The Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), in the evening of June 6, 2019, suspended, indefinitely, the broadcasting operations of Raymond Dokpesi’s DAAR Communications PLC which operates Africa Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower radio network.
NBC accused the broadcast stations of consistently refusing to abide by the code governing its operations despite two years of several warnings given to them to stop the way they allegedly apply hate speech, derisive and inciting comments in the discussion of national issues.
The Commission singled out two programmes: Political Platform and Kaakaki, especially Kaakaki Social aired by AIT; alleging that the programmes were used to promote division and hate speech with the use of statements such as “Nigeria is cursed,” “we declare state of Biafra,” “This country is gradually Islamizing,” “Nigeria irritates me,” etc. The Commission specifically pointed out that on October 18, 2018, they were disturbed with the manner in which social media issues became part of AIT and RayPower’s mainstream media unedited. These, the Commission, noted, as a breach of the provisions of Sections 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 of the broadcast code. Hence, the suspension of their operating licenses.
Even as the Director-General of NBC, Modibbo Kawu, denies that the suspension is unconnected with local politics, there is a strong feeling that the Buhari administration is out to hunt down Dokpesi’s AIT and RayPower. According to Dokpesi: “Any criticism of this government is hate speech, The NBC is acting under the authority of the President and Commander-in-Chief.”
Though Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on June 7, 2019, ordered the reopening of AIT and RayPower, while urging the maintenance of status quo pending the determination of a motion filed by DAAR Communications in its suit challenging the action of the NBC, John Chukwu x-rays 5 reasons why President Buhari may be hunting down Dokpesi’s AIT and RayPower.
1. ‘Buhari, a parasite’
The AIT and RayPower boss has lately be seen as an activist of some sort, running his mouth freely, and willing to disrupt the establishment even at a great cost to his businesses. It is assumed that this is one of the reasons the Buhari government is supposedly doing all it could to clip Dokpesi’s wings.
On March 27, 2019, Dokpesi branded President Buhari a parasite after being grilled by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) when he came back from a medical trip in Dubai. According to him: “Buhari, who says he is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, unfortunately in the history of Nigeria, has been a parasite of Nigeria, He has never created any employment (opportunities).”
This statement generated much controversy, forcing a reply from the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu who said: “What then do you call the one who nicks N2.1 billion, caught red handed, brought to trial and he is monkeying with our courts.”
On June 4, it was announced on AIT and RayPower that Dokpesi would on June 6, 2019, embark on a “one-man demonstration” to the National Assembly to protest against plots by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government to gag the media and suppress free speech.Coincidentally, his media empire was shut on the day he planned to carry out his one-man protest.
In his address on the suspension of his media platforms, on June 6, 2019, Dokpesi said: “The licensing fees in Nigeria are one of the highest in the world. There is no country in the world where you have this type of exploitative fees.”
He did also called out the Director-General of NBC, Kawu known. “I believe very strongly that under the leadership of the current director-general of the NBC, press freedom has been greatly eroded,” he said.
2. AIT and RayPower as PDP’s attack dogs
It is believed that the Buhari administration sees AIT and RayPower as the mouthpiece of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) due to the fact that Raymond Dokpesi, the owner of the broadcasting organizations, is a prominent member of the PDP.
It could be recalled that during the 2015 presidential election, AIT had aired a paid advertorial for the Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Campaign which focused extensively on the down sides of the then presidential challenger, Buhari, while he was the Head of State (1983-1985). President Buhari and his team, it is believed, are yet to forgive the campaign of calumny steered by the AIT broadcast. Hence, the perceived hunt soon after his victory at the polls.
This was exhibited in the manner in which on April 26, 2015, a Reporter and a cameraman of AIT were reportedly stopped from covering the affairs of the then President-elect, Buhari, at the Defence House.
3. The unfinished matter of alleged N2.1 billion scam
On December 1, 2015, Dokpesi was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged complicity in the diversion of $2.1 billion from the office of the then National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, under the Goodluck Jonathan administration. He was subsequently arraigned on a six-count charge of money laundering and misappropriation of public funds among others.
According to Dokpesi, the money was payment for media and political campaign for the 2015 general elections. He, however, described his ordeal at the hands of the EFCC as a creation of the APC-led federal government to witch-hunt and destroy the leadership and membership of the PDP.
On January 6, 2016, he said: “I must hasten to assure you that there is nothing like the much-flaunted 2.1 billion USD arms gate. The competent courts of our land would sooner or later prove this coinage aimed at decimating the leadership and membership of our great party to be nothing but a hoax.”
Several arrests, especially of PDP members have been made in connection with alleged diversion of the billions of Naira meant for procurement of arms for the fight against Boko Haram. Dokpesi is yet to get himself off the hook as it relates to his alleged involvement with the Dasuki money
4. All is fair in war
As a PDP member, with a sizable war chest, and ownership of media entities with some of of the widest reach in the country, Dokpesi is assumed a dangerous enemy, if left to prowl. AIT’s unpretentious stance in the run up to the 2019 general elections, and even thereafter, have, therefore, remained a source of major concern for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and this, many argue, is reason for the clandestine moves to whittle the influence of Dokpesi’s media empire.
The stifling of the operations of AIT and RayPower is believed to be perfect strategy for shutting up the media mogul and weakening the most virile opposition to the ruling party. But will he shut up?
On March 27, 2019, Dokpesi declared: “The Federal Government is on an intimidation ploy and they are after everybody in the PDP.”
5. The INEC server brouhaha
Who allegedly hacked into INEC server? Indeed, who attempted to breach the 2019 general elections? This and many other questions will not cease to agitate political analysts.
However, conspirators have moved to suggest that Dokpesi’s many troubles may not be unconnected with strong perceptions within the ruling party that he may have had intel on the alleged breach of INEC servers which housed 2019 general elections, hence the need to have him checked.
Does Dokpesi have critical information on how Atiku’s Presidential Campaign allegedly managed to retrieve some information from the INEC server? This we may never know but the recent travails of the media guru have been severally linked to dirty political games surrounding the 2019 general polls.