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Trariff hike: Produce financial report, tribunal orders Multichoice

An Abuja court on Tuesday ordered John Ugbe, the Managing Director of MultiChoice, the operator of Gotv and DStv, to produce its 2021 audited financial report on September 8.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal sitting in Abuja, gave the directive after the company breached its restraining order on the tariff hike.

Multichoice had appeared before the three-member tribunal, headed by Mr Thomas Okosun, in a suit filed by a lawyer, Festus Onifade, and the Coalition of Nigerian Consumers, over the recent price hike on their products and subscription rates.

The tribunal had granted Onifade’s reliefs in an application seeking leave to amend his earlier originating summons and deem it to have been properly filed.

Onifade, in his originating summons, sued for N10m damages and on On July 25, the tribunal fixed September 6 for judgement in the suit.

Alongside Multichoice, the plaintiff also sued the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) as 1st and 2nd respondents, shortly after the company, on March 22, announced its plan to increase price of its products from April 1.

They prayed the tribunal for an order, restraining the firm from increasing its services and other products on April 1, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated and filed on March 30.

The tribunal granted the ex-parte motion, directing parties to maintain the status quo ante bellum.

But inspite of the tribunal’s order, the company was alleged to have gone ahead with the price increase on DStv and Gotv subscriptions and other products.

The litigants prayed the tribunal to stop the increment pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated and filed on March 30.

The tribunal granted the ex-parte motion, directing parties to maintain the status quo but MultiChoice implemented the new rates announced on March 30.

In a motion on notice, the claimants urged the tribunal to invite the MD and the directors to explain why they should not be committed to prison for willful disobedience

They also sought an order directing MultiChoice to pay 10 per cent of its annual turnover for failure to comply with the order in accordance with Section 51 (1) and 2 of the FCCPC Act, 2018.

On April 11, the tribunal again ordered the company to revert to old prices by maintaining the status quo of its March 30 order, pending the hearing and determination of the matter.

“The Managing Director and directors of the 1st defendant (MultiChoice) are to appear before this honourable tribunal with certified true copies of their audited financial report of year 2021,” the panel ruled today.

The tribunal said the report would enable it to determine “the appropriate penalty to impose on MultiChoice for being in contempt of the orders of this honourable tribunal made in March”.

Section 51 of the CCPT Act states that upon conviction for contempt, a company is liable to pay a fine not less than “N100 million or 10 per cent of its turnover in the preceding year.”

MultiChoice’s lawyer, Jamiu Agoro informed that Ugbe and others were out of Nigeria and might not be present on Thursday.

Responding, the tribunal said those invited could be represented by other senior members of staff.

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