Senate Probes Clampdown On Miracle Pastors

Tele-evangelists affected by the National Broadcasting Commission's (NBC) directive banning miracles that cannot be verified on television may still have the opportunity of getting their programmes back on air if the investigations due to be instituted into the matter by the Senate end in their favour.

Hint of the Senate intervention on the NBC's directive, which took effect on April 1, was given last Friday by the chairman of the Senate Committee on Information, Senator Tawar Wada, who said the committee would this week begin investigations into the matter.

"By next week (this week), my committee will be sitting on this matter to deliberate on the implication and if possible call the attention of the NBC to the implication. We could also call for public hearing on the ban, listen to people and then present the report to the Senate", Wada told Sunday Vanguard.

The NBC had banned the broadcast of miracles on television with effect from this month on the grounds that charlatans masquerading as healing evangelists were taking viewers for a ride.

Besides the allegation that the miracles infringe on the rights of millions of the viewers of the programmes, concern had also been raised on the financial losses that would accrue to the private and public television stations many of which reap millions of naira from the tele-evangelists.

Wada, however, affirmed the Senate's determination to be tactful in its investigations of the issue in order not to offend the religious sensibilities of the citizenry.

"I feel that there is a misnomer in the ban because I don't see anything, it is not inciting, it is not a breach of the peace, it is not trying to overrun the government, it is not portraying any moral bankruptcy of this nation. There are more offensive items in the films than this miracle issue," the senator representing PDP, Gombe South said.

The lawmaker, while conceding the right of the NBC to regulate the contents of broadcast materials, however, lamented that the regulatory body was mixing its legal functions with moral scruples.

"If you look at it critically, the whole thing has a moral content and that is why some people are quarreling with it, that the moral content should be severed from the legal content of the order", Wada stated.

He continued: "I don't see anything wrong with the broadcasting of miracles or any church programme."

"Anything that does not incite, anything that does not cause the breach of the peace, anything that really does not portray us tremendously negative in terms of moral bankruptcy, I think should pass the test of the NBC," the lawmaker said.

"I do believe in miracles, but whether it does occur now or as portrayed by those people is still a different matter. I do believe that God is the same yesterday today and tomorrow. God that wrought miracles in the Red Sea and in other instances is the same God. If you think otherwise, you are doubting the existence of God", the senator explained.

He would, however, not comment on the veracity of the miracles shown on television, saying:

"I believe that miracles can happen any day, but I am not in position to attest to the contents of those miracles that are being propagated, because it has not happened to me and I am not in a position to contest the contents, but miracles do happen.