In this Interview with HEAD POLITICS MUMINI ABDULKAREEM, Chairman House Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Judiciary and APC chieftain, Hon Kamal Fagbemi talks broadly on the heated issue of alleged proposed ban on political broadcast in the state that had pitch the ruling and opposition party against one another. Excerpts:
Your take on this issue?
Ignorance of the law is not an excuse and some people don’t even know that there exist a National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) code before now. Under section 23 of the constitution, the NBC has the power to make regulations which led to the birth of the code. From whatever angle you looked at it, there is nothing that the constitution provides for that doesn’t have limitation. We are not saying nobody should air live political programmes but that you can only do it in line with the provision and manifestoes of your party.
What really prompted this motion in the first place?
I decided to bring this motion to avert crisis. We know the problem we have been facing with the issue of water scarcity in Ilorin until Senate President and Governor came up with this water reticulation, which the government said has gotten to the last stage for water to be flowing in Ilorin soon. Saraki brought in tankers to assist in the interim to regularly distribute water in Ilorin for people not to feel the pain. But the opposition went on radio to say the water they are distributing is poisonous. When people now react you say it’s because of politics. As a radio station, some signals are limited to certain radius they can transmit but affected private FM stations transmit as far as Benin Republic which is way out of their regulated authority.
What is your explanation to the provision in the code that live programme should be rerecorded?
That is not to ban live political broadcast but that recordings of live programmes must be preserved and kept for 90 days reason being that we might want to retrieve and replay in case somebody feel to take whatever legal action. Within this timeframe if nothing is done, then no cause for action because the statute of limitation to challenge such within require period would have set in.
Some have accused you of pursuing an agenda despite being a lawyer and lawmaker, how do you react to this?
I have had calls from many people but I said this is not about politics. I have done it as a lawyer but not many people know the implication of this until our action. What has trended since our motion was that Kwara Assembly wants to shut down (private stations) but we don’t have power to do that. We only called on NBC to take appropriate action on any station that violates any of its code by writing to the state Attorney-General who will in turn do the needful.
Does this action by the House has anything to do with 2019?
Well, that is what people have termed it to be but as far as we are concerned, we are trying to bring the law to the fore for the people to be more enlightened and I believe that is my own contribution to the society.
In the 5th Edition of the Code (5.II), it says partisan political broadcast shall only be those in which the parties seek to explain their views and policies while in the 2016 NBC draft which is yet to be passed into law held that political parties should explain only its manifestoes and programmes, can you reconcile this narrative?
Laws globally are subject to review according to the situation of things at any material time. The motion of consumption of Alcohol in certain places in Ilorin didn’t capture certain places initially but it has now been extended to new areas. We must not allow hate speeches and making unsubstantiated claims on air not to incite people.
People are already saying this is an attempt to gag the opposition from criticising the ruling government?
Anybody can say that but this action was part of the regulation that was made pursuant to the power derivable from the NBC act which is an act of the National Assembly. A lot of people will make a lot of insinuations but you have a choice to choose where to belong.
But are you not trying to stifle the opposition with this move?
There is nothing there to stifle and both the APC, PDP and other opposition parties are all affected? The APC of which I belong must comply with this too. Doing anything to the contrary will attract penalties. The situation now is so tense and I think this law will go a long way to assist. Some people who are supposed to preach peace are now the one sponsoring hate speeches. What we have done innocently and genuinely is to assist everybody and not an attempt to gag political parties because I am also involved and I go to radio to talk.
Do you believe this would not have happened if the House is not monolithic?
This is not about the question of a monolithic assembly or whether the house is peopled by different political parties. The 8th legislature has demonstrated in clear terms on many instances that being a one party house has not blinded it to the yearnings of the people. Its debates on issues like the loan we rejected for the Governor and Kwara Poly School fees are there for all to see. Sometimes you think we are not members of the same APC.
What is your reaction to the insinuation that this action springs up from the awareness created by the PDP which manifested during the last local government election?
What awareness has the opposition brought? Maybe they are looking at the issue from the other side of the prism. Those that voted were APC members and their “grievances” are already being addressed by the party. Local government election has come and gone and nobody is in court. If you believe in what you are doing there shouldn’t be any violence. If I am not satisfied with anything, I know what action to take and not to incite people.