Etisalat battles NCC over alleged undue advantage to MTN
Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos will on September 25, hear a suit filed by mobile telecommunications giant, Etisalat Nigeria against the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over alleged unhealthy competition and undue advantage given to one of its competitors, MTN Nigeria.
When the case was brought up for mention, Justice Idris struck out an application by MTN challenging the hearing of the matter during the ongoing annual court vacation. Counsel to MTN, Olasupo Shasore (SAN) appeared in court contesting the urgency claimed by Etisalat. Shasore urged Justice Idris that, contrary to the claim by the plaintiff, there was nothing urgent about the matter to warrant it being heard during the court’s vacation.
However, counsel to Etisalat, Kola Awodein (SAN) told the court that, even though he was only served copies of the second respondent’s papers in the evening of Friday the 31st of July 2015, he had already filed his reply to enable the case proceed to trial without unnecessary delays.
On his part, counsel to the NCC, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) pleaded that he had just been briefed by the first respondent to make a representation; and so he would require some time to study the file. Awodein thereafter informed the court that all the parties have agreed to come back to court on September 25, 2015 for further hearing. Consequently, Justice Idris struck out MTN’s application and adjourned the case.
Implementation of the NCC’s guidelines for healthy competition is a major component of this case since the NCC which had declared MTN a dominant operator, proceeded to grant the same operator a special waiver in contravention of the obligations imposed on them by the regulations contained in the Dominance Determination.
Etisalat is requesting the court to review the decision of the NCC to grant a special waiver to MTN to offer tariffs that are contrary to the spirit and regulations of the 2013 NCC Determination of Dominance in the telecommunications market in Nigeria. According to Etisalat, the waiver was granted without due process and to the detriment of other players in the industry.
The plaintiff is therefore in court to seek a court order for the reversal of the waiver, as sustenance of the waiver constitutes an unfair advantage to MTN with serious implications for the growth of the sector and the economic interest of Nigerian subscribers.
If the court does not uphold the case by Etisalat, Nigerian telecommunications subscribers, it said may be compelled to remain on the network of the dominant operator as off-net calls continues to be discouraged with punitive tariffs on consumers when they make calls outside of the network of the dominant operator, which in this case is MTN.