A rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety) has said that the shutting down of African Independent Television (AIT) and its radio station; Raypower by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was a political vendetta by the Federal Government.

A press release by the group, signed by the group’s board of trustees chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi described the action of the NBC as militarist and dictatorial.

The group said, “Having carried out quick background checks on the present composition and ethnoreligious backgrounds of the NBC leadership and extent of the present Federal Govt’s control or interference in its affairs, it is no time wasting concluding that the action of the NBC is a pure political vendetta with no iota of exception.”

It said the abrupt shutdown of the station was the height of Nigerian Government’s political intolerance and dictatorial tendencies.

“The Government’s action further offends and impeaches the press freedom as enshrined in Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution as well as striping the AIT and its Ray Power Radio of its corporate social responsibilities as contained in Section 22 of the Constitution.

“The reasons given by the NBC are nothing short of giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it. using hate speech as an excuse is just an extension of the present government’s policy of criminal labelling and stigmatization
targeted at its political opponents.

“It is also a crude selective application of Government’s policies and conducts. For instance, the same Government that accuses AIT and its Ray Power Radio of “spreading hate speech” is condoning and protecting with utter alacrity the Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), which goes about openly and in the private and public media with reckless abandon to admit killing citizens and issuance of more threats.

“The group also goes about addressing press conferences, threatening which part of the country to attack or not. Yet the same Federal Government keeps mute and refuses to proscribe or deregister it as a legal entity in Nigeria as well as arresting and prosecuting its leaders.”

The group said the action of the government, if genuine and democratic, should have been to sanction the AIT and slam it with payment of fines.

It expressed worry that by shutting down the station and depriving its staff of their means of livelihood, the Nigerian government is portrayed as “a government only on a mission to borrow and squander and not to create wealth, govern and develop the country.”