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Court bars MTN, Airtel others from deactivating subscribers’ lines



MTN Airtel 9Mobile Globacom

A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered telecom operators in the country to stop deactivating or blocking any line or SIM card whose user has not linked to the National Identification Number, NIN.

On February 22, 2024, trial judge Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa prohibited cellular network operators from taking such action while ruling on a restraining order application filed by rights activist Olukoya Ogungbeje.

Ogungbeje filed a claim against the federal government, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, and Airtel Networks Nigeria Limited.

Ogungbeje had asked the court for an injunction pending appeal, restraining all the respondents jointly or severally, whether by themselves, their agents, outlets, agencies, privies, officials, servants, men, parastatals, units, organs, or anybody or person, however, so called, from taking any step or action capable of enforcing the judgement in anyway and from further outright barring, deactivating, or restricting any SIM cards or his phone lines, or of any Nigerian citizen, slated for February 28, 2024, or any other scheduled date, pending the hearing and determination of his appeal at the Court of Appeal, against the court’s judgement delivered on May 8, 2023, by Justice Lewis-Allagoa.

He listed 10 grounds for seeking the application, which include “that sometime in April 2022, the appellant/applicant herein took out a suit against the respondents, challenging the action of the respondents in undermining the judicial powers of the court and the Nigerian legal system and thus infringing on the applicant’s fundamental rights.

“That this court, in a well-considered judgement delivered on May 8, 2023, dismissed the appellant’s suit.

“That the appellant/applicant, being dissatisfied with the judgement, has exercised his constitutional right of appeal by lodging a notice of appeal against the judgement of this Honourable Court on July 26, 2023, by the lower court.

“That the appellant’s appeal is against the whole decision contained in the judgement of this court.”