Musician sues Airtel for N102m over illegal deductions

For alleged several deductions for unsubscribed apps, a Nigeria musician, Mrs. Rita Murphy, has slammed a N102  million suit on one of Nigerian leading telecommunication providers, Airtel Nigeria Limited.

Rita, leading member of Survival True Reggae Band, apart from asking the court to award the sum of N102 million as general damage and cost of instituting the suit against Airtel Nigeria Limited, in her favour, is also asking the court to declare that all deductions made by Airtel Nigeria Limited from her airtime between 2018 and 2019, are illegal.

Joined as Airtel Nigeria Limited co-defendant, was Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in the suit marked Temp/46230/19.

Rita in her statement of claims filed before the court by her lawyer, Mrs. Godson Opara, stated that she has being a customer to Airtel Nigeria Limited for over three years with the registered number 08123459659. 

She averred that sometime around April, 2018 She noticed that each time she recharged her phone with the Airtel network’s airtime, the airtime would just vanish immediately. 

She stated that sometimes in January, 2019, she was negotiating a business deal with a foreign music marketer who had offered to buy the exclusive marketing right of her music brand, which she had produced in very large quantity in both audio and video. She stated that the price of the deal was $300, 000, which is over N100 million, at the exchange rate of N360 per USD. 

She further stated that the very night she was to call the prospective marketers on a group call to finalize the deal and get paid, she recharged her phone with N3,000.00, to make the all-important calls only to discover to her utter shock that the airtime had as usual vanished and that it was already late in the night so she could not buy more airtime and as a result, the she lost the huge business opportunity. 

Further to above statements, the Reggae musician averred that she lost millions of Naira she had invested in the massive production of the audio and the video of the music production as a result of the illegal deductions of her airtime by the Airtel Nigeria Limited. 

The claimant also averred that sometime in January, 2019 she was to be engaged to do a political jingle for the Atiku Presidential Campaign team, but she lost the job when she could not establish contact with the Campaign Team due to the sudden disappearance of airtime she recharged on her phone for the purpose. She added that she took some friendly loans to execute the production of the campaign jingles and she lost millions of Naira due to the illegal deduction of her airtime by the service provider.

She also averred that sometime in January, 2019 around 5:301m she was in labour and there was no other person in the house with her and she needed to call the husband or the driver to take her to the hospital, but she could not make any call because the airtime she loaded on her phone had been siphoned by the Airtel Nigeria Limited. She said that she resorted to trekking to get to the bus stop before she could get a tricycle that took her to the hospital. Adding that immediately she got to the hospital premises but before she could entering into the hospital proper, the baby slipped off her body but was quickly caught by a vigilant nurse who then took her inside the hospital and cleaned her up. 

She stated that her airtime kept on disappearing just like that for a very long time due to the illegal deduction by Airtel Nigeria Limited. 

She stated that alleged illicit act of Airtel Nigeria Limited was discovered sometime in March 201, when she took her cell phone for some repairs which warranted that the phone would be flashed. She said that she asked the repairer to transfer all the messages on the phone to a laptop to avoid her losing any vital data or message. 

The claimant averred that it was when the repairer transferred her messages to a laptop that she discovered to her surprise that the Airtel Nigeria Limited had, without any authorization from her, secretly subscribed her to the several Apps which include; Mobile Horosbope; Unlimited Gamez Daily; Magic Ball; Games Club; WAP; Mega Promo; Mobile Newspaper; Soccer 15; Alacarte Gamez 100; Zee World Monthly; Temp Service Name; 91a Fun Weekly; Applus Apps; Intimate szs; Lovi D; Unlimited Gamez; Kirusaa V Compose; Nazara 50 and 10 Vid Service.

Further to the above discovery, the Claimant averred she now scrolled through her text messages only to see numerous text messages about her airtime the Airtel Nigeria Limited deducted illegally and without authorization from her, purportedly for subscriptions she did not authorize or even use. 

The Claimant avers that she then briefed a lawyer who wrote a letter to Airtel Nigeria Limited and copied the NCC to pay compensation to her for the numerous damages she had suffered due to the Airtel Nigeria Limited’s illegal deductions of her airtime. 

The Reggae musician stated that the Airtel Nigeria Limited, in their response dated April 29 2019, admitted to illegally deduct her airtime which they claimed was only between September and November, 2018 and even listed the APPs they subscribed the Claimant to without her consent. 

The Claimant further avers that when the Airtel Nigeria Limited failed, refused and neglected to compensate her for the losses she sufferers she briefed another lawyer, B.C. Obielusi, to write a second letter of demand to the Airtel Nigeria Limited and to copy the NCC. She added that Airtel Nigeria Limited has not, till date, compensated her for the huge losses she suffered.

When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, counsel to the musician, Mrs. Opara, told the court the defendants did not present at the mediation stage, which was meant to settle the matter amicably, the situation she said led to the trial of the suit.

Responding, Mrs. Idowu Olowu and Miss Uche Nosa Meme, counsel representing Airtel Nigeria Limited and NCC respectively, told the court that they did not receive any application for mediation, hence that would be there.

Both idowu and Meme, however asked court for further date to file their responses to the claimant’s suit.

In granting their request, Justice K. O. Dawodu, ordered them to pay default fees before they can be granted audience in the suit. 
Further hearing of the matter has been adjourned till April 24, 2020.

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