MTN Nigeria Communication Limited and Airtel Network Nigeria Limited have been dragged before a Lagos Federal High Court Over alleged illegal deactivation of sim cards of over 72 million of Nigerians.
Joined alongside the two telecommunication firms in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/677/2022, are; Federal Government of Nigeria and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF)
The plaintiff in the suit, a lawyer cum activist, Olukoya Ogungbeje, is asking the court for an order setting aside the directive and all its consequential effects in connection with the subject matter of tlis suit issued by the first and second respondents to the telecommunication firms, having been made in violation of due process of law.
He is also asked for an order compelling the respondents, jointly and severally, to immediately activate, debar, unlock, unblock, unfreeze and open his phone lines/sim cards and that of over 72 Million affected Nigerian citizens, for the purpose of out-going calls and other connected purposes forthwith.
The Plaintiff also wants the court for an order compelling all the respondents to jointly and severally tender a public apology to him and other affected Nigerian Citizens and to pay the sum of N200 million, as general and exemplary damages for the prejudicial, wrongful and unconstitutional action of the Respondents and the inconvenience, damages and injury caused him and other affected Nigerian citizens.
Furthermore, the plaintiff asks for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the telecommunication firms, jointly and severally, whether by themselves, their-agents, officers, officials, members, servants, Ministers, organs, agencies or privies or anybody deriving authority from them by whatever name called from barring, blocking and or freezing the Applicant’s and other affected Nigerian citizens Phones Lines/sim curds or taking any step, action, further step or action or untoward action or proceeding against the Applicant and other affected Nigerian citizens on any fact connected with or related to the facts of this case.
The plaintiff also asks for the following declarations: “that the barring, blockage, restriction, deactivation and freezing of the Applicant’s MTN Phone line/sim card wiith Phone number (09139128873) and Airtel Phone line/sim card property with Phone number (08027208563) by the two telecommunication firms, upon the directive of the FGN and AGF from April 4, 2022 tli date for having not linked or connected to the Nationai identification Number (NIN) without any valid order of court or due process of law is wrongful, oppressive, illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void as it violates the Applicant’s and other affected Nigerian citizens fundamental rights to own Property, as enshrined under Sections 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“A declaration that the barring, blockage, restriction, deactivation and freezing of his MTN Phone line/sim card, with Phone number (69139128873) and Airtel Phone line/sim card with Phone number (08027208563) by the two firms upon the directive of the FGN and AGF, from April 4, 2022 till date, for having not linked or connected to the National identity Number (NIN) despite a pending court action/case and during the pendency and subsistence of a lawsuit on the subject matter against the Respondents in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/87/2021, between Chief Malcolm E. Omirhiobo Vs Federal Government of Nigeria & 10 Ors pending before the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Lagos Judicial Division is wrongful, prejudicial, illegal, unlawful, undemocratic and unconstitutional as it violates the applicant’s and other affected Nigerian citizens fundamental rights to fair hearing and right to own property as guaranteed under Sections 36 and 43 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended).
“A declaration that the respondents as creations and creatures of law are subject to the Court of law and the judicial powers of the Court of law as enshrined under section 6 (6) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (As Amended)
Ogungbeje’s suit against the respondents is pursuant to Sections 36, 43, 44 and 46 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Order 2 Rule 1, of the fundamental rights enforcement procedure rules 2009 and under the Court’s inherent jurisdisction.
Ogungbeje in an affidavit deposed to stated that sometimes on April 4 2022, he woke up only to discover that his phones lines have been barred, blocked, deactivated and restricted by the third and fourth respondents based on the mere directive of FGN and AGF having for not connected or linked with National Identity Number (NIN) without any order of court or due process of law.
He stated that consequent upon the directive of the FGN and AGF, the phone lines/sim cards of over 72 million subscribers have been barred, locked, restricted and partially deactivated by the third and 4 fourth Respondents. And that the act and action of the third and fourth respondents of barring, blocking deactivating and restricting my phone lines upon a mere directive by the first and second respondents without any order of court have Caused him great untold hardship, discomfort and inconvenience aid hampered my business as a legal practitioner and businessman.
He averred that he immediately contacted his solicitors who wrote letters dated April 7, 2022 to the third respondent and letter dated April 6 2022 to the fourth respondent demanding that their illegal act and action be reversed having been carried out without recourse to due process of lay. But both third and fourth respondents have failed and refused to reply or respond to my solicitors letters till date.
He stated that the act and action of the Respondents have been carried out without a valid order of court or due process of law.
He stated that the act and action of barring, blocking deactivating and restricting his phone lines with phone numbers: 09139128873 and 08027208563 by the respondents without any order of court and despite the pendency of a court case before the Federal High Court of Nigeria is clearly wrongful and prejudicial against my rights and the rights of Nigerian citizens to fair hearing and right to own property
He stated that the respondents are fully aware of the fact that there is a pending court case, lawsuit and litigation on the subject matter thus overreaching the court action in suit number FHC/L/CS/87/2021 Between Chief Malcolm Emokiniovo Omirhobo Vs Federal Government of Nigeria & 10 Ors pending before the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Lagos Judicial Division.
And that the respondents have constituted themselves to court of law defying pending court proceedings and processes in a bid to foist a fait accompli on the court and render the outcome of whatever decisions reached nugatory.
That the Respondents have no right to take to law into their own hands in taking action and step over a matter that is sub-judice upon which the court of law is properly seized.
He stated that he has not committed any offence Known to law to warrant the barring, blocking, deactivating and restricting of my phone lines by the Respondents without a valid order of court. And that the third and fourth respondents have no right to block, deactivate and restrict my phone lines on a mere directive of the first and second respondents devoid of a valid order of court or due process of law
Ogungbeje also stated that the act and action of the respondents in barring and restricting his phone lines and that of other Nigerian citizens without any order of court or without recourse to the due process of law have seriously prejudiced and breached his right to fair hearing and right to own property and other affected Nigerian citizens as enshrined in sections 36 and 43 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He stated that due process of law has not been followed by the respondents in the act of barring, blocking, deactivating and restricting my phone lines and that of other Nigerian citizens. And that they have brazenly and oppressively infringed upon my fundamental rights to fair hearing and right to own property.
He stated that it is in the interest of justice that all the reliefs sought in the application are granted.
However, Justice Tijjani Ringim, has adjourned the hearing of the matter till April 21, 2022, for hearing.