A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday [Mar. 24] ordered the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to pay the All Progressives Congress (APC) N500 million as damages for unlawfully banning the party’s presidential campaign fund-raising platform. Justice Ibrahim Buba gave the order in his judgment following a suit filed by the APC against the NCC and Etisalat, MTN Nigeria, Globacom, Airtel Nigeria and Visafone Communications.
The judge, in his judgment, held that the APC was protected by the constitution to pursue the enforcement of its fundamental rights once they were violated. Mr. Buba, thereafter, dismissed NCC’s counter affidavit and ruled that the actions of the respondents were illegal and unconstitutional.
The judge held that the damages were to be paid jointly and severally by all the respondents.
The political party had sued the commission, demanding N25bn as damages, for allegedly banning its presidential campaign fund-raising platform. The APC had accused the NCC of instructing the 2nd to 6th respondents to discontinue an SMS platform it created for the purpose of getting donations from willing members of the public for its presidential campaign.
The party claimed to have initiated the participatory fund-raising platform as a way of getting every member of the general public to contribute N100 to its presidential campaign fund each time they sent APC as an SMS to 35350. The APC had deposed to an affidavit stating that within few hours of launching the strategy, the party was getting about four to five text messages in a minute and had received a total of 5,400 SMS before the NCC directed the telecommunications service providers to discontinue the scheme.
The party, however, claimed that NCC, in a letter dated January 19, instructed the other respondents to shut down the platform, warning them “to avoid running political advertisement/promotions that will portray them as being partisan”. The APC said the commission also threatened to sanction any of the telecommunication service providers which failed to comply with its order.
The party, however, considered the NCC’s instruction and the consequent shutting down of its fund-raising platform as both discriminatory and an infringement on its fundamental rights as protected by Section 39 of the Constitution and Articles 9 (1) (2) and 19 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
It argued that NCC did not give the same instruction to the other respondents when the Peoples Democratic Party set up such short code which was managed by one Wagitel Communications Ltd, to raise funds for the campaign of the party in 2010.