Activist slams N10bn suit on Airtel, MTN, others over NIN-SIM linkage

A RIGHTS activist, Olukoya Ogungbeje, has filed a suit against some telecommunications companies in Nigeria.

In the suit filed before a Federal High Court in Lagos, Ogungbeje is contesting the recent barring of citizens’ phone lines by MTN, Glo, Airtel, and 9mobile.

He sued the telecom providers for N10 billion, claiming they illegally restricted Nigerians’ access to their phone lines.


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The chief executive officer (CEO) of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Aminu Mada, NCC and MTN Nigeria Communications Plc were joined as responders to his lawsuit.

The other responders are Airtel Networks Nigeria Ltd, Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Ltd. (EMTS 9 Mobile) and Globacom Ltd.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), The applicant claimed in his affidavit that the respondents threatened to block or deactivate Nigerians’ mobile phones whose numbers were not linked to their National Identity Number (NIN).

He claimed that in response to this threat, he approached the court and, on February 22, secured an order prohibiting the defendants from blocking or deactivating Nigerians’ phone lines while the litigation was being decided.

The applicant further claimed that the respondents ignored the court and blocked many Nigerians’ cellphone lines, including his on February 28 in violation of the court order.

Consequently, Ogungbeje requested a declaration that the respondents’ actions, including blocking and deactivating phone lines from February 28 to date, violate an existing court order.

He also sought an order suspending the directive limiting Nigerians’ access to their phone lines, and an order requiring the respondents to unblock and unlock the affected phone lines immediately.

 Similarly, the applicant sought a permanent injunction prohibiting the respondents from taking any further action against the affected citizens.

A date for hearing his new lawsuit has yet to be fixed. 

The ICIR reported on Thursday, February 29, that the NCC said there would not be an extension of the February 28 deadline for linking SIM cards to NIN.

Reports suggested that about 12 million lines might be affected by the directive after the deadline expired.

According to the NCC, SIM-NIN linkage is the process of attaching one’s NIN to a phone number to validate the person who registered the SIM card.

In a notice dated December 20, 2023, the NCC directed telecommunication companies (telcos) to block SIMs that had yet to be connected to the NINs of their owners by February 28, 2024. 

Besides, the NCC requested that by March 29, 2024, Global Satellite Mobile (GSM) Communications companies ban individuals whose NINs have been submitted but not confirmed.






     

     

    The ICIR reported that the Federal Government in April 2022 directed telecommunications operators to immediately bar outgoing calls from SIM cards not yet linked with the NIN.

    The Federal Government had earlier mandated that telecommunications subscribers link their SIMs with their NINs in December 2020.

    Meanwhile, the Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday, February 22, restrained telecom operators from deactivating or barring any line or SIM whose user did not link to the NIN.

    Ruling on a restraining order application brought by Ogungbeje on February 22, the judge, Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa, prohibited telecom carriers from executing such an action.

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