Court Fixes Hearing for January 18 in MRA’s Suit Over Shutdown of Telecomms Services in Kaduna

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Mr. Sani Abubakar Yahaya
Member of MRA’s network of lawyers

A Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna has fixed hearing for January 18, 2022 in a lawsuit filed by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) against the Attorney-General of the Federation and his counterpart in Kaduna State challenging the shutdown of mobile telecommunication services in the State.

The hearing comes up before Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari.

In the suit filed on its behalf by Kaduna-based lawyer and member of MRA’s network of lawyers, Mr. Sani Abubakar Yahaya, leading Ms. Chioma Nwaodike and Ms. Obioma Okonkwo, MRA is asking the Court to declare that the shutting down, blocking and/or disruption of mobile telecommunications services in Kaduna State at the request of the Governor constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of expression of persons within and outside Kaduna as guaranteed by section 39 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended;  Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR); and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Specifically, MRA is asking the court for the following reliefs:

  • A declaration that the shutting down, blocking and/or disruption of telecommunications services in Kaduna State, including access to internet, on directives of the relevant  federal government agencies and at the request of the State Government constitutes an interference with MRA’s right to freedom of expression as well as the rights of its members and/or associates resident within and outside Kaduna State as it violates their rights to receive and impart information and ideas through any medium of their choice as guaranteed and protected  by section 39 of the Constitution; Article 9 of the African Charter; and Article 19 of the ICCPR;
  • A declaration that the shutting down, blocking and/or disruption of telecommunications services in Kaduna State, including access to the Internet, constitutes an interference with the right to freedom of expression of MRA, its members and/or associates resident within and outside Kaduna State, as provided by Principle 37(1) and (2), as well as  Principle 38(1) and (2) of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa; and a breach of the statutory duty imposed on the Federal Government of Nigeria by the African Charter and Nigeria’s treaty obligation under the Charter.
  • A declaration that the directive issued by government agencies to telecommunications service providers to shut down, block and/or disrupt telecommunications services in Kaduna State, including access to the Internet, at the request of the Kaduna State Government is not within the permissible restrictions stipulated in Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution and, accordingly, does not satisfy the requirements of the said Section 45 of the Constitution;
  • An order directing the Federal Government and Kaduna State Government to forthwith restore telecommunications services, including access to the Internet, in Kaduna State as well as a perpetual injunction restraining them, their servants, agents or privies from further shutting down, blocking and/or disrupting telecommunication services, including access to the Internet, in Kaduna State.

MRA contended in the suit that by a press statement issued on September 29, 2021 the Kaduna State Governor requested the Federal Government through the relevant agencies to shut down mobile networks and telecommunication services in some parts of Kaduna state such as Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi, Kajuru and Kawo, and that on September 30, 2021, mobile networks and telecommunication services were shut down in the identified areas in the State upon the directive issued to all telecommunication service providers by the relevant Federal Government agencies.

MRA claimed that all telecommunication service providers complied with the directive of the relevant federal government agencies, and residents of the affected area in Kaduna State have not been able to use telecommunication since then as a result of the action.

It explained that since the advent of internet and digital technologies such as mobile phones, laptops, computers, and other telecommunication gadgets, governments, companies, government agencies and individuals in Nigeria and all over the globe use the technologies on a daily basis to express themselves, communicate with friends and relatives, receive and impart information, and carry out their businesses.

MRA stressed that using these technologies for the above-listed activities requires the user to subscribe to the service of any telecommunications service provider. MRA argued that shutting down telecommunication service in some part of Kaduna State amounts to a violation of the rights of the residents, its members and its right to receive and impart information, and access to internet as guaranteed by the Constitution and a number of international instruments