Etisalat has dragged the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to court over a special waiver it granted the MTN. When the case came up on Monday, NCC pleaded before a Federal High Court in Lagos to grant an adjournment to enable it respond to the processes filed by Etisalat.
In the suit, Etisalat is requesting the court to review the decision of the commission to grant a special waiver to South African telecommunications company, MTN to offer tariffs that are contrary to the 2013 NCC Determination of Dominance in selected telecommunications market in Nigeria and without due process.
The matter came up for mention on Monday with Kola Awodein SAN appearing for Etisalat Nigeria while Prof Taiwo Osipitan SAN who appeared as counsel to the NCC, applied to the court to grant an adjournment of the matter.
Healthy competition is at the heart of the case as the NCC which had declared MTN a dominant operator proceeded to grant MTN a special waiver in what Etisalat says contravenes the obligations imposed on MTN in the Dominance Determination. Etisalat Nigeria also claims that the waiver was granted without due process and to the detriment of all other players in the sector and thus an early review and reversal of the special waiver will ensure the sustained health and growth of the industry.
Etisalat contends that the special waiver granted by the NCC, if not immediately reversed by the court, may negatively impact on the health and continued growth of the telecommunications industry. The Nigerian telecommunication subscribers will be compelled to remain on the network of the dominant operator as off-net calls continue to be discouraged with punitive tariffs on the consumers when they make calls outside of the dominant operator’s network to any other network, Etisalat said.
It is also Etisalat’s contention that the special waiver to MTN will only further entrench dominance and ultimately lead to the demise of competition in the market while denying subscribers the right to choose, a situation akin to the monopoly days of NITEL which were plagued by poor telecommunication services.
As the NCC is obligated under the Nigerian Communications Act of 2003 to encourage investments and competition in the industry, the issues of contention raised by Etisalat in the suit against the NCC and the NCC’s response to them will be of immense interest to the over 120 million active telecommunications subscribers in Nigeria in the coming months.
By Pita Ochai