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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

NCC Challenges Court's Jurisdiction In MTN Suit Over Fine, Wants Case Moved To Abuja

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has challenged the suit filed by MTN Nigeria and asked that the suit be dismissed.

The commission, through its team of lawyers led by Dr. Wale Babalakin, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, Mr. Paul Usoro, Mr. Ahmed Raji, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), asked the Federal High Court in Lagos State where the suit was filed by MTN to decline jurisdiction.

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 and transfer the case to the Abuja division of the court where the cause of action arose.

According to the affidavit in support of the first 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 federal high court, Lagos.

The defendant said the proper and convenient forum for the determination of the case is the Abuja division of the court.

The NCC also argued that Abuja division of the court had the territorial jurisdiction to handle the case and it is also where the performance of the demand of the first defendant on the plaintiff (MTN) is to take place.

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 them last October for allegedly failing to disconnect unregistered subscribers.

The initial fine of $5.2 billion was reduced by 25 per cent to $3.9 billion earlier this month, 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, Professor Fabian Ajogwu, Dr. Oladapo Olanipekun (all senior advocates) 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.

The firm also alleged that it was not afforded its constitutional right of fair hearing before a court of competent jurisdiction and more importantly, it had not been found guilty of any offence that will warrant it to pay such an outrageous fine.

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