from OKORO CHINEDU in Lagos, Nigeria
LAGOS – IN a landmark ruling that is set to have implications on relations between subscribers and mobile operators in Nigeria, the Lagos Federal High Court is to pass verdict on tussle featuring a disgruntled, allegedly defrauded and disillusioned subscriber against the continent’s biggest mobile network operator.
The multimillion Naira lawsuit brings to the fore the problem of cybercrime partly blamed on inept handling of clients’ information by mobile operators, exposing their customers to fraudulent third-party schemes.
The court reconvenes to attend to the matter pitting MTN Nigeria subscriber, Bennet Igbani, and the mobile network firm of 57 million subscribers, with the former seeking the sum of N200 million (US$635 426) after unidentified persons hacked into his line registered with the operator.
Igbani, a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) law student, ironically speaking through his lawyer Festus Kayemo, has claimed he had been using his subscriber identity module (SIM) card (number withheld) for more than eight years.
It is the plaintiff’s submission to the court that the card was registered with the network in line with directives the industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), issued in 2011 to curb rampant cybercrime.
Igbani’s woes allegedly started in October 2014 when he travelled to the United Kingdom to pursue his studies.
His line, operational through the roaming innovation, was hacked into by a person yet to be identified.
No sooner than Igbani left Nigeria for the European country than he observed a third party was accessing his electronic mail (e-mail) from his home country.
The complainant alleged further that his account officer at his Nigerian bank called to inform him that one Mrs. Nora, claiming to be his younger sister, called her with his MTN number and requested that the sum of N5 million from his bank account be released to them purporting Igbani required urgent medical attention overseas, as he was gravely ill and on admission in a hospital.
This sent shockwaves as according to Igbani, the MTN line is linked to all his six bank accounts, as well as his e-mail account and social media accounts.
His pursuit of a law doctorate overseas came to naught after the third party alleged in the case had access to his PhD thesis and deleted vital documents.
It is further alleged upon her return to his home country, it emerged one Mr Ndubisi Daniel had reclaimed the line while efforts to secure the identification particulars of the said third party from MTN Nigeria were not successful.
Hence Igbani said he was seeking compensation for “being kept incommunicado for over five months to loss of business, psychological stress, financial loss, extraction of vital information and infringement on my privacy.”
He is in addition seeking an order of the Lagos Federal High Court mandating the MTN to return his number.
The court is expected to resume proceedings on the matter today (Friday).
Contacted for comment, MTN Group corporate affairs executive, referred questions to the besieged Nigeria entity.
Officials said they could not comment of the issue as it was sub judice.
“As you are aware, this matter is before the courts. It will thus be prejudicial and improper to comment on it,” said MTN Nigeria’s head of public relations and protocol, Funso Aina.
The lawsuit comes at a time MTN is settling a record $5,2 billion, later reduced to $3,2 billion NCC imposed on it for failure to de-activate more than 5 million unregistered subscribers. With over 57 million customers, MTN Nigeria is the continent’s biggest mobile operator.
In an exercise that began in 2011, operators in the West African country are compelled to register subscribers to curb cybercrime and violent crimes as kidnappings and terrorism.
– CAJ News / APA