Olukoya Ogungbeje, a lawyer based in Lagos, filed a N10 billion lawsuit against the Nigerian Communications Commission and Dr. Aminu Maida, the executive vice chairman and chief executive officer, on Monday in the Federal High Court in Lagos.

The lawsuit claims that Nigerians have experienced inconvenience, discomfort, injury, and lost business opportunities as a result of their lines not being linked to their National Identity Numbers being blocked.

Ogungbeje requested an order requiring the respondents to jointly offer a public apology to the applicant and other affected Nigerian citizens in the lawsuit with the filing number.

MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, Airtel Networks Nigeria, Globacom Limited, and Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Ltd (9Mobile) are additional respondents in the lawsuit.

On February 22, 2024, the court issued an order prohibiting the respondents from blocking, deactivating, or limiting the applicant’s and other Nigerians’ phone lines or SIM cards.On or before February 28, 2024, the NCC ordered the telecom companies to block phone users who are not connected to NIN.

The NCC insisted that the deadline of February 28 for telecom operators to bar subscribers who failed to link their SIMs to NIN remains in effect, claiming that it was not included in the applicant’s lawsuit.

Ogungbeje is requesting a declaration that MTN, Airtel, Globacom, and 9Mobile’s actions of blocking, restricting, and deactivating his and other Nigerians’ phone lines/SIMs, as directed by the NCC and Maida, from February 28 to the present, in spite of a valid and enforceable court order against the respondents, are unlawful, wrongful, illegal, unlawful, undemocratic, unconstitutional, and a violation of their fundamental right to a fair trial.

In light of the fact that the first and second respondents to the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth respondents made the directive in flagrant violation of a legitimate and ongoing court order granted against the respondents, he requests “an order setting aside the entire directive and all its consequential effects in connection with the subject matter of this suit.

“An order directing the respondents to act jointly and severally to activate, debar, unblock, and remove all restrictions from the applicant’s and the affected Nigerian citizens’ phone lines and SIM cards immediately.”An order that requires the respondents to publicly apologize to the applicant and other affected Nigerian citizens as well as to pay N10 billion in general and exemplary damages for the respondents’ prejudicial, unlawful, and unconstitutional actions as well as for the inconvenience, harm, and damages that the applicant and other affected Nigerian citizens suffered in flagrant violation of a valid and ongoing court order.”To my utmost shock, on February 28, 2024, I woke up only to discover that my phone lines have been barred, deactivated, and restricted by the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth respondents based on the mere directive of first and second Respondents despite a subsisting order of court,” Ogungbeje stated in an affidavit supporting the originating motion.”On a mere directive by the first respondent, without any court order and despite a valid and subsisting court order, the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth respondents barred, deactivated, and restricted my phone lines and that of Nigerian citizens, which have caused me great loss of business opportunities, embarrassment, untold hardship, discomfort, and inconvenience and hampered my business as a legal practitioner and a businessman,” the man said.

Reuben Mouka, the Nigerian Communications Commission’s Director of Public Affairs, responded by saying that although the commission has not been served, it will make sure that appropriate representation is provided to support its directive and actions.

He stated in an interview that “the commission has not yet received any notice regarding the new suit.” We were not listed as respondents in the previous filing, so perhaps that is why he is starting a new one that will proceed as usual.

We are forced to accompany ten persons who appear in court today due to their barring. We will appear in court and defend our actions and ourselves if called upon.

Because it relates to national security, the operators are legally obligated to abide by the National Identity Management Commission’s SIM linkage policy, which is a federal government policy. Additionally, they are law-abiding organizations.

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