The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has faulted the competence of the suit filed by MTN Nigeria Communications Limited challenging the N1.04 trillion fine slammed on it (MTN) for allegedly breaching NCC’s statutory and regulatory directives.
MTN had sued NCC before the Federal High Court, Lagos and sought to void NCC’s decision to penalize it for failing to among others, register about 5.2 million subscribers within a given deadline.
NCC, in a motion on notice, prepared on its behalf by a group of lawyers including Ahmed Raji (SAN) and Mahmud Magaji (SAN), queried the competence of the suit, the court’s jurisdiction to hear it and argued that MTN failed to ensure proper service of court documents on its.
It is the NCC’s contention that the suit was wrongly instituted in the Lagos division of the Federal High Court and that MTN, in serving to court processes on it, failed to comply with the provision of section 143 of the NCC Act which stipulates that all court processes are to be served at the principal office of NCC.
NCC argued that it was not only wrong for MTN to have served court processes in relation to the suit on its Lagos office, the telecommunication company initiated the suit at the wrong venue by going before the Federal High Court, Lagos, which lacked the territorial jurisdiction to determine the dispute.
It stated, in a supporting affidavit, that not only did all facts relating to the dispute occur in Abuja, both defendants in the suit – NCC and the Attorney general of the Federation (AGF) – have their principal offices in Abuja.
NCC therefore prayed the court to set aside the purported service of all processes in the case on it. In the alternative, it wants the court to either decline jurisdiction over the case or transfer it to its Abuja division.
MTN is, by the suit, challenging NCC’s powers of to impose fine even as a regulator.
It is MTN’s contention that NCC, being a regulator, cannot assume all the functions of the state on its own, considering the fact that they made the regulation, prescribed the penalty and imposed the fine, payable to the commission and not the Federal Government.
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.”
MTN stated 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.
It wants the court to among others, 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.