APC sues NCC over N25b fund-raising advert ban
Commission denies stopping parties’ platforms
THE All Progressives Congress (APC) has made good its threat to sue the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over the alleged ban on their fund-raising campaign scheme.
The party yesterday asked a Federal High Court in Lagos to compel the NCC to pay it N25 billion as damages for the alleged ban on their SMS campaign fund-raising scheme.
Joined with the NCC as respondents in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/16/15 are Etisalat, MTN Nigeria Limited, Globacom Limited, Airtel Nigeria and Visafone Communications Limited.
In an 18-paragragh affidavit deposed to by one Ademola Sodiq, the APC accused the NCC of instructing the second to sixth respondents to discontinue an SMS platform it created for the purpose of getting donations from willing members of the public for its presidential campaign.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday said that it did not at any time order Global System of Mobile Communications (GSM) operators to shut platforms used by political parties to raise funds.
Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, who claimed there was never a time the commission tampered with any platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for its campaign fund-raisers as alleged, said that the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, may have been wrongly advised on the matter.
He stated, among others: “At no time did the APC, Fashola or any party member for that matter enter into any agreement with the commission for campaign services. The only time we got to know of this was when subscribers began to inundate our offices with complaints that their privacies were being invaded through unsolicited text messages for votes by the political parties.
“This invasion of privacy came at the end of airtime balance check or re-load of airtime.
According to Sodiq, the participatory fund-raising strategy was for members of the public to contribute N100 to the APC’s presidential campaign fund each time they sent APC as an SMS to 35350.
Sodiq explained that the party’s strategy was borne out of its commitment to raising funds for its presidential campaign in a “transparent and accountable manner.”
The deponent said that within few hours of launching the strategy, the party was getting about four to five text messages per minute and had received a total of 5,400 SMS before the NCC directed the telecommunications service providers to discontinue the scheme.
“Shortly after the applicant announced its participatory fund-raising strategy on Tuesday, January 20, 2015, the first respondent immediately addressed a letter to the second respondent, which was received in Lagos, wherein a purported directive was given to all telecommunications service providers (second to sixth respondents inclusive), warning them ‘to avoid running political advertisement/promotions that will portray them as being partisan”, Sodiq said.
Accusing the NCC of discriminating against the APC, Sodiq said he remembered and had proof that President Goodluck Jonathan and his deputy, Namadi Sambo, in 2010 raised fund for their campaign using short codes designated: 6661, 662, 6663 and 6664, registered with one Wagitel Communications Limited.
According to Sodiq, by banning the APC presidential campaign fund-raising scheme, the NCC contravened Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution and Articles 9 (1) (2) and 19 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9, Law of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Counsel to the APC, Mr. Kola Awodein (SAN), while urging the court to declare the NCC’s directive as “unconstitutional, illegal, null, void and of no effect”, argued that the NCC acted ultra vires its powers when it gave such directive against the provisions of sections 39 and 42 of the Nigerian Constitution.
The APC is therefore asking the court to award N25 billion as damages against the NCC in its favour for allegedly inhibiting its financial capacity to prosecute its presidential campaign towards the February 14 presidential election.
However, Justice Ibrahim Buba yesterday granted an interim injuction, vacating the ban on APC’s fund-raising scheme pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The ex-parte application to that effect was brought by its counsel, Dr. Muiz Banire.
Justice Buba ordered that the second to sixth defendants should immediately reactivate the applicant’s presidential campaign fund-raising SMS scheme.
The judge also granted the applicant the leave to serve the respondents the originating summons and other processes outside the court’s jurisdiction and subsequently adjourned hearing to February 4, 2015.