By Henry Ojelu
Human rights lawyer, Monday Ubani, on Tuesday, asked the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami(SAN), to immediately comply with a Federal High Court judgment extending the time for National Identify Number, NIN, by two months.
Delivering judgment in a suit filed by Ubani, Justice M. A. Onyetenu last week held that the initial two weeks ultimatum (now extended to April 6) given to telecommunication operators to block SIM cards of Nigerians who have not registered their SIM Card with NIN, if allowed, constitutes an infringement on their constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of expression, right to own moveable property and right to life.
The judge subsequently extended the new deadline for another two months effective from March 23.
In a letter dated March 30, 2021, Ubani asked the AGF to properly advice the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy to respect the court judgment and announce the extension of the new court-ordered deadline.
The letter reads: “I write to inform you that on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi Lagos as per Justice M. A. Onyetenu, with regards to the aforementioned lawsuit entered judgment in my favour.
“The judgment is to the effect that the ultimatum of April 6, 2021, given to telecommunication operators by the Federal Government to block all SIM Cards that are not yet registered with the National Identity Numbers (NIN) be halted.
“The timeline is grossly inadequate and will not only work severe hardship, but will likely infringe on my fundamental rights (and millions of other Nigerians) to freedom of expression as guaranteed by section 39(1)(2) of the 1999 Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as section 44(1) of the 1999 Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which prohibits the compulsory acquisition of right or interest over movable property.
“The Court further declared that in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and the rising cases in Nigeria, the deadline given to myself and over 200 million Nigerians to register their SIM cards with NIN, will lead to a rush.
“It will thereby result in clustering of I and other Nigerian citizens in a NIN registration centre, subjecting us to the possibility of easily contracting the deadly and dreaded Covid-19 Virus, and such will amount to a violation of our fundamental right to life as protected by section 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
“The Honourable Court directed that the Federal Government of Nigeria, Nigerian Communications Commission and Minister of Communications and Digital Economy to extend the deadline for the registration of SIM Cards with NIN for at least another 2 months from Tuesday, March 23, 2021.
“I, therefore, urge you to use your good office to advice the Honourable Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, to respect our judiciary by complying with the above stated orders of court.
“I further appeal to you to advise the honourable minister to review his stand on the ultimatum for the registration of SIM Cards with NIN beyond the duration declared by the honourable court to at least a year.
“This is to give a soft landing to the greater majority of Nigerians who are yet to be captured by the National Identity Management Commission and ensure that a good number of Nigerians are accommodated within the timeline of one year.”