There is no doubt that MTN Nigeria Communications Limited is the biggest mobile operator in Nigeria and West Africa. However, the telecommunication giant headquartered in South Africa has been perceived at various quarters to be a clog in the wheel of fight against insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery and other heinous crimes in Nigeria.
Recall that sometime in 2015, the Nigerian Communications Commission reviewed the registration records of all telecommunication operators and it was discovered that over 5.2 Million SIM Cards belonging to MTN were unregistered as at 11th August, 2015 but activated for use by subscribers in breach of Section 19 of the Nigerian Communications Commission (Registration of Telephone Subscribers) Regulations, 2011.
Facts unearthed by security agencies suggest that these unregistered SIM Cards have been used to facilitate activities of the dreaded Boko Haram sect which led to the killing of over 10,000 innocent Nigerians. This caused the Nigerian Communications Commission to impose a fine of $5.2 Billion, that is, N1.04 Trillion on MTN in line with Section 20 of the Nigerian Communications Commission (Registration of Telephone Subscribers) Regulations, 2011 which specifies a fine of N200,000 for each unregistered but activated SIM Card.
The said fine was to be paid latest on 31st December, 2015 otherwise MTN risks its operating licence being revoked. Rather than pay up the fine, MTN resorted to blackmail and unleashed all arsenals to lobby the government officials, particularly the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Communications into either lifting the fine or reducing same to a meagre sum. Eventually, the lobbying yielded result as the fine was not only drastically reduced by Executive Fiat of the Presidency from N1.04 Trillion to N780 Billion, N674 Billion and finally to N330 Billion but MTN was given grace of instalmental payment till 2020.
This absurd and unjustifiable action of the Federal Government of Nigeria prompted our client, a renown human rights activist and constitutional lawyer in the person of Barrister Edward Omaga who lost his cousin named Mr. Boniface Okwoli and a state of the art law firm in Kaduna, North-Eastern Nigeria due to terrorism to institute Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/335/2016 against Five Defendants to wit; President Muhammadu Buhari, Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister of Communications, Nigerian Communications Commission and MTN Nigeria Communications Limited. Our client vide the Suit now pending before Honourable Justice Kafarati of Court 2, Federal High Court Abuja is seeking, amongst other reliefs, an order of court setting aside the illegal reduction of the fine imposed on MTN and compelling Nigerian Communications Commission to revoke the operating licence of MTN for failing to pay the imposed fine totaling N1.04 Trillion as at the deadline of 31st December, 2015.
In the meantime, Dayo Apata, Esq. and Henrietta Nsa Ekeng (Miss) have entered appearance for President Muhammadu Buhari and Attorney-General of the Federation, respectively. Hassan Abdulrahman Esq. represents Nigerian Communications Commission while Wole Olanipekun, SAN is acting for MTN Nigeria Communications Limited. As at 18th August, solicitors to the 1st, 2nd and 4th Defendants have filed Notices of Preliminary Objection challenging jurisdiction of the Court to which Obor John, Esq. has responded on behalf of the Plaintiff. The Suit is slated or hearing on 29th September, 2016.
Suffices to state at this juncture without preempting the outcome of the Suit that the drama that led to the absurd reduction of the MTN fine without following proper legislative procedure cannot be devoid of corruption. Just few days ago, the media was agog with news that evidence has emerged linking the Chief of Staff to Mr. President, Abba Kyari to the receipt of N500 Million as his own share in the fine reduction saga while the leadership of Nigerian Communications Commission is said to have also been earlier compromised.
What can be more corruption than an illegal reduction of a statutory fine from a whooping sum of N1.04 Trillion to a paltry sum of N330 Billion? Did the actors who negotiated the reduction of the fine put into consideration the gravity of offence committed by MTN and the wanton destruction of lives and properties occasioned by such offence? Will any prospective foreign investor ever take Nigeria seriously after forgiving a multinational company an amount which constitutes 20% of her budget in the most corrupt and shady manner?
We are convinced that Abba Kyari and his cohorts are hell bent on dragging Nigeria from recession to depression. Therefore, we are undauntedly poised to pursue this suit to a logical end. Never again will few individuals in government use the offices which ought to be held in trust for the people as conduit pipes to milk Nigeria dry. We look forward to obtaining justice at the Federal High Court not only for our client but the numerous souls lost to Boko Haram insurgency due to negligence and inaction of MTN.
We hope that the outcome of the case will pacify thousands of Nigerians who like our client lost loved ones and sources of livelihood due to insurgency. The time to expose and put an end to serial institutional corruption and restore the image of Nigeria in the comity of nations is now!