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Multichoice: Why we ‘disobeyed’ court’s order on tariff hike

Source: Joseph Jibueze -
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Multichoice Nigeria has challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to adjudicate a suit filed against it over the hike in the prices of Digital Satellite Television (DSTV) and GoTV subscriptions.

This was as the plaintiffs filed a contempt charge against Multichoice directors for allegedly disobeying a valid court order.

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke on April 2 granted an order of interim injunction restraining Multichoice from enforcing its planned price increase?.

The judge asked parties to maintain status quo until the suit is determined.

The order reads in part: “That an order of interim injunction is hereby granted to the parties to maintain the status quo restraining the first defendant (Multichoice/DSTV) from giving effect or enforcing its planned increase in cost of the different classes of viewing or programmes bouquet, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”

The suit was filed by Mr. Osasuyi Adebayo and Mr. Oluyinka Oyeniji, a lawyer, on behalf of themselves and individual/corporate subscribers of DSTV and distributors.

MultiChoice, owners of DStv and GOtv, had announced a 20 percent price increase for all its satellite pay TV bouquets in Nigeria with effect from April 1.

Thursday, Oyeniji accused Multichoice of disobeying the order, saying: “The order has been flouted brazenly.”

But counsel for Multichoice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) said his clients did not obey the order because it was made after the new price had gone into effect.

“An injunction cannot be granted in respect of a completed act,” he said.

“By the time the order was made, the price increase had been affected. The order was made on April 2 and we were served on April 8. The price increase took effect from April 1,” Onigbanjo added.

Besides, he said Multichoice was not bound to obey the order since it is already challenging the court's jurisdiction.

He also pointed out that the order stated that “status quo” should be maintained; arguing that status quo as at the time the order was made meant the new subscription rates, not the old prices.

But Oyeniji said Multichoice ought to have obeyed the order because the suit was filed before April 1.

“The order was made for a continuing action,” he said.

He also informed the court that he had filed Form 48 (Notice of consequences of disobedience to order of court) and Form 49 (Notice to show cause why order of attachment should not be made).

The applications are seeking to commit Multichoice Managing Director John Ugbe and Manager Public Relations Caroline Oghuma to prison.

The plaintiffs said the two disobeyed the order requiring them to “refrain from the increase in tariff pending the determination of the suit.”

However, Onigbanjo said his notice of preliminary objection supersedes all other pending applications.

“The court is obligated to determine the issue of jurisdiction because anything done without it being resolved first will be a waste of time,” he said.

Justice Aneke adjourned till May 5 for hearing of the preliminary objection.