11th August, 2011
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, has adjourned till after vacation a suit instituted against Airtel Nigeria, by a Lagos lawyer, Mr. Benjamin Owiadolor, seeking a court’s order to revoke the licence of the Global State Mobile Telecommunication Company.
The legal practitioner wants the operational licence of Airtel revoked by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on the ground that the company is operating an illegal lottery business.
Owiadolor, in a suit, is also urging the court to compel Airtel to refund all sums of money so far expended by its subscribers who participated in the competition tagged Wake Up A Millionaire by way of credit, which should be done under the supervision of the NCC.
The lawyer is contending that the promo embarked upon by Airtel without first obtaining the requisite licence from the National Lotteries Regulations Commission (NLRC), is illegal and a contravention of the provisions of the NLRC Act and Lotteries and Pools Betting Laws of Lagos State.
The plaintiff is also claiming N1 million as special and general damages against Airtel for the considerable harm, mental and physical disturbances as well as untold trauma he went through as a result of the invasion of his privacy through text messages by Airtel to him.
In a statement of claim, the legal practitioner alleged that sometimes in April 2009, Airtel embarked on a promo where in it solicited and encouraged subscribers to make telephone calls to other subscribers on Airtel network and enjoy free one minute call for every one minute call.
He further stated that on April 25, 2009, he had very important commercial transactions with business associates and friends which required lengthy telephone conversations and at about 12 noon, he made a number of telephone calls which were all truncated at exactly 1.01 minutes.
The plaintiff also stated that the continued repetition of truncation of his calls occasioned deep frustration to him and cost him loss of business transaction running into millions of naira, alleging that the defendant deliberately programmed its system to truncate calls at the commencement of the subsequent minute to ensure that customers would not enjoy the free one-minute call that should ordinarily follow the initial one minute paid for by the subscriber.
He said a letter was written to the defendant warning it that unsolicited text messages should not be sent to him, but to his surprise, he was further bombarded with over 200 inciting, inducing and nerve racking promotional text messages out of which some were received at very odd hours.
However, Airtel, in its statement of defence, insisted that the Wake Up A Millionaire promo was not illegally organised as necessary regulatory approvals were secured from the NLRC before it embarked on the competition, adding that the promo was not intended to mislead or defraud the plaintiff or any other participant of their money.