By Ise-Oluwa Ige
ABUJA â€” A Federal High court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, lifted an interim order earlier granted by it to stop the Federal Government from actualising its threat to withdraw Daar Communications Plcâ€™s licence.
The trial high court judge, Justice Adamu Bello, took the decision, yesterday, following an oral application by former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Chief Thompson Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN), on the account that the interim order had lapsed.
Okpoko is the lead counsel to the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, and the Ministry of Information and Communication.
Warns against prejudicial acts
But the trial judge, who lifted the interim order, however, warned parties not to take steps that could be prejudicial to the subject-matter of the case in court.
He reminded parties of the principle of lis pendis, saying any of the parties that undermines it would have itself to blame because he has powers to reverse whatever had been done while the case was pending.
He gave the warning after he turned down an oral application by Daar Communi-cations seeking for a pronoun-cement, advising parties in the case to maintain status quo ante belum pending determina-tion of a pending interlocutory application in the case.
Justice Bello said he agreed with Okpoko who said there was no need for such a pronouncement.
Okpoko had said that by the rules of the court, the said interim order obtained by Daar Communications had lapsed, his application to set it aside having not been taken within 14 days after it was filed.
He said though the order had lapsed before yesterday, heavens had not fallen and that nobody had harassed the media organisation.
Commends Daarâ€™s lead counselâ€™s conduct
The lead counsel to Daar Communications, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) and Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), did not press the case further, a conduct that made the trial judge commend the senior legal practitioners publicly asking the junior wigs to take a cue from them.
The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation was not represented in the case yesterday.
Meanwhile, the judge also converted the originating summons filed by Daar Communications in court to writ of summons on the ground that the mode of approaching the court was inappropriate in view of the fact that the issues involved were very contentious.
Okpoko had told the court that there was no need to waste the courtâ€™s time by allowing the case to go on when by virtue of the affidavit evidence already filed, it was evident that the subject-matter of the case was very contentious and could only be litigated through filing of pleadings.
DAAR Communications Plc, owners of Ray Power 100.5 FM radio station and AIT, had taken out a writ before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja seeking to stop the Federal Government from actualising its plans to withdraw its network licence.
The network licence of Daar Communications sought to be withdrawn allows it to maintain multiple terrestial stations in the country to transmit its radio and television programmes on network basis in the country.
The Federal Government granted it the licence more than 14 years ago.
In the originating summons, lodged at the Registry of the Abuja Federal High Court, by the Chambers of Chief Mike Ozekhome, Daar Communica-tions also begged the court to issue a separate order setting aside a purported bid for fresh network licence held by NBC between 6 September and 12 December 2009 on the account that it was flawed, overreaching, wrongful, oppressive, unconscionable, null and void.
Besides, it also begged the High Court to order NBC to issue it forthwith a fresh network licence for radio and television broadcast upon payment of the appropriate fees in the event the court holds that it does not, at the moment, possess a valid network service licence.
The media organisation said the court must move in its favour before the government carried out its threat of shutting down over 22 of its stations across Nigeria which would force thousands of its workers back into the labour market.
It also argued that the failure of the court to act fast would deprive Nigerians of their constitutional rights to receive and impact ideas through its media, while the investing public that have shares in it would be deprived of their means of livelihood.
Besides NBC, others named as defendants in the suit are the Ministry of Information and Communications and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
NBC was sued by Daar because it is the Federal Governmentâ€™s parastatal with the statutory responsibility of regulating and controlling the broadcast industry.