The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari over the failure to unblock the phone lines of over 72 million telecommunication subscribers barred from making calls on their SIMs.
Joined in the suit as respondents were the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami.
The suit followed the recent directive by the federal government to telecommunications companies to block outgoing calls on all unlinked lines, as the deadline for the verification expired on March 31. In the suit number FHC/L/CS/711/2022 filed last week at the Federal High Court in Lagos, SERAP sought an order setting aside the directive by President Buhari to telecommunications companies to block outgoing calls on all unlinked lines without due process of law, and for being inconsistent with the requirements of legality, necessity and proportionality.
SERAP also sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining Buhari and Pantami from unlawfully directing telecommunications companies to block outgoing calls on all unlinked lines, without due process and in violation of Nigerians’ human rights.
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “While Nigerian authorities have a legal responsibility to protect, ensure and secure the rights to life and property, any such responsibility ought to be discharged in conformity with human rights standards.
“Fundamental rights are regarded as part of human rights and are protected to enhance human dignity and liberty. Unblocking the phone lines unlawfully barred from making calls would improve respect for the rule of law, and ensure people’s right to freedom of expression, and access to information, as well as their right to associate with others.
“The blocking of people from making calls constitutes impermissible restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, information, and association.
“The blocking of people from making calls on their SIMs also amounts to an arbitrary or unlawful interference with their right to family life, and socio-economic rights, as it unnecessarily or disproportionately interferes with these fundamental human rights.
“The decision to block the phone lines also appears to be arbitrary, and lacks any legal framework, independent and judicial oversight. This may allow authorities to act in an unfettered and potentially arbitrary or unlawful manner.”