A Federal High Court in Lagos has adjourned till March 18, the suit filed by MTN Nigeria Communications Limited to challenge the 1.04 trillion Naira fine imposed on it by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC).
The court’s adjournment was sequel to a request by the telecommunication outfit for more time to pursue an out of court settlement.
MTN had in December 2015 filed the suit through its lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), arguing that the 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, which is payable to the commission and not the Federal Government.
The telecommunication company also claimed 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 an outrageous fine.
The NCC in response urged the court in a motion on notice filed through its lawyers, Ahmed Raji (SAN) and Mahmud Magaji (SAN), to dismiss or decline to hear the suit for want of jurisdiction, or send it to Abuja.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Friday, Chief Olanipekun informed the court that parties are already discussing on how to resolve the matter amicably.
The lawyer then asked for a 60-day period from the court to allow for the discussions.
But counsel to the NCC, Yusuf Alli (SAN) urged the court to go ahead with the hearing of the matter as he was not aware of any ongoing discussion for settlement among parties.
On his part, lawyer to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN), also expressed reservations on the application for adjournment.
The silk urged the court to make a consequential order that all the processes filed is deemed as properly filed and served.
Justice Idris, in a short ruling, held that all the preliminary objections and substantive applications shall be taken together while all the processes filed shall be deemed as properly filed and served.
The court then adjourned the matter till March 18, for a report of settlement or for hearing.
The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has refused to grant an application of mareva injunction filed by the federal government seeking to stop MTN Nigeria Communications Limited from moving funds in its accounts in 21 commercial banks out of Nigeria.
Presiding Justice, Mohammed Idris, while ruling on the application filed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), held that the Federal Government failed to place enough materials before the court to prove that MTN was about to empty its bank accounts and move its funds out of the country.
The government had filed the application to prevent MTN from boycotting the payment of the N1.04trn fine imposed on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for its failure to deactivate its unregistered subscribers.
The government had specifically urged the court to make an order directing all the 21 banks to open a special interest-yielding account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court and move N1.04tn out of whatever funds that was standing to MTN’s credit in their possession.
The government in an affidavit attached to the application expressed the fear that MTN could move all its funds out of the country before the N1.04tn fine could be enforced.
Counsel to the Federal Government, Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), in the 14-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one of his junior in chamber, Steve Nwabueze, alleged that MTN was in the habit of regularly repatriating its funds out of Nigeria.
Okpeseyi claimed that between October 2007 and May 2009, a period of 19 months, MTN moved over $7.7bn of the money made in Nigeria to a foreign account.
The lawyer also pointed out to the court an instance when in one day, specifically on February 8, 2008, MTN transferred over $936m out of Nigeria to accounts in Mauritius, Cayman Island and British Virgin Island.
He stated, “unless this honourable court urgently entertains this application, the plaintiff/respondent would move its funds out of Nigeria, being the jurisdiction of this honourable court, and thereby frustrate the enforcement of the fine in the likely event that this honourable court sanctions the imposition of the fine.”
Okpeseyi further insisted that MTN was under an obligation to pay the N1.04tn fine, because it was NCC’s administrative decision, which remained final unless it was reviewed by the commission or nullified by the court.
The senior lawyer also submitted that though NCC had earlier given MTN a concession on the fine and reduced it to N780bn, but since MTN had neglected or failed to pay on or before December 31, 2015, the fine remained N1.04tn.
Okpeseyi averred that instead of taking advantage of the concession, MTN resorted to filing a suit in order to buy time, with the hope that it could move all its funds out of Nigeria before the case would be decided.
He therefore urged the court to grant the application in the interest of justice to prevent the court’s decision from being rendered nugatory if it went in the favour of the Federal Government and NCC.
However, Justice Idris declined to grant the application holding that the case was a very sensitive one and of public interest, so he would rather urgently hear the case filed by MTN to challenge the fine and give a judgment within a short time.
But before he adjourned the case to January 22, 2016 for hearing, the Judge made an order for the parties to maintain status quo ante bellum pending the determination of the suit.
MTN had in December 2015 filed a suit through it lawyers,led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), to challenge the sanction.
The telecommunication firm had argued that the 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.
MTN had also claimed 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.
However, the Attorney General in his reply to the suit insisted that NCC is justified to impose the fine, and that it is his duty, as the chief law enforcement officer in the country, to ensure that all the laws made by the National Assembly are obeyed.
The NCC on its part has urged the court in a motion on notice filed through its lawyers, Ahmed Raji (SAN) and Mahmud Magaji (SAN), to dismiss or decline to hear the suit for want of jurisdiction or send it to Abuja.
The commission argued that the suit was wrongly filed in Lagos, noting that the subject of the dispute took place in Abuja, while the two respondents in the suit, NCC and the Attorney General of the Federation, are also based in Abuja.
Governor Emmanuel Udom and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are asking the Akwa Ibom Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to dismiss the petition of the APC on account of being unmeritorious, as a result of the wrongful nomination of the running mate of the petitioner, Mr Benedict Ukpong.
This was in reaction to claims by the APC and its Governorship candidate, Mr. Umana Umana, that the April 11 governorship election was not properly conducted in Akwa Ibom State.
They also asked the tribunal to reject the petition on the grounds of contradictions in the reliefs and prayers sought by the petitioner, and the failure to use full identities of the petitioner’s witnesses.
In his objection to the applications, Counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the petitioner, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urged the tribunal to discountenance the three applications for lacking in merit.
He argued that it was not the business of the tribunal to look into the nomination of a running mate of the petitioner, also saying that the Supreme Court has settled the issue on the use of initials by witnesses on oath, and as such asked the tribunal to reject the applications.
A Federal High Court in Lagos, has fixed Friday the 11th of July to rule on a “no case submission” made by the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji.
Hon Ikuforiji is standing trial alongside his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, on an amended 56 count charge of laundering about N500 million of the Lagos State House of Assembly funds.
Justice Ibrahim Buba reserved ruling after the defence counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) made the no case submission on behalf of his client before the court.
Adopting his submissions, Olanipekun argued that the prosecution had not in any way, made out a case against the accused to warrant him entering the dock to open his defence.
Citing a plethora of authorities, the learned silk argued that the office of a speaker of House of Assembly of a state was constitutionally created, and so, by parity of reasoning, the first accused was sovereign as presently constituted.
He noted that the charge against the accused largely dwelt on transacting with funds above the threshold stipulated by the Money Laundering Act and not necessarily whether they were in cash or not.
He also argued that the accused had not been involved in any transaction within the contemplation of the Act, since all funds collected on his behalf, were based on requisition notes which were approved and handed over to banks, before cash was received.
He concluded that the National Assembly would not have contemplated by the enactment of the Act, that the accused who had only obtained funds officially for the benefit of the Assembly, would now stand trial for performing his official duties.
Chief Olanipekun also pointed out that the prosecution failed to demonstrate elements of conspiracy between the accused persons, he therefore, submitted that prosecution had not made out any case against the accused, for which he was expected to now enter a defence.
Counsel to the the Speaker’s aide, Mr Tunde Akinrimisi, aligned himself with the submissions of Chief Olanipekun.
In response to the submissions of the defence counsel, the prosecutor, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), urged the court to disregard the arguments of the counsel, and order the accused persons to open their defence.
Obla argued that the confessional statement of the accused persons before the EFCC, was enough evidence on their admission of having transacted with cash of the Assembly, about 57 times.
The Supreme Court has fixed May 9th, 2013 for definite settlement report in the suit filed by the 36 state governors, challenging the alleged maintenance and illegal deductions from the federation account by the federal government.
This is coming after 12 adjournments for report of amicable settlement which has proved unsuccessful since 2008.
Presiding judge , Justice Chukwuma Eneh, who led a panel of six other justices of the Supreme Court , in a ruling said, “having listened to counsels in the matter and the failure of the defendant to report back on terms of amicable settlement, this matter is hereby adjourned to May 9th, 2013 for report of settlement or a definite hearing date.”
Counsel to the federal government, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) had told the court that the defendant is interested in an all-inclusive meeting with all the governors who are the plaintiffs to resolve the lingering issues.
He described the matter as “purely political”, which ought to be resolved outside the court.
Lead counsel for the governors, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo however prayed the court for a definite hearing date against what he describes as “unresolved issues” between the plaintiffs and the defendant.
According to the lawyer, the case is obviously above the resolve of counsels in the matter, but justifiable by the court.