Lawyer begins alleged contempt proceedings against MultiChoice Abuja manager


May 7, 2024

A lawyer, Festus Onifade, on Tuesday, commenced contempt proceedings against Mr Mohammed Sani, Manager of Abuja office of Multi-Choice Nigeria Ltd, over alleged disobedience to the order made by the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal (CCPT).

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the CCPT presided over by Saratu Shafii had, on April 29, made an interim order, restraining the pay-TV firm from increasing DStv and Gotv tariffs scheduled to begin on May 1, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

The three-member tribunal gave the order following an ex-parte motion moved by Ejiro Awaritoma, counsel for the claimant, Onifade.

Onifade, the claimant and a subscriber, had sued MultiChoice and Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) as 1st and 2nd defendants.

However, despite the order, the company, on May 1, hiked the subscription rates for its DStv and GOtv packages.

Meanwhile, a Notice of Consequence of Disobedience to Order of Court (Form 48) marked: CCPT/OP/02/2024 dated and filed on May 7, warned Sani against disregard to the tribunal order.

It rears in part: “Take notice that unless you obey the under listed order of the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal, Abuja given on the 29th day of April, 2024; thus:

“An order restraining the 1st defendant/respondent either by itself, agents, representatives, officers or privies, howsoever described from carrying out the impending increase in tariffs and cost of its products and services intended to take effect from 1st May, 2024, until the hearing and determination of the motion on notice already filed before this tribunal.

“You will be guilty of contempt of this tribunal and will be committed to prison.”

Also in a motion on notice dated and filed May 7, Onifade sought an order of the tribunal, directing MultiChoice to pay the sum of N1 billion “or any amount the tribunal deem may fit appropriate in this circumstance for deliberately disobeying, contravening, and failure to comply with the interim order” granted on April 29.

Given eight-ground of argument, the lawyer said despite the order which was validly served on MultiChoice on April 29, the firm deliberately neglected the order and willfully increased the tariffs of its products and services on May 1.

He alleged that the company had an history of disobeying court/tribunal orders.

In the affidavit attached to the application, the claimant gave history of the company’s disobedience to court orders in previous similar circumstances in the country.

He said in 2015, Justice C. J Aneke of Federal High Court (FHC), Ikeja-Lagos gave an order restraining the company from increasing the prices of its products and services, but it went ahead and increased in-spite of the order of the court.

He saiid in 2018, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of FHC, Abuja granted an order obtained by Consumer Protection Council (CPC) now FCCPC, restraining the firm from increasing it prices of products pending the matter before it, but the order was not obeyed.

According to him, the actions and attitude of Ist defendant was very reprehensible that the then CPC now FCCPC described it as a violation to the rights of Nigeria consumers and those increases done then were in bad faith.

Besides, the lawyer said in 2022, the tribunal granted an order on March 22, 2022 restraining MultiChoice from increasing its tariffs but it went ahead with the tariff hike on April 1, claiming it was a completed act.

He argued that despite the service and receipt of the order, the company, in flagrant and willful disobedient of the order, still went ahead without recourse to the plight of the customer and increased the tariffs of its services and products on May 1.

Onifade said the firm filed a motion before the tribunal dated April 29 but filed April 30, claiming that “the matter before the court is res judicata and completed act.”

According to him, the non-compliances with the order of the tribunal granted on the 29th April, 2024 is deliberate and an affront to the jurisdiction of this Honourable Tribunal and has brought untold hardship on the claimant.

The lawyer, who said the tribunal had the discretionary powers to grant the application, said it was in the interest of justice to grant his request

Meanwhile, when the matter was called on Tuesday, Onifade told the tribunal that the matter was slated for hearing of his motion on notice.

However, counsel for the Multichoice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, said he filed an application on April 30 challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to make the order it made on April 29.

Besides, the senior lawyer said he also filed a memorandum of conditional appearance on same date.

He argued that where the jurisdcition of the court is challenged, the issue had to be decided before proceeding on other matters.

Lawyer to the FCCPC (2nd defendant), M. Adeke, said though he had been served with the processes in the matter, he sought an adjournment to enable the commission respond to all the applications served on it.

Onigbanjo equally sought an adjournment to enable him respond to fresh processes served on him by Onifade.

He, however, insisted that where the issue of jurudiction is raised, such must be address first.

Onifade did not oppose the application for adjournment and the tribunal, presided over by Thomas Okosun, adjourned the matter until May 16 for hearing.


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