N1.04tn Fine: MTN Seeks Out Of Court Settlement
Telecommunications Company, MTN Nigeria, has said it is considering settling out of court with the Nigerian Communications Commission over the N1.04tn fine imposed on it.
On Friday, at the resumed hearing of the suit it filed to challenge the N1.04tn fine, MTN’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), pleaded with the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, to give parties 60 days to explore the option of settlement out of court.
But the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who was sued as the 2nd defendant, told the court, through his lawyer, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), that parties had been finding it difficult to settle out of court.
He urged the court to take it that all the court papers in the matter had been properly filed and served and that the case was still ongoing.
“This is a matter of national importance. There have been concessions in the past and nothing happened,” Okpeseyi noted.
In his own reaction, counsel for the NCC, Mr. Yusuf Alli (SAN), argued that the maximum period allowed by the court rules was 21 days for parties to file and serve written addresses.
After entertaining arguments from all parties, Justice Idris adjourned till March 18 for report of settlement or for hearing in the case.
The judge also held that all processes filed shall be deemed as properly filed and served.
He held that all the preliminary objections and substantive application shall be taken together on the adjourned date if need be.
Justice Idris had on January 12, 2016 turned down an application of mareva injunction by the AGF seeking to bar MTN from emptying its accounts in 21 commercial banks in Nigeria, in order not to boycott N1.04tn fine.
The AGF had expressed the fear that MTN could move all its funds out of the country before the N1.04tn fine could be enforced.
He had sought 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 into it from MTN’s accounts.
But in refusing the application, the judge said the AGF did not place enough material fact before the court to prove that MTN was making any moves to repatriate all its funds out of Nigeria.
MTN had filed the suit to challenge the N1.04tn fine imposed on it by NCC for its failure to deactivate its unregistered subscribers.
Among other things, the company contended that NCC could not act pursuant to Section 70 of its establishment Act to impose the fine on it, adding that it was not given fair hearing before the fine was imposed.