MTN Nigeria Limited, has gone before a Federal High Court in Lagos to challenge the $3.9bn imposed on it by the Nigeria Communications Commission for failure to disconnect its unregistered subscribers.
The company, which filed the suit through its legal team comprising Chief Wole Olanipekun, Tanimola Molajo, A.B. Mahmoud, Dr. Gbolahan Elias, Oladipo Okpeseyi, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu and Dr. Oladapo Olanipekun, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), is urging the court to quash the $3.9bn imposed on it.
Joined as a co-defendant with NCC is the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).
Among other things, the plaintiff is urging the court to determine whether NCC can act pursuant to Section 70 of the NCC Act to impose a fine on it in view of the provisions of sections 1 (3), 4 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution.
It argued that by imposing a fine on it, the commission was already usurping “the exclusive legislative powers of the National Assembly, as well as the judicial powers of the courts established under the Constitution.”
The plaintiff claimed that it was not afforded its constitutional right of fair hearing before a court of competent jurisdiction and insisted that it had not been found guilty of any offence to warrant the fine of $3.9bn imposed on it by NCC.
It also contended that the sanction imposed on it by NCC was within 24 hours of its written submission on the disconnection exercise, claiming that it was impractical to have met the NCC deadline.
It contended that the deadline of seven days given to it by NCC to disconnect 5.2 million subscribers was inadequate, impracticable, unfair and contrary to the requirement that adequate notice should be given to the subscribers and all operators.
MTN accused NCC of acting as a legislator, executor, accuser, prosecutor, judge and beneficiary of the penalty imposed and that the sanction (N200,000 per SIM) imposed on it was excessive.
It stated that the fine imposed on it, till date, is the highest fine ever imposed on a telecommunications company in the world, wondering if the fine is truly commensurate to the purported breach and if this would not this frustrate the business of the company in Nigeria.