Lagos State Governor and Director, Buhari-Osinbajo Presidential Campaign Fundraising Committee, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN (middle) reading the letter from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) directing all telecom operators not to accept political advertisement during a Press Conference at the State House, Marina, Lagos, on Thursday, January 22, 2015. With him are: The Commissioner for Economic Planning & Budget, Mr. Ben Akabueze (left) and the Special Adviser on Media to the Governor, Mr. Hakeem Bello (right).
Barely 48 hours after the Buhari-Osinbajo Presidential Campaign Fund-raising Committee launched some of its platforms for raising funds, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has shutdown the Short Messaging Service (SMS) platform – 35350 – meant to encourage small donors, especially young people, to do so.
Director of the Committee and Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, had on Tuesday, 20th January, 2015, unveiled five platforms, including partnership with five banks for donors wishing to pay cash towards the fund, the electronic payment platform involving logging in on the All Progressives Congress (APC) domain namewww.apcgmbpyo.org, the Short Messaging Service with 35350, the Ring tone and the Scratch Card platforms.
However, briefing journalists at the Lagos House, Marina, on Thursday, 22nd January, 2015, Governor Fashola announced with regrets that before the end of Tuesday, 20th January, 2015 after the launch of the platforms, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) had issued a letter to the telecoms operators “not to carry political messages” thereby shutting down the SMS platform.
The Fund-raising Committee Director, who expressed deep sadness at the development, wondered why a commercial transaction that promotes business, the economy and jobs in the country should be frustrated arguing that if traditional media such as radio, newspapers and television could carry political messages, new and social media should be allowed to participate and benefit.
Governor Fashola, who on Tuesday, 20th January, 2015, also reported that the Federal Government had earlier shut down the APC’s main domain – www.apcgmbpyo.com.ng forcing the Party to switch to www.apcgmbpyo.org, said by 2.30 pm after the launch of the platforms, the Committee had received 5,400 messages after which the messages stopped.
The visibly disappointed Director told journalists, “It is with very deep sadness that I address you all today, because I never expected that I will witness in Nigeria some of the very distasteful and disgraceful conduct that the Federal Government, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the President have embarked upon, by way of repression of freedoms.
“I mentioned the commercial nature of the transactions we had with the businesses who were partnering with us and the benefits to the economy. I also stated very clearly that these businesses had no partisan relationship but are providing professional service. I said so, in order to protect their businesses because of the increasing intolerance we were witnessing from the Jonathan and PDP presidential campaign and some Federal Government agencies that have taken a partisan position”.
Pointing out that the same NCC gave approval to the Goodluck-Sambo campaign in 2010, Governor Fashola wondered why “a President who says he cares about young people and wants their votes be shutting down their generation’s platform” adding, “Is the President himself not using the same platform? Is this not a media censorship?
The Fundraising Committee Director, however, expressed joy that in spite of these irritations, the enthusiasm of Nigerians for change was already visible from the first day of the launch of the payment platforms adding that between the five banks alone, the Committee has raised the sums of N822,928.80 from bank payments while N606,000 has been raised from the internet platform before the interference.
Urging Nigerians who wish to join the movement of change to continue to use the bank and One Card Scratch platforms, which according to him are still working, the Governor declared, “This is what we sought to achieve, a democratization of fund raising, transparency and commercial opportunities for businesses”.
The Governor implored the President to redeem his democratic credentials and act according to the peace pact he signed by directing NCC to restore the 35350 platform, adding, “After all, this is nothing but a contest of ideas aimed at serving the people”.
He declared, “Dear compatriots, there are dark clouds gathering, but I remain optimistic that they will yield to a glorious dawn. The promise of Nigeria is greater than the ambition of one man or a political party”, adding that beyond the campaign of the APC for change, there is already a momentum of the Nigerian people for change that is far ahead of the campaign. “This is the people’s desire, nothing can stop it. The dictates of honour demand that no right thinking person should attempt to resist it”, he said.
The letter by which the NCC approved the use of the Social Media platform by the Jonathan-Sambo Presidential Campaign team in 2010 read in part, “We are in the process of regulatory guidelines for the issuance of Short Coded (Special Numbering Plan) in Nigeria. However, in the spirit of the Commission supporting innovation and development in products and services in the telecommunications industry, we wish to inform that you may temporarily use the shot codes, 6661, 6662, 6663 and 6664 for a period of 90 days…”
The letter, dated 22nd October, 2010, and signed on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer of the Commission by Director Technical Standards and Network Integrity, Dr. B.H. Sani, also said it was mandatory for the user to apply for renewal of the resource before the expiration of the 90 days.
However, the letter truncating the use of the SMS as APC fundraising platform was simply titled, “Political And Partisan Advertisements” and “advised all service providers to avoid running political advertisements that will portray them as being partisan”, adding, “The Commission will not hesitate to sanction any service provider that will flout this directive”.
It was signed also on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the Commission by the Director, Consumer Affairs, Mrs Maryam Bayi and Mrs. Yetunde Akintoye, Head Legal and Regulatory Services.
Accompanying the Governor at the press briefing were a member of his Team on the Committee, Mr. Ben Akabueze and his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Hakeem Bello.