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Court orders NCC, others to pay fine of N500m to APC; NCC appeals against ruling


Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to pay the All Progressives Congress (APC) N500 million as damages for unlawfully banning the party’s presidential campaign fundraising platform.

The court gave the verdict on Tuesday, while delivering judgment in the suit filed by the party against NCC and five others.

Other respondents in the suit were Etisalat, MTN Nigeria Limited, Globacom Limited, Airtel Nigeria Limited and Visafone Communications Limited.

Justice Buba in his judgement held that APC was protected by the constitution to push for the enforcement of its fundamental right once violated.

He thereafter threw out NCC’s counter affidavit and ruled that the action of the respondents were illegal and unconstitutional.

The damages were going to be paid jointly and severally by all the respondents.

The political party had sued the commission, demanding N25 billion as damages, for allegedly banning its presidential campaign fund-raising platform.

APC had accused the NCC of instructing the second to sixth respondents to discontinue a Short Message (SMS) platform it created for the purpose of getting donations from willing members of the public for its presidential campaign.

The party claimed to have initiated the participatory fund-raising platform as a way of getting members of the general public to contribute N100 to its presidential campaign fund, each time they sent APC as an SMS to 35350.

But it claimed that NCC, by a letter dated January 19, 2015 instructed the other respondents to shut down the platform, warning them “to avoid running political advertisement and promotions that will portray them as being partisan.”

The commission had also threatened to sanction any of the telecommunication service providers which failed to comply with the order.

APC considered the NCC’s instruction and the consequent shutting down of its fund-raising platform as both discriminatory and an infringement on its fundamental right protected by Section 39 of the Constitution and Articles 9 (1) (2) and 19 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

Dissatisfied by the ruling of Justice Buba, counsel to NCC, Mr Paul Usoro, has gone to the court of Appeal to appeal against the judgment;

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Citing eight grounds for the appeal, Usoro said he has the mandate of his client, the NCC to appeal against the entire judgment.

He averred that the trial judge erred in law, when he dismissed the Appellant’s Notice of Preliminary Objection of March 2, 2015, which challenged the competence of the suit on the grounds that same was unmeritorious;

He also said on ground two that the Trial Judge erred in law, when he held that the suit of the APC disclosed cause of action against the applicant.

Usoro in the notice of appeal noted that the trial court misdirected itself in law and fact, when it held that the suit as constituted fell under the context of chapter IV of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and not rooted in contract.

He explained in the notice of appeal that the trial court erred in law and occasioned grave miscarriage of justice, when it held that the first respondent has seemingly complained of discrimination by the appellant. (Nigerian Tribune)

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