The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to dismiss a suit filed by MTN against the industry watchdog for imposing a R59 billion ($3.9 billion) fine against the South African mobile phone giant for failure to register customers, according to a report.
The Leadership newspaper reported on Monday that in a motion on notice filed through its lawyers, Ahmed Raji – Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) and Mahmud Magaji (SAN), the NCC has urged the court to dismiss or decline to hear the suit for want of jurisdiction or send it to its Abuja division.
The newspaper reported that the watchdog argued that the suit was wrongly filed in Lagos, noting that the subject of the dispute took place in Abuja, while the two respondents in the suit, NCC and the attorney-general of the federation, are also based in Abuja.
MTN was given a December 31 deadline to pay the fine for its failure to disconnect 5.2 million subscribers who did not register their SIM cards. The payment deadline has expired.
The South African-based telco has hired seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) to fight the R59 billion ($3.9 billion) fine in the Federal High Court in Lagos. The initial fine was $5.2 billion and was in December reduced to $3.9 billion.
MTN through its lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) is challenging the NCC’s powers to impose the fine. It argued that NCC being a regulator cannot assume all the functions of the state. It is seeking the appropriate reliefs.
The case has attracted the interest of Tope Alabi, a Lagos-based lawyer, who seeking to be joined in the suit as an interested party, who submitted to the court that the fine imposed on MTN is in order and that the telecom firm has no reasonable case against the NCC.
The Vanguard newspaper reported that Alabi submitted to the Lagos court that the suit of MTN 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, according to the Vanguard newspaper.
“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.”
The case is yet to be heard by the court.