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Court Stops Telecom from Deactivating SIMs Not Linked to NIN

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The Federal High Court in Lagos has issued an injunction banning Nigerian telecom carriers from deactivating or terminating any phone line or SIM card that is not linked to the user’s National Identification Number (NIN).

Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa has ordered telecom operators to refrain from taking action against consumers who have not linked their phone lines or SIM cards to the National Identification Number (NIN), in response to an application filed by Lagos-based lawyer Olukoya Ogungbeje.

Ogungbeje sued the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, and Airtel Networks Nigeria Limited, who are all mentioned as respondents in the case.

In his application, Ogungbeje sought an injunction pending appeal, prohibiting the respondents from deactivating, barring, or restricting Nigerian citizens’ SIM cards or phone lines on February 28, 2024, or any other scheduled date, until his appeal is heard and decided by Nigeria’s Court of Appeal.

Ogungbeje earlier sued MTN in April 2022 when his phone lines were cut off, but the case was dismissed for lack of substance. He then filed an appeal, which is still ongoing before the court of appeals.

When Ogungbeje learned that telecom operators planned to deactivate non-NIN subscribers’ lines on February 28, he filed his most recent application with the court. He relied on the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019, Section 36 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution (as amended), Section 6(6)(B) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution, and the court’s inherent jurisdiction to support his motion.

“That sometimes in April 2022, the Appellant/Applicant herein took out an Originating Summons against the Respondents challenging the action of the Respondents in undermining the judicial powers of the Court and the Nigerian legal system and thus infringing on the applicant’s fundamental rights

“That this Honourable Court in a well considered Judgment delivered on the 8th of May 2023 dismissed the appellant/applicant originating summons.

“That the appellant/applicant being dissatisfied with the Judgment has exercised his constitutional right of appeal by lodging a Notice of Appeal against the Judgment of this Honourable Court on the 26th of July 2023 by the lower Court.

“That the Appellant/applicant’s appeal is against the whole decision contained in the Judgment of this Honourable Court

“That the Respondents are aware of the appellant/applicant’s appeal to the Court of Appeal of Nigeria as the Respondents have since been duly served with the Appellant/Applicant’s Notice of Appeal.

“That despite the pendency of the appellant/applicant’s appeal, efforts are in top gear by the respondents specifically on the 28th of February 2024, to ensure further and outright barring, deactivating and restricting of SIM cards and Phone lines of the Applicant and that of Nigerian citizens.

“That the appellant/applicant appeal to the Court of Appeal of Nigeria “has a high degree of success against the Respondents

“There is the need to preserve the res subject matter of the appeal pending the hearing and determination of the Appellant/Applicant appeal at the Court of Appeal of Nigeria.

“That the appellant/applicant is desirously interested in diligently pursuing the instant appeal that has raised a novel and recondite issue substantially jurisprudential constituting an exceptional circumstance in which the Court can grant an application of this nature

“That the Court has the power and jurisdiction to grant application of this nature in the interest of Justice.”

He supplemented the motion with a 23-paragraph affidavit and a written address.

During the hearing on February 22, 2024, none of the respondents filed a counter-motion.

However, after the applicant presented his motion, a lawyer from the Federal Ministry of Justice asked additional time from the court to respond to the application.

The applicant strongly challenged this request, claiming that all parties were served with the appropriate documents and hearing notices but failed to file their counter affidavits.

After reviewing the documents presented, Justice Lewis-Allagoa confirmed that all respondents were duly served. He granted the lawyer’s motion and issued an injunction prohibiting the country’s telecom operators from deactivating, blocking, or restricting the applicant’s SIM cards or phone lines, as well as those of any other Nigerian citizen, during the exercise set for February 28, 2024.

Furthermore, Justice Lewis-Allagoa decided that his order would be in effect until the lawyer’s appeal was heard and determined.

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