The Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday rejected the Federal Government’s request to restrain the 21 commercial banks from releasing any funds belonging to MTN Nigeria Communications Limited.
The High Court, however, barred MTN Nigeria from repatriating any funds from all banks in Nigeria abroad pending hearing of its suit challenging the N1.04trillion fine imposed on it by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC).
The NCC had imposed the hefty fine on MTN Nigeria last October for failing to obey its directive to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards from its network.
After months of high-level negotiations, the fine was reduced by 25 per cent to N780 billion, with December 31, 2015 as deadline for the telecoms company to pay.
Dissatisfied with the reduction, MTN Nigeria dragged the NCC and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) to court, contending that NCC being a regulator, cannot assume all the functions of the state.
The telecoms giant is also praying the court to quash the fine imposed on it by NCC.
Justice Mohammed Idris, who listened to the arguments of both parties in the case yesterday, ordered them to maintain status quo.
“An order is hereby made directing the parties cited herein to maintain the status quo ante bellum pending further hearing”, the judge said.
Status quo ante bellum is Latin for “the way things were before” and in legal terms, a temporary restraining order in which a situation is restored to “the state in which it previously” existed.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government had, through a motion ex-parte, sought an order of mareva injunction restraining the 21 commercial banks from releasing any funds belonging to MTN Nigeria.
It sought “an order of mareva injunction restraining the aforementioned banks from releasing, further releasing any funds, making sale, transfer or payment of any monies or dealing in any manner whatsoever with any and all monies maintained by the plaintiff/respondent (MTN) or its agents, privies, subsidiaries, sister companies or the like in the aforestated banks that will alter, decline or reduce the amount of the first defendant’s/applicant’s fine against the plaintiff/respondent in the sum of N1,040,000,000,000 which has remained wholly unsatisfied, pending the determination of the motion on notice”.