Saturday, 23 January 2016

N1.04tr fine: MTN, NCC move to settle out of court

Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, adjourned till March 18, for parties in the suit by MTN Nigeria Communications Limited against the Nigeria Communication Commission, NCC, over the N1.04trillion fine imposed on the telecommunication outfit to settle out of court or hearing in the case would commence.

At the hearing in the matter, yesterday, MTN’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, informed the court that parties were already discussing on how to resolve the matter amicably.

He requested for a 60-day period to allow for the discussions.

NCC’s lawyer, Yusuf Alli, SAN, disclosed that the court’s discretion was limited to the rules of court which allows for just 21 days to file and serve written addresses.

Counsel to the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Oladipo Okpeseyi, SAN, in his response to Olanipekun’s 60-days request, expressed his reservations, disclosing that the telecommunication outfit has not been consistent in its call for an out-of-court settlement in the matter.

“This is a matter of national importance. There have been concessions in the past and nothing happened,” he said. Following the various submissions of lawyers, trial judge, Justice Mohammad Idris held that all the preliminary objections and substantive application shall be taken together while all the processes filed shall be deemed as properly filed and served.

He then adjourned the matter till March 18, for report of settlement or for hearing in the substantive suit. In the substantive suit, MTN is challenging the sanction imposed on it urging the court to quash same. The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is also a respondents in the suit.

MTN in the suit is challenging the powers of NCC to impose such a fine on it. The telecoms company argued that NCC being a regulator, cannot assume all the functions of the state on its own. It was further argued that the NCC cannot make the regulation, prescribed the penalty and imposed the fine.

MTN is alleging 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 outrageous fine.

It is further contending that the sanction imposed on it by NCC was within 24 hours of its written submission on the disconnection exercise and the impractical nature of the NCC deadline.

It is further contending that the deadline of seven days to disconnect 5.2 million subscribers was grossly inadequate and impracticable and ran contrary to the requirement to give adequate notice to the subscribers and all operators.

It is further contending that the regulatory agency 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.

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