Law News
Court adjourns ruling in suit challenging DStv’s new rates

A Federal High Court in Lagos has further adjourned till May 28, 2015 to rule on the preliminary objection to a suit  seeking the reversal of the recent 20 per cent increment on DStv subscription rate.

Two Lagos-based legal practitioners,  Osasuyi Adebayo and Oluyinka Oyeniji, had filed the class action on behalf of themselves and all other DStv subscribers across the country.

The plaintiffs are seeking an order of the court restraining MultiChoice, the operator of DStv, from implementing the 20 per cent increment on DStv subscription rate which began on April 1, 2015.

But in opposition to the suit, MultiChoice, through its counsel, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), had filed a preliminary objection, challenging the court’s jurisdiction and the competence of the plaintiff’s suit.

Following arguments from the parties on May 5, 2015, the presiding judge, Justice C.J. Aneke, had adjourned till Tuesday, May 21, to deliver ruling.

The ruling, which was ready, could however not be delivered on Tuesday, as a human rights lawyer, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, who had earlier sought to join the suit as a co-plaintiff, brought a fresh application seeking to opt out.

Adegboruwa had urged the court to allow him withdraw before the ruling so as not to be bound by the pronouncement of the court.

Both Mr. Yemi Salma, who appeared for the original plaintiffs and Mr. A.A. Kelani, counsel for the second defendant, the National Broadcasting Commission, said they were not opposed to Adegboruwa’s move to withdraw from the matter.

But counsel for MultiChoice, Mr. M.K. Adesina, said he was opposed to the hearing of Adegboruwa’s application because it was not yet ripe for hearing.

Adesina, who said he was only served with the application two days before and had not filed a reply, insisted that the business of the court on Tuesday was to rule on the preliminary objection, saying that every other thing must wait till after the ruling.

But Adegboruwa said he had already sought an abridgement of time to hear his application,  adding that it would amount to reading the mind of the court if he agreed to wait till the ruling was delivered.

“My Lord, I object to the submission by my learned friend, Mr. Adesina, that this application can only be taken after the ruling because that will be like reading the mind of the court; the ruling of this court could go one way or the other and I don’t want to be bound by it; that’s why I have come before your Lordship to withdraw,” Adegboruwa argued.

Upon hearing out the parties, Aneke adjourned till May 28 to hear Adegboruwa’s application to opt out and to rule on MultiChoice’s preliminary objection.

The plaintiffs are seeking a court order to compel the NBC  to regulate the activities of MultiChoice so as to prevent what they described as arbitrary increment in subscription rates.

They specifically want an implementation of the  pay-per-view scheme in Nigeria, whereby subscribers would only pay for programmes they watched, as was being done in other parts of the world where MultiChoice operated.

But MultiChoice, through its lawyer, Onigbanjo, argued that the plaintiffs had no cause of action, adding that a court did not have the power to regulate the price of services that a business was offering to its customers.

“My Lord, the country, Nigeria, operates a free market economy; neither the government nor the court can regulate prices. How do you now say, for instance, that one bread is more expensive than the other and then ask the court to order the baker of the more expensive bread to go out of the market?,” Onigbanjo said.

He pointed the attention of the court to MultiChoice’s conditions or terms of agreement, especially clauses 40 and 41 stating that “Multichoice Nigeria may, from time to time, change the fees payable to Multichoice Nigeria for the Multichoice Service by way of general amendment.”

The senior lawyer argued further that there was no existing law in Nigeria empowering the NBC to regulate the prices of services that satellite television operators in the country were offering to their customers.

“The NBC Act does not say that any satellite television operators in the country cannot increase their prices.

“I therefore humbly ask that the plaintiffs’ suit be struck out for being grossly unmeritorious. We will not be asking for cost because they are our subscribers,” Onigbanjo had submitted while moving the preliminary objection on May 5.


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