Movie producer and director, Cas Chidiebere Obidike, has asked the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to perpetually restrain the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from enforcing the sixth edition of the National Broadcasting Code.
The amended code, which has continued to generate controversy, was unveiled last month in Lagos by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
In a fundamental human rights suit (No. FHC/L/CS/1211/2020) filed before the court on his behalf by his counsel, Mr. Emeka Okpoko (SAN) of Straddle Partners, Obidike said paragraphs 6.2.11, 6.2.3, 6.2.4 and 6.2.17 of the code constitute gross violations of his fundamental human rights and freedom of expression enshrined in sections 37 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
In the suit filed on September 4, Obidike is seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the NBC, the sole respondent in the suit, and any of its agents or proxies from enforcing the aforementioned sections of the code.
In the affidavit in support of the originating motion, Obidike said paragraphs 6.2.3, 6.2.4 and 6.2.17 breach his right to privacy or have a likelihood of infringing upon his fundamental human rights.
According to him, the provision of the National Broadcasting Code requiring that broadcast rights to sporting events be submitted to the NBC for ratification within two weeks, as stipulated in paragraph 6.2.3, and the revocation of the rights in the event of non-compliance, as noted in paragraph 6.2.4, will force him to divulge business secrets contained in contracts of sale/acquisition of broadcasting rights to movies and other media production.
He also argued that confidentiality clauses inserted in business contracts in which contracted parties are bound to comply with will be breached as a result of the code.
Obidike stated that paragraph 6.2.17, which mandates a broadcaster to, within 14 days, provide the original or certified true copy of agreements and other documents by which such contents have been duly acquired, prevents him as a private Nigerian citizen from engaging in the business of film making and business production and contravenes his fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 constitution (as amended).
Citing Order ii, Rule 1 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, the applicant insisted that any individual who deems that there is a contravention of fundamental human rights can institute legal action against such person or entity.
The affidavit partly read: “In the course of my business in the industry, I enter into contracts of sale/acquisition of broadcasting rights to movies and other media productions in which terms such as “confidentiality” are agreed upon in order to protect the parties’ interest such as privacy to business secrets against outsiders.
“In view of the above paragraphs of the 6th edition to the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, I risk protection of my privacy to my business secrets usually contained in contracts of sale/acquisition of broadcasting rights to movies and other media productions which I enter into in the industry.
“That a contract of sale/acquisition of broadcasting rights described above once submitted to the Respondent, the contractual document becomes a public document which members of the public are entitled to apply for and obtain certified true copies of thereby creating a likelihood of my constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy being jeopardised.”
Obidike also argued that paragraph 6.2.11, which prohibits the broadcast of advertisement of products and services during prime foreign sporting contents if such advertiser does not equally sponsor such product and services of prime local sports content in the same category, infringes or has a likelihood of infringing his fundamental human right to freedom of expression.
The affidavit read: “In order to promote, impart ideas and information regarding my products which consist in released movies, upcoming movies and other media productions to a larger audience, I often advertise these products in prime foreign sports contents at costs within his financial capacity.
“I believe from Counsel’s information that by virtue of paragraph 6.2.11 of the 6th edition to the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, I am likely to suffer a limitation to my freedom to express information and ideas about my products as the said paragraph now imposes an advertisement platform as well as an increased cost of advertisement which I may not be able to meet up with, on me.”
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The document further stated: “Your lordship, the provisions of paragraph 6.2.11, 6.2.3, 6.2.4 and 6.2.17 of the Respondent’s 6th edition to the Nigeria Broadcasting Code offend the letters and spirit of the provisions of sections 37 and 39 of the Constitution, in that they contravene or have a likelihood of contravening the Applicant’s fundamental human rights thereunder.”