The Rivers State Government has closed down Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower FM in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Telecommunications engineers employed by the State Government, along with armed security forces, carried out the operation. The engineers disconnected the wave guard from the antenna on the mast while others dismantled the mast itself.
In addition to this, the Rivers State Government deployed bulldozers to demolish the Transmitter Complex at the DAAR Communications PLC Broadcast Centre in Port Harcourt.
According to the management of the AIT, this sudden shutdown has taken the company by surprise, as it claimed it had been working towards resolving issues with the State Government in a peaceful manner.
Issuance of 48 hours ultimatum and the NUJ intervention:
Recall that in March, Governor Nyesom Wike issued a 48-hour quit notice to Daar Communications, owners of AIT/Raypower television and radio stations to remove the building housing facilities of the media outfit at Ozuoba area of Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, or it will be demolished in 48 hours.
The State Government gave the ultimatum in a quit notice issued signed by Mrs. Ebere Dennis Emenike, Permanent Secretary of the Rivers Ministry of Works Government dated Tuesday March 20.
The state government claimed that the building is one of the structures marked for demolition in GRA Phase 5 in Port Harcourt.
The quit notice reads, “Following the imminent commencement of GRA Phase 5 project the structures are impacting on the Right Of Way have been earmarked for demolition, including your own.
“Consequently, you are by this notice requested to remove Structures within 48 hours to allow for speedy progress of work”.
Following the notice, the Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), appealed to the Government to drop its plan to demolish the structure housing facilities of AIT/Raypower media outfit.
The appeal is contained in a press statement jointly signed by Stanley Job Stanley and Ike Wigodo, the chairman and secretary of the NUJ in the state respectively.
The Union noted that the land on which the building housing AIT television and Raypower radio station was built has been a subject of dispute between the Rivers State Government and Daar Communication Plc for sometimes now.
However, the Council appealed to the Rivers State Government to review its position on the land dispute and drop its plan to demolish and take over the AIT property.
The Council urged the state government to open a negotiation channel with the media organisation for a peaceful resolution.
“We appeal to the Rivers State Government to review the quit notice given to Daar Communications Plc, owners of AIT and Raypower Radio Station.
“The Press and the Rivers State Government have come a long way as partners in progress. We believe that proper negotiation and peaceful resolution of the land dispute will serve the Government and people of Rivers State better.
“Whatever the merit of the quit notice by the Rivers State Government to Daar Communications Plc, we would not want the world to see the press in fight with the Rivers State Government in view of our long standing mutual relationship.
“NUJ will not be happy to see a Media House in Rivers State being demolished over a land dispute that can be resolved peacefully and amicably”, the statement said.
How it started:
PM NEWS correspondent recalled that trouble actually started when some communities of Ozuoba wrote a petition to the Rivers State Government alleging that the large expanse of land acquired by the Founder Daar Communications, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, during the administration of former Governor Peter Odili was being sold or leased to private developers.
The Rivers State House of Assembly had consequently instituted a probe on the mode of acquisition of the land by Dokpesi.
The House later said its findings revealed that due process was not followed in the acquisition of the land by Dokpesi.
Alleged political linkage:
However, there are those who are of the opinion that the moves to demolish the building can also be linked to the politics of the 2023 elections between Atiku Abubakar, Presidential Candidate of PDP, and Governor Wike.
Dokpesi had led campaign of Atiku for the presidential ticket of PDP which was also contested for by Wike.