Court Fixes February 15 For Suit Challenging NIN Linking With Phone Numbers

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has fixed February 15 to hear a suit challenging the Nigerian government’s directive forcing citizens to link their National Identification Number with their mobile lines within a stipulated time, without adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

The presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Liman, fixed the date for notices to be served on all parties in the suit after the plaintiff, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, had informed the court of his process.

The human rights lawyer had sued the National Identity Management Commission and others over the exercise without adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

The plaintiff, who represented himself in the court, insisted that it was too risky to proceed with the process considering the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. 

He also asked the court to stop the exercise, pending the suit’s determination.

The judge then asked the plaintiff if he had any written document specifying the registration deadline. The plaintiff told the court that there were online publications to the effect that the new deadline extension was February 9.

The court consequently ordered that all parties be served with the processes. He fixed February 15 to hear both the motion for an interlocutory injunction and the substantive suit, while he struck out the ex parte motion.

Omirhobo asked the court to declare that Nigerians are entitled to the fundamental right to life, the dignity of the human person, right to private and family life, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the right to moveable property.

He also asked the court to declare that the respondents’ coercion of the applicant and Nigerians without themselves first complying with the COVID-19 guidelines is a violation of Nigerians’ fundamental right to life.

The lawyer also prayed the court to compel the respondents to resume the sale of new SIM cards, replace lost or damaged SIM cards to Nigerians, and issue a public apology to the applicant and the public.

Joined as defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy; Nigeria Communications Commission; the Director-General NIMC, and the National Information Technology Development Agency.

Other defendants are MTN Nigeria Communications Plc; Globacom Limited; Airtel Network Limited and the Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Ltd, EMTS 9 Mobile.

The applicant, who is suing for himself and on behalf of the Nigerian public, brought his suit under the provisions of the fundamental rights enforcement rules enshrined in the 1999 constitution.

When the case was called on Monday, Omirhobo announced his appearance in person and informed the court of his ex parte motion as well as an affidavit of urgency attached.

According to him, the respondents’ threat to disconnect the telephone lines of Nigerians, who failed to link their NIN to their SIM cards within a timeline, is a violation of the fundamental right to life of the applicants Nigerians.

He argued that the directive led millions of Nigerians to besiege the various NIMC offices nationwide in breach of the COVID-19 protocols. Omirhobo, therefore, prayed the court to declare such decisions illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.

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