Legal Nigeria

Dismiss MTN’s suit against NCC, lawyer tells court

By Innocent Anaba
A Lagos lawyer, Mr Tope Alabi, has urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to dismiss MTN Nigeria’s suit against the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.
He said that the N1.04trillion fine imposed on MTN was in order, adding that the telecoms firm has no reasonable case against NCC.
According to Alabi, granting MTN’s reliefs will result in “people breaking one law and hiding under another law to escape liability.”
MTN is urging court to quash the $3.9billion sanction imposed on it by NCC in October for failing to disconnect unregistered subscribers. The initial fine of $5.2billion was reduced by 25 per cent to $3.9billion earlier this month. The payment deadline has expired.
But MTN through its lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, is challenging NCC’s powers to impose the fine. It argued that NCC being a regulator cannot assume all the functions of the state.
However, Alabi, in an application seeking to be joined as an interested party, said MTN’s suit was an abuse of court process that must not be tolerated.
The lawyer said for over three years, NCC had directed all service providers to register their SIM cards already sold and in circulation. He said he duly registered his line sometime in 2012 and MTN called him in 2013 to obtain further information towards completing the registration.
“The first defendant (NCC) gave time limit for all subscribers to register their SIM cards. The time limit was also extended repeatedly. The plaintiff was in default to register 5,200,000 subscribers
“The plaintiff could register all the 5,200,000 subscribers SIMs in default within the time limit and extended time given by the first defendant. I believe other service providers such as Airtel, GLO, Etisalat, Starcomm strictly complied with the first defendant’s directives without defaulting; except the plaintiff.
“The plaintiff never denied it defaulted in registration of the 5,200,000 subscribers. The fine imposed on the plaintiff by the first defendant is in order. The suit of the plaintiff with reliefs sought therein will encourage a culture of impunity in Nigeria.
“The law under which the plaintiff is subjected to liability is justice-able and valid. It is in the interest of justice to grant this application for the applicant to defend this suit within the purview of the law,” Alabi said.
Alabi prayed the court to grant his application so that he could prove that MTN has no reasonable cause of action against NCC, and that granting MTN’s prayers will encourage a culture of impunity in Nigeria “whereby people would do all kinds of illegal and unlawful acts and get away with it so long as they can secure legal service to escape liability.”