For allegedly manipulating the call data records of the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami to protect his alleged unethical communications with parties in Ekiti and Osun States Governorship appeals,
the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Osun State governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola have asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to compel MTN Nigeria Communications Limited to pay a N150 billion general damages to them.
In a suit no FHC/ ABJ/CS/117/2012 filed at the court’s registry last Friday, the plaintiffs, Ekiti and Osun chapters of the ruling party and the former governor are also asking the court to compel the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) joined as co-defendant, to revoke the licence of the mobile telephony firm for the alleged intransigence.
It was learnt that a copy of the suit along with a petition, is receiving the attention of the firm’s parent body in South Africa, with IT expert; Adeolu Oyinlola listed as the plaintiffs’ star witness, while the Secretary of the National Judicial Council, Danladi Halilu in his capacity as the secretary of the Justice Umaru Abdullahi’s probe panel would be subpoenaed to testify and tender documents.
The plaintiffs claim against the defendants jointly and severally is for;
* A declaration that the 2nd defendant (NCC) has failed to protect the plaintiffs (PDP and Oyinlola) from the unfair practices of the 1st defendant (MTN Nigeria).
* A declaration that 1st defendant (MTN) has failed in its duty to be accountable and responsive to the needs of the plaintiffs.
*An order of the court compelling or asking the 2nd defendant (NCC) to revoke the operating licence of the 1st defendant.
* The sum of N150 billion only being general damages suffered by the plaintiffs.
In a 68-paragraph statement of claim, the plaintiffs claimed that “Sometime in 2010, the Governorship Election Appeal Tribunals in Ibadan and Ilorin nullified the elections of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola (3rd plaintiff) and Chief Segun Oni of Osun and Ekiti States respectively and declared Mr. Rauf Aregbesola and Dr. Kayode Fayemi as the duly elected Governors of Osun and Ekiti States respectively. As an expression of their dissatisfaction with the said judgement, Prince Oyinlola and the PDP, Osun State as well as Chief Oni and PDP, Ekiti State, forwarded and submitted petitions to the National Judicial Council (NJC) alleging corruption against certain judicial officers in the handling and determination of governorship election appeals in respect of Osun and Ekiti States.
“The National Judicial Council (NJC) in accord with its statutory and legal duties in 2011 set up a special investigative Panel to determine the culpability or otherwise of certain judicial officers with respect to allegations of corruption that rocked the judicial arm of government.
“In the 1st defendant’s reaction to controversies which ensued from the call records emanating from it in respect of the issues pending before the NJC investigative panel, the General Manager, Corporate Communications of the 1st defendant, Funmi Omogbenigun, on February 25, 2011, did, in a press release, highlight the rigorous nature of “the procedure for the release of information on calls or data” transmitted on its network. She described their responsibility as a “statutory obligation to accede to legitimate requests for information”.
“In order to assist the NJC panel in its assigned duty, requests were made to all the mobile telephony and ancillary service providers in the country. Certain service providers cooperated fully with the NJC panel and availed the latter of call data records; spanning, in some cases, 12 months. MTN Nigeria Communications Limited on its own part deliberately frustrated the work of the Panel by providing inadequate and incomplete call data records and thus manipulated same.
“During the course of investigations carried out by an arm of government’s law enforcement and security agencies in the country, the office of the Area Commander Nigeria Police Force, Area “G” Command Headquarters, Ogba, Lagos did request that MTN Nigeria furnish it with information on telephone subscriber number 08034004887 and 08034010700. MTN did furnish the aforementioned Area Command Office the call data records of the two numbers aforementioned. The plaintiffs shall rely on the covering letter written by MTN (Ref: CR 3000/LS/AG/V.14/81) dated February 1, 2011 and the call data records of the two numbers at the trial of this suit.
“To our utmost dismay, MTN forwarded incomplete and inadequate call logs to the NJC Panel, when requested to so do. Due to the facts contained above, the NJC Panel that investigated the aforementioned alleged corruption declared the call logs earlier released by MTN as lacking authenticity and as such had no evidential value. The action of MTN to deliberately frustrate the work of the NJC Panel or
Committee by providing inadequate and incomplete call data records constituted gross professional and ethical misconduct and against the spirit and letter of the NCC Act Cap N97, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
“On October 2011, we caused a letter to be written to NCC, asking it to furnish us with the irreducible minimum period stipulated for telephone service providers in Nigeria including MTN, to retain historical call data, to which NCC has failed/refused/neglected to reply till date. Same day, a letter was written to the Minister of Police Affairs, requesting that the MTN’s motive for withholding components of the call data records of MTN subscriber number 0803400887 (Justice Ayo Salami’s) and MTN subscriber number 08034010700 (Tunji Ijaiya’s) be investigated. The Minister till date; failed/ refused/neglected to reply the letter or investigate the matter.
“The call data records forwarded by MTN to the NJC Panel deliberately covered only a period starting from December 2010 in order to invalidate those it released to the Area Commander “Area G” Command which covered the period between 1/9/2010 and 30/1/2011. The call data records forwarded to the NJC Panel by MTN only contained the originating component; as opposed to those it released to the Area Commander, which contained the originating and terminating components.
“By this, MTN has deliberately descended into the arena of politics; deviating from the principal objective or goal for which it was registered and granted a licence by NCC.
“MTN deliberately omitted the months of September, October and November 2010 from the call data records forwarded to the NJC Panel, to effectively obliterate records of the period of communication between and among the following individuals; Justice Isa Ayo Salami (08034004887), Tunji Ijaiya (08034010700), Tunde Folawiyo Lagos State Governor (08034240000), Gbadegesin Ademola (08062240104), Mohammed Raufu Lai (08034301111), Lagos State Government (08034020700; 08033235280; 08034301122), Kayode Fayemi (08055556655), thereby blanking out the period immediately preceding and immediately proceeding the judgements of the Governorship Election Appeal in respect of Osun and Ekiti State.
“MTN deliberately omitted the months of September, October and November from the aforementioned call data record, to mislead the NJC Panel and to pervert the course of justice. If MTN had forwarded the authentic, adequate, complete and undistorted, and bonafide call date records in respect of communication between and among the individuals mentioned, to the NJC Panel, the report of the Panel and the recommendations of the Committee set up to review the Report would have been different..
“If the recommendations had been different, necessary legal action and steps would have been taken to ensure that PDP’s candidate in the 2007 gubernatorial elections, Oyinlola and Oni were reinstated. Because they were not reinstated, they had suffered and are still suffering unimaginable integrity, prestige and image, financial and political losses.
“In granting licence to a license or a service provider, the NCC has the power to specify or prescribe certain conditions attached to a licence, vary or revoke in writing, a condition attached to any such licence. It has also the power to institute or instigate the institution of a suit-civil or criminal-against any licensee or service provider or any person who violates or contravenes or is about to violate or contravene the provisions of the Nigerian Communications Commission Act or any rules or regulations made thereunder. It also has the power and
the discretion to grant, renew and revoke a licence issued to a licensee or a service provider”.
The suit is yet to be assigned to a judge and no date yet fixed for hearing.
Source: Tribune Newspapers