The fate of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation transiting from analogue to digitised broadcasting for now, hangs on the outcome of a legal battle going on in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
That is the case that was instituted by a telecommunication outfit, Pinnacle Nigeria Limited against the country’s broadcasting regulating body, the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission, NBC.
The importance of the case, which came up for hearing last Tuesday, October 20, at Court II presided over by Justice Abdu Kafarati of the Federal High Court Abuja, was underscored by the large number of lawyers and the public which came to witness the proceeding at the Court located at Maitama.
The issue in contention has been in public domain for a while.
Pinnacle Communications Limited took the NBC and five other defendants before the court for issuing the same license it claimed to have won to a foreign competitor, and some others.
Pinnacle, a signal distributing firm, as a result is claiming N1 trillion as damages from the NBC on alleged breach of contract.
Joseph Daudu, SAN, the firm’s leading counsel, complained in his statement to the court that after the plaintiff won the sole bid for the distribution of broadcast signals, the NBC allegedly issued licences to other companies in that regard.
According to Daudu, “Pinnacle had been given a licenses and the license has been compromised by the NBC who issued multiple licenses, thereby making the licence to Pinnacle unprofitable.”
The SAN added, “The court is to decide whether the action of the NBC is right or wrong. We have an injunction to stop the NBC from going forward with issuing licenses to other companies.”
The matter which is before Justice Abdu Kafarati, which could not be heard, last month due to the judge’s absence, was adjourned till October 20, for hearing.
In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/2014 the plaintiff named the NBC, its director-general, Emeka. Mba; the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF); MTS Communications; Details Nigeria Limited and NTA and Star Network Ltd as 1st to 6th defendants.
Daudu was joined in the legal tussle last week by Adebayo Adedeji, MJ Idani and AN Iortye.
When the case which was the first to listed for that day came up for hearing ,Godswill E Nwani and Samuel Onah who stood in for NBC, as well Nwankwo Amaechi who stood for other defendants, among several other counsels, prayed the presiding judge to give them time to enable them file their statement of defence.
Amaechi, said he was going to file for an interlocutory injunction to challenge the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the case.
He said he had earlier filed his defence before the court personnel.
The presiding judge however declared, “I have not seen any application filled on September 28 and February 3 as claimed.”
Daudu, speaking for the plaintiff, said he was not aware of any application challenging the court’s jurisdiction on the case, adding that the defendants’ counsels were employing time wasting devices on a serious a matter that has great implication for the country’s broadcast industry.
According to Daudu, a senior advocate of Nigeria, “this matter raises a very national issue: switch from analogue to digitisation. I am calling on all parties to expedite action on this matter in the interest of our country.”
When the motion for extension of time to enable all parties tidy their defences and other relevant documents for the high profile case was brought before the judge, Justice Kafariati adjourned the case to November 19 for further hearing.
Nigeria failed to meet the first deadline of transition from analogue to digital broadcasting in June this year due to “logistic problems.”
The transition from analogue to digital broadcasting is part of the global initiative driven by the International Telecommunication Union, ITU.
The Geneva-2006 Agreement had set June 17, 2015 for Ultra High Frequency, UHV and June 17, 2020 for Very High Frequency, VHF, as the dates for which countries may use those frequencies currently assigned for analogue television transmission for digital services, without being required to protect the analogue services of neighbouring countries without interference.


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