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JUDICIARY

Tribunal Orders MultiChoice Orders MD to produce Audited Financial Report

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A Competition and Consumer Protection (CCPC) Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday, ordered John Ugbe, the Managing Director of MultiChoice Nigeria Ltd, to produce its 2021 audited financial report on Sept 8 for breaching its restraining order on tariff hike.

The three-member tribunal, headed by Mr Thomas Okosun, in a ruling, also ordered directors of the company to appear on the next adjourned date for appropriate sanctions to be determined.

Newsmen report that MultiChoice is the operator of the satellite televisions, DStv and Gotv.

Newsmen report that the tribunal had, on July 25, fixed today for judgment in the suit filed by the claimants; Festus Onifade, a legal practitioner, and Coalition of Nigeria Consumers, on behalf of himself and others.

The claimants sued the company and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) as 1st and 2nd respondents, shortly after the company, on March 22, announced its plan to increase price of its products from April 1.

They prayed the tribunal for an order, restraining the firm from increasing its services and other products on April 1, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated and filed on March 30.

The tribunal granted the ex-parte motion, directing parties to maintain status quo ante bellum.

But inspite of the tribunal’s order, the company was alleged to have gone ahead with the price increase on DStv and Gotv subscriptions and other products.

Against this backdrop, the claimants, in a motion on notice asked the tribunal for an order directing the managing director and the directors of MultiChoice to appear and show cause why they should not be committed to prison for willful disobedience of the order of the tribunal granted on the March 30.

They also sought an order, directing MultiChoice to pay 10 per cent of its annual turnover for failure to comply with the order in accordance with Section 51 (1) and 2 of the FCCPC Act, 2018 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the tribunal.

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Onifade, who was the 1st claimant, said he was a loyal and long time customer of MultiChoice with DStv account number: 41353565835.

On April 11, the tribunal again ordered MultiChoice to revert back to the old prices by maintaining status quo of its March 30 order, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive matter, but to no avail. 

While delivering the judgment, the tribunal ruled that the MD and the directors should appeared with the 2021 audited financial report of the company. 

“The Managing Director and directors of the 1st defendant (MultiChoice) are to appear before this honourable tribunal with certified true copies of their audited financial report of year 2021,” the panel declared.

The tribunal said that the audited financial report would “enable the tribunal determine the appropriate penalty to impose on MultiChoice for being in contempt of the orders of this honourable tribunal made on March.”

But shortly after the judgment, counsel for the company,  Jamiu Agoro, informed the court that the firm’s MD and directors were presently not in the country and might not be able to come on Sept. 8.

He pleaded that another date should be fixed for the proceeding.

The tribunal, however, said that those invited could be represented by other company’s staff in the next adjourned date.

Newsmen report that Section 51 of the CCPT Act states that a corporate body is liable upon conviction for contempt of a fine not less than “N100 million or 10 per cent of its turnover in the preceding year.”

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The tribunal, in the judgment, however refused to grant the prayers of the claimants, seeking for an order directing the firm to revert to old price regime.

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The three-member panel held that the power to regulate prices of goods and services does not reside in the FCCPC, the regulatory agency.

According to the tribunal, the power to regulate prices of goods and services only resides in the president of Nigeria.

According to the tribunal, only the president of Nigeria has the power to regulate the prices of goods and services under stipulated circumstances which did not exist in this circumstances.

The panel stressed that, not even the tribunal had the power to do so.

The tribunal further stated that it found no evidence of exploitation and anti-consumer activities alleged by the claimants against the company.

“We found no evidence in the argument of the claimants as those who assert must prove,” it held.

The tribunal, which held that the claimants failed to prove that MultiChoice had abused its power of dominance in the market,, said since Nigeria operates a free market economy, the argument lacked merit.

The panel also refused to grant the claimants’ prayer to direct the firm to adopt a pay-as-you-view model of billing for all its products and services.

It, however, ordered FCCPC to investigate if the firm adopts a pay-as-you-view package for its products and services in other countries, especially South Africa, and see how same could be adopted in Nigeria, and publish its findings within six month of the order. 

The tribunal also dismissed the claimants’ demand for a N10 million damages for unable to prove how they had suffered psychologically from the company’s act.

The panel, therefore, declared that prayers 1, 2 and 3 of the claimants are not grantable in law as the power to regulate prices of goods and services only resides in the president of Nigeria.

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It also said that prayers 4 and 5 of the claimants lacked merit.

The panel, in the judgment, rebuked FCCPC over act of negligence to complaints by the consumers.

“The 2nd defendant (FCCPC) must also improve on its management of complaints from the public that it is established to serve .

“A situation where an aggrieved consumer does not get feed back on a duly filed complaint does not speak well for the country,” it said. 

The tribunal, therefore, charged the commission to resolve all lingering issues between MultiChoice and numerous consumers of the products and services of the company.

Newsmen report that Onifade, in an amended originating summons, granted by the tribunal on June 20, had sued the firm for N10 million damages.

The lawyer also sought the order directing and mandating MultiChoice to adopt a pay-as-you-view model of billing for all its products and services forthwith.

He further urged the tribunal to make an order directing the firm to make the local television stations in the country free and stop the company from cycled content. 

But counsel for MultiChoice, Jamiu Agoro, in a motion on notice, challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the matter as the claimant lacked the locus to institute the action.

Jamiu had argued that the order of the tribunal made on April 11, asking MultiChoice to revert to old rates was made against a completed act, the firm, having increased its tariffs on April 1.

The lawyer argued that MultiChoice had already configured all their devices for the increase in tariff to take effect before the tribunal made its order.

Agoro added that there was no evidence presented before the tribunal of damage that the claimant had suffered.(NAN)

JUDICIARY

Mbaise Fed Constituency: Supreme Court Dismisses APC’s Suit Against PDP

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The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an appeal instituted by the All Progressives Congress (APC) against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Ahiazu Mbaise Ezinihitte Federal Constituency of Imo.

The Apex Court threw out the appeal on the ground that APC has no legal right to dabble into the candidate selection of PDP.

In a judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the Court held that APC acted like a busy body and meddlesome interloper in the ways and manners it got involved in the PDP matters.

A chieftain of the APC in Imo State, Mr Nnamdi Igbokwe had instituted the suit against the nomination of Mr Emeka Martins Chinedu as PDP’S candidate for Ahiazu Mbaise Ezinihitte Federal Constituency.

He had prayed for an order of the court against INEC not to accept or list Chinedu as lawfully nominated candidate.

The grouse of the APC was that PDP’s candidate was returned unopposed in a primary election for the House of Representatives ticket for the February 25, 2023 National Assembly election.

The APC claimed that the unopposed system that produced Chinedu during PDP’S primary election was not known to law and should not be accepted by the electoral body.

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APC had lost the suit at the Federal High Court as well as the Court of Appeal before it proceeded to Supreme Court to ventilate its anger on how PDP produced the candidate.

But the Supreme Court in its judgment held that the appellants, (APC and Igbokwe) have no business in challenging the candidate selection process of the PDP.

Justice Agim while dismissing the appeal held that the case of APC was without merit and asked parties to bear their respective cost of litigation. (NAN)

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JUDICIARY

 Edo Governorship Primary: Supreme Court Declares Obaseki’s Faction Authentic Candidates

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The Supreme Court declared the candidates who emerged from the primaries conducted by the Gov Godwin Obaseki-led faction of the PDP in Edo as the authentic representatives of the party.

This judgment delivered by Justice Centus Nweze brings to an end the long-drawn legal battle to decide which of the two factions is in control of the state chapter of the party.

Delivering the judgment in the appeal filed by Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama and others against Mr Mathew Iduoriyekemwen and others, the apex court held that the case of the appellant was faulty as it did not emanate from the judgment of the appellate court.

The court in its judgment dismissed the appeal on the grounds that it was incompetent.

The judgment set aside the judgment of the Appeal Court which was in favour of candidates belonging to the Legacy Group of the PDP in Edo State led by the National Vice Chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih.

The judge held that an appeal must be based on issues contended at the lower court to qualify for review.

“Any ground of appeal that does not challenge issues raised at the lower court is incompetent. I enter judgment in favour of the respondents “, the apex court held.

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The judgment which arose from a consolidation of all cases relating to the leadership tussle has put to rest anxiety as to the right persons to represent the party in the elections.

The battle for control of the PDP apparatus in Edo state between Obaseki and Orbih took a different dimension when the two groups presented two different lists of aspirants to INEC following parallel primaries conducted by the two factions.

The crux of the matter is who has the power the primary election for the selection of party flag bearers for the National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections slated for February 25 and March 11, this year.

Wednesday’s unanimous decision by the supreme court, therefore, means the candidates who emerged from the ward up to the national primaries conducted by the Obaseki faction of the Edo PDP will be fielded for elective positions.

Both Obaseki and a National Vice Chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orhbi have been locked in a leadership battle for the soul of the party in Edo State.

A Federal High Court in Abuja had in May last year recognized orbih’s faction as the authentic candidates, another in Benin City, gave recognition to Obaseki’s faction.

Both also appealed the judgment of the trial court entered against them at the Court of Appeal.

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Speaking with newsmen shortly after the judgment was delivered, Philip Shaibu, the deputy governor of the state who was in court to witness the proceedings expressed joy that the matter has been finally put to rest.

He called on all PDP members to close ranks to deliver for the party in all the elections, stating that there was no winner or loser as the victory was for the PDP.

Shuaibu urged aggrieved parties to embrace peace said that the umbrella is now widen to accommodate all.

Newsmen report that a Federal High Court in Benin-city, Edo had ordered INEC to recognise and publish the names of candidates produced by Obaseki’s faction as PDP’s candidates in the 2023 elections.

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, in a related suit ordered INEC to recognise the candidates of Chief Dan Orbih faction as authentic candidates of the PDP for the forthcoming elections.

The parties in their various suits had asked the court for an order compelling INEC, to publish their names as the validly elected candidates of the Edo State PDP for the 2023 general election.

In his judgment, Justice S. M. Shuaibu of the Federal High Court, Benin relying on past decisions by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, held that only the National Working Committee (NWC) of a political party has the power to conduct party primaries.

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“There is nothing before the court to show that the primaries in which the fourth to 39th defendants participated was conducted by the National Working Committee of the PDP. Rather, their primaries were conducted by the Edo State chapter of the PDP,” the judge held.

The Judge further held: “In my view, the power of INEC under Section 84 of the Electoral Act is limited to monitoring of party primary elections and does not extend to preparing or declaring the results of that election. This remains the law.

“In light of the foregoing, the fourth defendant, INEC, cannot rely on results prepared by the first defendant, Edo State PDP.”

Dissatisfied, the Orbih’s faction appealed the judgment up to the Supreme Court, where judgment was today entered against them. (NAN)

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JUDICIARY

How Minor Suffered from Rectal Bleeding after Defilement – Paediatrician tells Court

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A paediatrician, Dennis Shettima, on Tuesday, told an FCT High Court, Kubwa that a 12-year-old boy suffered rectal bleeding  after defilement.

The National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP) charged the defendant, a 41-year-old man, Abubakar Danraka with defilement.

He pleaded not guilty.

The witness, a consultant with National Hospital Abuja made this known while being led in evidence by the Prosecution Counsel, Chidiebere Ugochukwu.

” The boy’s parents rushed him to the emergency children’s ward of the hospital  on account that he was sexually abused by the defendant, who was their neighbour at Spring Valley Estate, Airport Road, Abuja on March 21, 2020.

” The mother of the minor said that the boy got home late on the said date and she was upset and flogged him.

” She said her son revealed to her that the defendant lured him into his house and gave him water to drink and then he slept off.

” She said the defendant defiled her son, ” he said.

” Upon examination, I discovered that the minor suffered rectal bleeding.

” So we suspected a sexual assault and collected blood samples to check for sexually transmitted infections and hepatitis,” Shettima said.

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He said the child was placed on antibiotics and the social welfare, psychiatric unit and hospital management through our head of department were notified.

He added that the boy was placed on medication incase he had been exposed to infections and the paediatric surgical unit was invited to look further up in the anus.

“The surgical unit said that there was no further injury above the anus and days later, the results for the boy’s screening for infections came out negative.

” The child still continued his medication for three months in other not to risk anything and he was discharged after five days and was an outpatient for follow up,  but discharged finally from paediatric clinic after repeat of STDs came out normal three months after, ” he said.

The defence counsel, Eddie Inegedu asked the witness if his examinations were linked to the defendant and if the history was narrated to him by the parents of the boy.

In response he said, apart from the history narrated to him by the child’s parents, there was nothing directly linked to the defendant in his findings.

Justice Asmau Akanbi-Yusuf however, adjourned the matter until Feb.22 for defence.(NAN)

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