A businessman has filed a N50 million damages against telecommunication giant, MTN, for wrongfully barring his telephone line.
Sylvanus Ukpong, in the writ of summons filed at the High Court of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on March 12, 2021, noted that MTN blocked him from accessing partners and potential customers.
Ukpong speaking with Straightnews on Friday, April 2 said his lawyer, Georgina Chidinma Ude, served MTN the matter on Thursday, April 1 and it has been formally assigned to a judge at FCT High Court, Abuja for hearing.
In the court documents obtained by Straightnews, the claimant said his Emem & Sons Nig. Ltd, a Civil Construction and Agro-Allied Company, and Emem Farms Nig Ltd, an agro-allied company based in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, relied largely on telephone calls to stay in touch with business partners and solve business-related challenges.
He said the action of the network provider had, therefore, cost him millions of naira in the last four months.
In the suit, he prayed the court to grant an order directing the defendant, MTN, to unblock his line with immediate effect and to award general damages of N50 million in his favour and against MTN, and another N5 million to cover cost for filing and prosecution of the suit, among others.
Ukpong said he had been using the MTN postpaid line 0803-746-6663 since 2008 and, was enjoying his “solemn relationship” with the network provider until early November 2020 when he was barred from making calls.
The businessman was initially paying up to N100,000 as his monthly call credit to MTN Nigeria, and later reduced it N40,000. He said while recalling his long-standing patronage of the network provider.
In early November 2020, according to him, he was barred from making calls over an alleged N31,560 airtime bill incurred in October, a bill he said had been off-set by his recharge card vendor, Ime Esema, whom he made electronic bank transfer to.
He said, prior to the incident, he had submitted a type-written letter to the MTN Nigeria branch office at 40, Ikot Ekpene Road, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, requesting that his line 0803-746-6663 be migrated from postpaid to prepaid.
Ukpong said his request was rejected on the grounds of the company’s claim that it could only accept handwritten letters.
“On that same October 15, 2020, I submitted a hand-written letter to the MTN office, but they also rejected the letter, saying that there was no internet network for them to process my request.
“On November 2, 2020, at 6.37 p.m., I received the following text message from MTN, ‘Dear Customer, your Oct 2020 bill is N31,560. Please pay on or before Nov. 5, 2020 to keep enjoying our services. Thank you.’
“On November 3, 2020, I recharged my MTN line 0803-746-6663 with N15,000 and on November 4, 2020, I recharged the line again with N30,000, thereby bringing my total recharge to N45,000. I expected this amount (N45,000) to clear up my N31,560 and for the MTN line to be left with N13,440 to enable the process of the migration from postpaid to prepaid,” the claimant stated.
Mr Ukpong said his letter requesting migration from postpaid to prepaid “was accepted later but not granted.”
He added that his follow-up call to the MTN customer care line 180 at 7.36 a.m. on November 5, 2020, yielded no result, as the official who answered the call told him that “there is nothing we can do here, you have to go to the Uyo office” before hanging up on him.
According to him, this was followed by a call from another official of the company who introduced himself as his account officer and persuaded him not to migrate from postpaid to prepaid.
“But I insisted that I needed to migrate the line for proper management of my personal finances. He promised that the matter was going to be treated that same day,” he added.
Mr Ukpong said he realised his line had been barred two hours after speaking with the MTN official.
“Two hours after speaking with the MTN official on November 6, 2020, I noticed that I was unable to make calls with my MTN line 0803-746-66630. I was able to receive calls, however. It was obvious to me then that my line had been barred by MTN.
“I immediately called the MTN customer care line 180 to make a fresh complaint that I have been barred from making calls. The official who picked the call told me that I was indebted to MTN and that was why they barred me from making calls.
“I explained to her that my October bill from MTN was N31,560 and that I had recharged the line with N45,000 vouchers which was enough to clear the bill, she then said it must have been a “technical error” and that it would be corrected between 15 to 24 hours. I told her that my business was going to be so negatively affected if I could not make calls for that length of time,” Mr Ukpong explained to PREMIUM TIMES
He said all his efforts to get MTN to resolve what its official called “technical error” had been futile while his businesses had continued to suffer many losses.
“I have sent two emails to MTN requesting that they should furnish me with information regarding how much I have recharged my line between November 1 to November 6, 2020, but up till now MTN is yet to respond to it,” he said.
Mr Ukpong said he engaged the services of two law firms, which equally wrote to the defendant on the subject, but got no response from the telecom company.
MTN, in its first reaction to PREMIUM TIMES through its spokesperson, Funsho Aina, last Saturday, asked this reporter to send an email through the official channel.
Mr Aina acknowledged the email and promised to “review and revert ASAP” but there has been no official reaction from MTN so far.
In another interview with this reporter on Tuesday morning, Mr Ukpong said his barred line had been unbarred, a development which reportedly came two days after this newspaper reached out to MTN and chronicled the complainant’s struggle to get the latter to do the needful.
This reporter again reached out to Mr Aina on whether MTN was willing to compensate the complainant or not.
Responding, Mr Aina said the company “was still in talks with the complainant.”
“Did he also tell you that he can now use his line? So, we are making progress. We have made progress from what we used to have and we are still having series of conversations with him,’’ Mr Aina said.