Interstella sues NCC for breach of exclusive licence to operate Internet exchanges in Nigeria

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Interstella Communication Ltd. has sued the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), demanding N10 billion damages for allegedly interfering with its exclusive licence for Internet Exchange Gateway.

The suit is before a Federal High Court in Abuja filed on Friday by Interstella's counsel, Chief Awa Solomon. The plaintiff is challenging the NCC for setting up a subsidiary, Nigeria Internet Exchange Point (NIEP), empowered to build, maintain and operate an Internet exchange.

Solomon said his client was on Aug. 24, 2004, granted an Internet exchange licence by the NCC with an exclusivity clause. The licence, Solo-mon said, exclusively autho-rised the company to construct, maintain Internet exchange switches and exchange data traffic on behalf of Internet service providers.

The company, he added, had secured loans from banks to build the exchange gateway because of the exclusivity clause, pointing out that his client has so far invested over 16 million dollars (N2.04 billion) in the project and that the conduct of the NCC in setting up NIEP abrogated the licence issued to it.

The plaintiff thus sought the courts declaration that the "NCC lacks the power to establish NIEP and that its purported establishment is unlawful and a nullity".

It also sought an of injunction restraining the Commission from interfering with the exclusive clause. Besides, the company is claiming N10 billion damages against the NCC for allegedly taking positive actions aimed at vitiating the exclusivity right.

In a related development, Interstella has in a separate suit, asked the court to stop the NCC from its plans to auction a national Internet exchange facility frequency band. The frequency band is an infrastructure used to facilitate nationwide Internet exchange, rural telephony and check cyber crimes.

The plaintiff contended that it applied for the use of the facility and it was granted by the federal government. Interstella said that it could not take immediate possession of the facility because it was under the care of security agencies.

The company alleged that after the facility had been completely withdrawn from the security agencies, rather than hand it over, NCC offered it for public auction. The company is seeking an order declaring illegal the conduct of the NCC.

Interstella also asked for a court order directing the NCC to allocate the said frequency to the company.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the case has not been assigned to any judge for hearing while the defendants are yet to file their defence.(NAN)

(Source: Daily Trust)