By Henry Ojelu
Former 2nd Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr Monday Ubani, has asked a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to stop the Nigerian government and Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, from disconnecting all SIM cards not linked to the National Identity Number, NIN.
Ubani, in the suit, argued that the directive of government was unreasonable and the threat to block peoples SIM card is an expression of intent to infringe on their rights to property.
According to him, the two weeks ultimatum given for the SIM registration is “unreasonably too short and unreasonable and impracticable in view of the large population of Nigerians and the slow rate of registration by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).”
Defendants in the suit are the Federal Government of Nigeria, Attorney General of the Federation, Nigerian Communication Commission and the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy.
Ubani is seeking a court declaration that the two weeks ultimatum is inadequate and will not only work hardship on him, but will also infringe on his fundamental right to freedom of speech and right to own property as provided under sections 39(1) and 44(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended);
A declaration that the two weeks (16th December 2020 to 30th December, 2020) ultimatum given to telecommunications operators by the 1st, 3rd and 4th Respondents to block all Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) cards that are not registered with National Identity Number (NIN), is grossly inadequate;
And will not only work severe hardship but will likely infringe on the fundamental rights of the Applicant (and millions of other Nigerians) to freedom of expression as guaranteed by section 39(1)(2) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as violate section 44(1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which prohibits the compulsory acquisition of right or interest over moveable property.
He is also seeking a declaration that “in view of the covid-19 pandemic and the rising cases in Nigeria presently, the two weeks deadline given by respondents to over 200 million Nigerians to register their SIM Cards with NIN, will lead to a rush, thereby resulting to clustering of the applicant and other Nigerian citizens in a NIN registration centre, subjecting him to the possibility of easily contracting the covid-19 virus, and such will amount to a violation of his fundamental right to life as protected by section 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).”
Furthermore, Ubani wants the court to halt the two weeks ultimatum and direct the NCC, AG, and Minister of ICT to extend the deadline for, at least, one year;
“An order of this Honourable Court halting the said two weeks ultimatum given by the 1st, 3rd and 4th Respondents to telecommunication operators to block all SIM Cards that are not registered with the National Identity Numbers (NIN);
“An order directing the 1st, 3rd and 4th Respondents to extend the deadline for the registration of SIM Cards with NIN for at least 1 year or to such period of time as the court may consider reasonable for the Applicant (and millions of other Nigerians) to be able to register their SIM Cards safely without any rush that might result to avoidable loss of lives and injuries.”
No date has been fixed for hearing of the matter.