Some Nigerians on Monday faulted the decision of the Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC, to reduce by 25 per cent a N1.04 trillion fine earlier imposed on MTN for not disconnecting unregistered subscribers.
The NCC, last week, reduced the fine to N780 billion, with December 31, 2015 as deadline for MTN to pay.
But some aggrieved Nigerians on Monday criticised the NCC for the decision, describing it as a violation of the fundamental rights of Nigerians and a breach of sections of Nigerian laws and the Constitution.
“No Nigerian institution or public office holder has the absolute power to howsoever reduce the fine, without legitimate recourse to the Nigerian people,” the group, Concerned Nigerians, said in their particulars of claims filed along with a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
In the class action suit filed on their behalf by an Abuja-based legal practitioner and civil rights activist, Timipa Okponipere, the applicants asked the court to declare the decision a breach of Part X, Sections 86-88; 142(3-4) of the NCC Act 2003; Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Article 21(5) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
Accusing the NCC of conspiring with MTN against Nigerians, the applicants said the laws guaranteed the fundamental rights of Nigerians to fair hearing and freedom to dispose of their wealth and natural resources in the exclusive interest of the people.
Demanding an order for MTN to pay the N1.04 trillion fine as originally imposed, and same transferred to the Federation Account for the benefit of Nigerians, the applicants said the payment was non-negotiable.
“The penalty for breach of a fundamental right is strict and non-negotiable”, the applicants said. “There is no single jurisdiction in the world which negotiates the breach of fundamental rights, because they are inalienable rights, usually guaranteed by the Constitution. Nigeria should not be an exception.”
Mr. Okponipere explained that the Federal Government was obliged to eliminate all forms of foreign economic exploitation, particularly that practiced by international “monopolies” like MTN.
Describing as illegal attempts by MTN to negotiate and re-negotiate the original fine, the activist said the NCC did not only misdirect itself into the decision to reduce the fine, but also erred by ordering MTN to pay the N780 billion within a month by December 31, 2015.
The order, which the counsel said was provocative and unpatriotic, had made it practically impossible for any aggrieved person, including his clients, to exhaust all available remedies prescribed under the NCC Act.
Although he said his clients were willing to pursue all available mandatory remedies required by law, Mr. Okponipere expressed concern that if MTN paid the N780 billion fine by December 31, 2015, any complaint on the subject matter would have been reduced to a mere academic exercise.
To allow NCC to dispose of Nigeria’s wealth by 25 per cent without giving Nigerians the opportunity to question the validity of that decision, he stated, was contrary to natural justice equity and good conscience.