Justice Ayokunle Faji of the Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed hearing in a fundamental rights class-action suit filed by Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), and Paradigm Initiative (PIN) against four telecommunications companies for June 16 2022 to resolve all pending applications before the court.
EiE had filed a class action urging the court to, among other things, declare that MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, Airtel Networks Limited, Globacom Limited, and Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Limited (9Mobile) interfered with their right to freedom of expression as well as other subscribers’ by blocking their access to Twitter.
Airtel Networks Limited thereafter filed a preliminary objection challenging the right or ability of EiE to file the legal action in court and for non-disclosure of any course of action.
While supporting Airtel grounds for the objection, its legal counsel, Ms Morenikeji Akande of Jodax Attorneys, submitted that the affidavit in EiE’s application does not show any material fact that would entitle it to the judgment of the court.
EiE had argued that it is a subscriber of the services of some of the telecommunication network providers in Nigeria and in its affidavit, supplied the telephone numbers, and the telecom provider EiE and its associate MRA and Paradigm Initiatives subscribed to. This is the reason they are suing the telecom firms for the blockage of access to their Twitter accounts and the institution of the suit.
Ms Akande also submitted that EiE had shown no link between it and Airtel, making Airtel responsible for the damage caused. She also argued that EiE was not able to show that its line and Twitter account were blocked specifically by Airtel, which led to the N5 Billion damage suit. She said EiE, not being a customer or subscriber, cannot suffer any loss arising from the blockage. She claimed that an applicant in a fundamental right procedure must present all facts and exhibits supporting its case before the court because hearing of the case by the court is the same as a trial in a writ of summons suit.
Airtel further argued that EiE’s inability to show a link with Airtel means that it has failed to ascertain its locus in the suit, adding that it is not sufficient for it to depose to its interest in the subject matter but must show in clear terms in the affidavit, its authority to bring the action in a representative capacity or as a class action.
Ms Akande further argued that EiE, as a company limited by liability, must show that its company objective allows it to file the suit on behalf of the class represented. She said the exhibits submitted for this purpose did not support the lawsuit.
She further stated that EiE should do more than refer to an alleged interest in the matter by showing that it has been affected by the breach of the fundamental rights to freedom of expression due to the act of Airtel. This condition, she argued has not been met and as such, EiE lacks the interest known to law to initiate the suit.
Finally, Airtel submitted that the right to the action in court is also a constitutional right exercisable by a person who has a complaint touching on his civil rights and obligations against another person, government or authority. On the strength of these arguments, she said the case should be stuck out in the absence of any such violations. Airtel urged the court to dismiss the suit since EiE has not shown sufficient legal interest to clothe it with authority to sue Airtel.
MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, Globacom Limited, and 9Mobile were yet to file any application in response to the suit.