Nigeria is preparing for local government elections early next year. but there are already complaints from some opposition politicians about unfair political broadcasts. This has led the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission to issue shutdown warnings to the radio and TV stations in the country.
Local government elections are slated for April, 2002. Opposition parties in Nigeria's 36 states say the ruling governors in those states have embarked on unfair political broadcasts. Daily newspaper reports in Nigeria are publishing these complaints, which in the view of political analysts may threaten the credibility of the elections.
Chief Executive for the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission responsible for regulating radio and television stations, Nasir Danladi Bako, confirms receiving these complaints about 12 stations. "I have received complaints of unfair broadcasts. I had to caution nine stations. Lately I cautioned three other stations totaling 12 stations," he said. "Most of them have been responding and we are monitoring them. Anything against national interest can attract sanctions as severe as shutdowns or withdrawal of licenses. We have warned them. We do hope they will listen, otherwise we might be compelled before the next election to really come down very hard on some erring stations that are taking the law into their hands." However, Mr. Bako declined to name any of the stations he says he's cautioned.
Saadatu Umar, a regular radio listener, says she's happy that the stations are being called to order. "I used to listen to local radio stations because of their cultural programs," she said. "Now with politics, they prefer to make political broadcasts. I have stopped listening to them. If they will be called to order, we will be happy. We will now listen to Nigerian Radio stations."
Political observers say past attempts at democracy were destroyed in part when corrupt politicians used the media for their own personal advancement - or to crush their adversaries. They say it was not used to present all points of view or help the public debate or find solutions to pressing national problems. Today, the governors are being cautioned not to make the same mistakes.