured the invitation.
Even though our engagement with the DSS was civil, courteous, and respectful, we wonder what connection exists between the DSS and NBC as it relates to the shutting down of our Station. It is said that when the owl hoots at night, it is instant death for the newborn baby in the morning. When DSS questions us in the morning about election coverage in Jos North Local Government Area, and NBC shuts us down in the night, there must be something connecting the two.
We know that there are forces within the government of Plateau State who are not comfortable with Jay FM, who have boasted that they would shut down the Station before the Gubernatorial and State Assembly elections after the widely applauded coverage we did during the Presidential and National Assembly Elections. We know that these forces used very powerful security managers of the Federal Government to forcefully accomplish this shutdown of Jay FM Jos.
Though it seems they may have succeeded temporarily, we know the airwaves belong to the people, and the people know what the truth is. They also know that truth always triumphs over falsehood, the way Jay FM will overcome all persecution, intimidation, molestation, and attacks.
Let me quickly remind gentlemen of the Press that not too long ago thugs attacked one of our reporters just in front of the station, in a branded car with the inscription “Lalong Boys” for reporting what was not too far from the truth.
I want to use the occasion of this Press Conference to thank our loyal and supportive listeners who are indeed members of the expanded Jay FM family. I thank them all for the support we have seen on social media and the hashtag campaigns that are fast taking over cyberspace in defense of Jay FM, democracy, and free speech. Our appreciation also goes to our colleagues in the media across the country and beyond who are identifying with us at this trying moment. Thank you for your struggle for press freedom. Our deep appreciation also goes to civil society organizations for their solidarity.
While looking forward to recommencing operations in the quickest time possible, we appeal to NBC to kindly reopen our Station before the next round of elections to enable us not only inform the electorates but also to mobilize them to partake in the electoral process, but most importantly, debunk the rumour that the next election on 9th March, 2019 necessitated the shutdown of Jay FM.
We have the firm belief that the issues can be settled administratively between Jay FM and the NBC without necessarily involving a third party considering the fact that I have signed an undertaking with the DSS that our broadcast will continue to promote peace on the Plateau and Nigeria at large.
As Managing Director of Jay FM Jos, I have always been a firm believer in the pure tenets of democracy, freedom of the press, and the inalienable rights guaranteed all citizens of Nigeria by the constitution. They are the values I have always attempted to project here at Jay FM Jos, and they are the ideals I am prepared to die for.