Federal High Court Restrains Telecom Operators from Deactivating Lines Not linked To NIN

A Federal High Court in Lagos has issued a restraining order, preventing telecom operators in Nigeria from deactivating or barring any line or SIM card that has not been linked to the National Identification Number (NIN). The ruling was delivered by Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa on February 22, 2024, in response to an application for restraining orders submitted by rights activist Olukoya Ogungbeje.

Ogungbeje had initiated a legal suit against the federal government, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, and Airtel Networks Nigeria Limited. The suit sought an injunction pending appeal, restraining the respondents from taking any action enforcing a judgment delivered on May 8, 2023, by Justice Lewis-Allagoa.

In his application, Ogungbeje sought to prevent the outright barring, deactivating, or restricting of any SIM cards or phone lines, including those of Nigerian citizens, scheduled for February 28, 2024, or any other designated date. The activist’s appeal is currently pending at the Court of Appeal, and he requested the restraining order to safeguard against the potential enforcement of the judgment while his appeal is being heard.

The court’s decision to issue the restraining order reflects an ongoing legal battle surrounding the linkage of National Identification Numbers to SIM cards, a requirement set by regulatory authorities to enhance security and identity verification. The case highlights the broader implications and legal considerations related to the implementation of policies affecting the telecommunications sector in Nigeria.

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