SIM-NIN linkage: Lawyer slams N10bn suit against NCC, telcos for blocking phone lines

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A Lagos-based lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, on Monday filed a N10bn suit before the Federal High Court in Lagos against the Nigerian Communications Commission, its Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Communication Commission, Dr Aminu Maida, for alleged inconvenience, discomfort, injury and loss of business opportunities by Nigerians due to the blocking of their lines not linked to National Identification Number.

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In the suit marked FHC/L/CS/363/2024, Ogungbeje asked for an order compelling the respondents to jointly tender a public apology to the applicant and other affected Nigerian citizens.

Other respondents in the suit are MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, Airtel Networks Nigeria, Globacom Limited, and Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Ltd(9Mobile).

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The court had on February 22, 2024, granted an order restraining the respondents from barring, deactivating and or restricting any phone lines/SIMs of the applicant and other Nigerians.

 

However, the NCC directed the telecommunications providers to bar telephone subscribers not linked to NIN on or before February 28, 2024.

NCC who said it was not part of the suit filed by the applicant insisted that the February 28 deadline given to telecom operators to bar subscribers who failed to link their SIMs to NIN, stands.

Ogungbeje is asking for a declaration that the action of barring, restricting and deactivating of his phone lines/SIMs and that of Nigerians by MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9Mobile upon the directive of NCC and Maida from February 28, till date despite a valid and subsisting order of court granted against the respondents is wrongful, illegal, unlawful, undemocratic, unconstitutional and prejudicial against his and other affected citizens fundamental rights to fair hearing.

He seeks “An order setting aside the entire directive and all its consequential effects in connection with the subject matter of this suit by the first, and second Respondents to the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth respondents having been made in gross violation of a valid and subsisting order of Court granted against the Respondents.

“An order compelling the respondents to jointly and severally to immediately activate, debar, unblock and unrestrict the applicant’s phone lines/SIMs and that of the affected Nigerian citizens forthwith.

“An order compelling the respondents to jointly and severally tender a public apology to the applicant and other affected Nigerian citizens and to pay the sum of N10bn as general and exemplary damages for the prejudicial, wrongful and unconstitutional action of the respondents and the inconvenience, damages and injury caused the Applicant and other affected Nigerian citizens in flagrant violation of a valid and subsisting order of Court.”

In an affidavit in support of the originating motion, Ogungbeje said, “To my utmost shock, on February 28, 2024, I woke up only to discover that my phone lines have been barred, deactivated and restricted by the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth respondents based on the mere directive of first and second Respondents despite a subsisting order of court.

“That act and action of the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth respondents in barring, deactivating and restricting my phone lines and that of Nigerian citizens upon a mere directive by the first respondent without any order of the court and despite a valid and subsisting court order have caused me great loss of business opportunities, embarrassment, untold hardship, discomfort and inconvenience and hampered my business as a legal practitioner and a businessman,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Director of Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission, Reuben Mouka, reacting said the commission has not been served but will ensure proper representation to defend its directive and actions.

Speaking in an interview, he said, “The commission has not received any notice on the new suit yet. In the previous one filed, we were not mentioned as respondents maybe that is why he is initiating another process which will go its normal course. If 10 people go to court today because they are barred, we have no choice but to follow them to court. If we are called to court, we will go there and defend ourselves and our actions.

“The National Identity Management Commission policy of SIM linkage is a policy of the federal government and it is a security issue and the operators are legally bound by this directive because it pertains to national security. They are also law-abiding organisations too.”

 

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