It emerged on Friday that MTN Nigeria had commenced moves to settle out of court its dispute with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over the $3.9billion imposed on it by the commission.
The imposition of the fine had prompted the telecommunication giant to file a suit against the federal government at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
When the case came up on Friday before Justice Mohammed Idirs, MTN’s lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), leading Tani Molajo (SAN), A.B. Mahmoud (SAN), Dr Gbolahan Elias (SAN), Babatunde Fagbohunlu (SAN), Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), Dr. Dapo Olanipekun (SAN) and 12 other lawyers, had informed the Federal High Court in Lagos that parties were exploring options to settle the case out of court.
He then prayed the court for a total of 60 days to allow for discussions between parties.
But the NCC legal team, comprising Mr. Yusuf Alli (SAN), Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), Paul Usoro (SAN), Y. C. Maikyau (SAN), K. Eleja (SAN) indicated that they were not unaware of the moves towards an amicable resolution.
On his part, counsel from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN), said the telecommunication outfit was not consistent in its call for an out-of-court settlement of the matter.
“This is a matter of national importance; there has been concessions in the past and nothing happened,” he said.
He then urged the court to make a consequential order that all the processes filed is deemed as properly filed and served.
Following the submissions before the court, Justice Mohammed Idris held that all the preliminary objections and substantive application would be taken together.
The judge also held that all processes filed would be deemed as properly filed and served.
He consequently, adjourned the case to March 18, for report of settlement or for hearing.
MTN had filed the suit to challenge the $3.9billion sanction imposed on it by the NCC last October for allegedly failing to disconnect unregistered subscribers and prescribe a deadline of December 31, 2015.
The initial fine of $5.2billion was reduced by 25 per cent to $3.9billion early in December, with a payment deadline set for 31.
But MTN through its team of lawyers filed a suit against the NCC, challenging its powers to impose such a fine on it. It urged the court to quash the fine.
The telecoms company argued that on the basis 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.
The firm also alleged 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.
It contended that the sanction imposed on it by NCC was within 24 hours of its written submission on the disconnection exercise and the impractical nature of the NCC deadline.
Stating that the deadline of seven days to disconnect 5.2 million subscribers was grossly inadequate and impracticable, the telecoms company said the deadline to disconnect 5,200,000 subscribers was unfair and ran contrary to the requirement to give adequate notice to the subscribers and all operators.
It accused the regulatory agency of acting as a legislator, executor, accuser, prosecutor, judge and beneficiary of the penalty imposed and tthat the sanction (N200,000 per SIM) imposed on it was excessive.
It stated that the fine imposed on it, till date, is the highest fine ever imposed on a telecommunications company in the world, wondering if the fine is truly commensurate to the purported breach and if would not this frustrate the business of the company in Nigeria.