Paradigm Initiative and Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative have dragged the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ministry of Communication and four network operators including MTN, GLO, AIRTEL and Etisalat before the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.
In the suit filed on Thursday 17 December, 2020 and marked FHC/CS/LS/ /2020, the applicants are asking the court to declare that the proposed blocking of SIM Cards that are not registered with National Identification Numbers (NINs) will likely interfere with the right to freedom of expression of their members.
The Applicant in the suit contended that owning and using a Telephone Line or SIM Card is an exercise of right to freedom of expression.
The Applicants therefore argued that the proposed blocking will interfere with the right to freedom of expression of their members.
Applicants therefore urged the court to declare that the proposed blocking of telephone lines not registered with the NINs as unlawful and unconstitutional as the directive stipulating the proposed blocking is not a law and that only a law can be applied to limit fundamental human rights in due observance with the provisions of the constitution.
Speaking on the suit, lawyers to the Applicants, Solomon Okedara and Irene Chkuwukelu stated that implementation of the proposed blocking will have devastating effect on freedom of expression of millions of Nigerians.
The lawyers noted that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) published that there are about 198, 961, 361 active lines while there are only about 36, 894, ,074 NINs since inception. This, the lawyers noted, will create far-reaching violation of right to freedom of expression of over 100 million people.
In specific terms, the Applicants have asked the court for the following:
A DECLARATION that owning and operating a Telephone line or SIM Card is an exercise of right to freedom of expression as provided for and guaranteed in Section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)
A DECLARATION that the proposed blocking of SIM Cards or Telephone lines that are not registered with National Identification Numbers (NINs) by the network operators will likely interfere with the Applicant’s members’ right to freedom of expression guaranteed under section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
A DECLARATION that the directive on the propose blocking of SIM Cards on the directive of or by the Respondents on the ground of the non-registration of SIM Cards with National Identification Numbers (NINs) with the network operators is unlawful and unconstitutional as same is not stipulated by a law and not being a restriction that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society as required by Section 45 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)
PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the Respondents from carrying out or giving effect to the directive on blocking of SIMs not registered with National Identification Numbers (NINs) by network operators until all Nigerians have been conveniently afforded the opportunity to register for and obtain valid NINs and update their SIM registration accordingly.
AN ORDER awarding a cost of One Million Naira only (N1,000,000) to the Applicant as the cost of this suit.
CONSEQUENTIAL ORDER(S) as this honourable court may deem fit to make in the circumstance.