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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

N1.04tr fine: NCC challenges court jurisdiction in MTN suit

… Seeks transfer of case to Abuja

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has challenged the competence of the suit filed by MTN Nigeria Communications‎ Limited, asking that the suit be dismissed.
The commission, through its consortium of lawyers, led by Dr. Wale Babalakin, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, Mr. Paul Usoro, Mr. Ahmed Raji, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), asked the Federal High Court in Lagos, where the suit was filed by MTN, to decline jurisdiction.
They asked the court to transfer the case to Abuja division of the court where the cause of action arose.
According to the defendants’ motion on notice, the NCC asked the Lagos court to set aside the purported service of the originating summons and other processes in the matter for non-compliance with the provisions of Section 143 of the commission’s Act.
The commission also asked the court to decline jurisdiction in the matter.
According to the affidavit in support of the 1st defendant’s motion on notice, deposed to by Anone Anthony Usman, a legal practitioner in the law firm of Ahmed Raji and Co., the commission said the decision of the NCC to fine the telecommunication company was taken in Abuja on October 20 outside the jurisdiction of the Lagos court.
The MTN had dragged the NCC and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice before the court to challenge the N1.04 trillion fine placed on it. In the suit, the firm is urging the court to quash the fine, which NCC had imposed on it last October for allegedly failing to disconnect unregistered subscribers.
Earlier this month, the initial fine of $5.2 billion was reduced by 25 per cent to $3.9 billion, with a payment deadline set for December 31.
But MTN through its team of lawyers comprising Chief Wole Olanipekun, Tanimola Molajo, A. B. Mahmoud, Dr. Gbolahan Elias, Oladipo Okpeseyi, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu, Dr. Oladapo Olanipekun (all SANs) through an originating summons is challenging the powers of NCC to impose such a fine on it.
The telecoms company argued that on the basis that NCC being a regulator cannot assume all the functions of the state on its own, considering the fact that they made the regulation, prescribed the penalty and imposed the fine, payable to the commission and not the Federal Government.

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