Our expertise in Nigerian Communications Law Practice is acknowledged both locally and internationally. The brand “the foremost communications law firm” was earned from our sustained leadership role in the communications industry in Nigeria; dating from its fledging years till date. Quite early in our retainership years with the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (“NITEL”), Nigeria’s first national telecoms carrier, we distinguished ourselves as the External Counsel with the credentials and the capabilities to handle core telecommunications assignments, and it was in that circumstance that we represented NITEL in landmark assignments.
With the reconstitution of the industry’s regulatory agency, the Nigerian Communications Commission (“NCC”) in 1999; PUC began full-scale involvement in the areas of industry policies and regulations, legislative drafting and advocacy, advisory services in licensing arrangements and documentations, telecoms equipment acquisitions and leases, collocation models and agreements, corporate restructurings including mergers and acquisitions of telecom businesses, amongst other services.
Our wealth of experience in the communications sector extends beyond its telecommunications arm, and encompasses the other two arms of broadcasting and information technology. We provide advisory, advocacy, and transactional services to an array of local and international clients cutting across the public and private sectors. Our knowledge of the regulatory practices, systems and environment has come to bear in the effective solutions we proffer to our clients in the pursuit of their business objectives.
WEB-SAT Limited v. DIRECT-ON PC Limited
Web-Sat Ltd (“Claimant”) instituted this Suit claiming the sum of US$407,001,44 (Four Hundred and Seven Thousand One Dollar Forty Four Cent) and 10% interest thereto, allegedly being the total outstanding balance accruing and due from the Direct-on PC Ltd. (“Defendant”) to the Claimant. In support of its Claim, the Claimant pleaded an Agreement between parties hereto (“the Agreement”). PUC successfully challenged the competence of the action and jurisdiction of the Court to adjudicate thereupon, on grounds of the foreign jurisdiction clause in the Agreement between the parties, and the action was struck out by the trial Court. We are currently representing Direct-on PC Ltd. in the appeal filed by the aggrieved Claimant at the Nigerian Court of Appeal.
Joint Legal Advisory to the Nigerian Communications Commission on the Deployment of the Mobile Number Portability System
PUC, as consultants to NCC, jointly with the renowned financial and audit consulting firm, KPMG, was primarily responsible for proposing, drafting, and formulating a workable legal and regulatory framework for the introduction and sustenance of Number Portability in Nigeria, and the operations of the Number Portability Clearing house.
Adviser to the Nigerian Communication Commission on the Annual Operating Levy Regulation
PUC acted as a legal consultant to NCC for the formulation and drafting of the new Annual Operating Levy (AOL) Regulations to regulate the application for, and the issuance of Licenses under the NCA.
Incorporation and Start-up of Telecommunication Operators
PUC was responsible for the incorporation and start-up of a number of private telecommunications operators, including Multilinks Communications Limited (Multilinks), Intercellular Nigeria Limited (Intercellular) and Starcomms Limited (Starcomms). Apart from negotiating equipment purchase agreements for these companies, PUC assisted the companies in instituting commercial, regulatory and legal frameworks for their operations. Similar consultancy services have been provided over the years by PUC to Airtel and Visafone.
Second National Operator Licensing Process
PUC served as Legal Consultant to NCC for the Second National Operator (“SNO”) Licensing Process. The assignment included working on the licensing process and the attendant rules thereof, as well as the drafting of the licence documents. The SNO licenses included the Digital Mobile License, National Carrier License and International Gateway License respectively and placed the SNO on the same operational pedestal as NITEL.
Negotiation of the First Nigerian Interconnectivity Agreement
PUC represented NITEL in negotiation of the first Interconnectivity Agreement in Nigeria, between NITEL and the pioneer cellular services provider, a company then known as Mobile Telecommunications Services Limited. Following the onset of private sector involvement in the provision of telecommunications services, PUC represented NITEL in the negotiation, and prepared the documentation of several interconnectivity and access agreements with the newly licensed operators.
Licensing and Regulation of NITEL
PUC drafted the DML licence issued to the erstwhile NITEL after the DML Auction on behalf of the Nigerian Communications Commission. Subsequently, PUC also prepared the National Carrier Licence (NCL) and International Gateway Licence (IGL) for, and on behalf of NCC. These were the second set of operating licences issued to NITEL as part of the Federal Government of Nigeria’s (FGN) liberalization policy of, and for the communications sub-sector. Asides the preparation of the licensing documents, PUC also advised NCC on the regulatory structures for NITEL.
First Digital Mobile Licence (“DML”) Auction in Nigeria
The first ever DML Auction introduced Econet (now Airtel), MTN Communications Limited, and NITEL GSM to the Nigerian market, and fetched Nigeria US$285,000,000.00 for each of 3 Digital Mobile Licences. PUC acted as Legal Consultants to the regulator, NCC, and was the only Nigerian firm (Legal or otherwise) on the Auction Control Team. In this role, we had the responsibility, inter alia, of carrying out due diligence exercise on the prospective bidders, reviewing and modifying Information Memorandum, drafting and advising on the auction documents, the process and the rules governing the auction, as well as drafting and finalising the Digital Mobile License awarded to the successful bidders at the Auction. The DML Auction remains a watershed in Nigeria’s communications landscape and history.
NITEL Trans-Continental Cable Project
This was the first trans-continental cable project in sub-Saharan Africa which involved the laying of SAT-3/SAFE/WASC trans-continental fibre-optic cable, spanning the sub-Saharan African Continent, and extending to Far East Asia through Southern Africa, with European landing points. It involved about 41 African, American, European, and Asian companies. PUC was the Legal Consultant to NITEL in the negotiation of the Construction and Management Agreement in respect of the trans-continental cable project, SAT-3/SAFE/WASC. As transaction advisers to NITEL, we performed advisory roles, negotiated and reviewed the transaction documentation.
The Nigerian Communications Bill and Ancillary Regulations
PUC drafted the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (“NCA”), which repealed the Nigerian Communications Commission Act No. 75 of 1992. The NCA contains very explicit and predictable provisions on, and for the regulation of the communications subsector, and is adjudged to be very investor-friendly. PUC produced the Communications Bill for the Nigerian Senate, and consulted for both chambers of the Nigerian National Assembly on the legislative advocacy and production of the final draft Bill. We have provided several follow-up consultations to NCC on the NCA, including the drafting of subsidiary legislation, notably NCC’s Enforcement Regulation.
DAAR Communications PLC v. National Broadcasting Commission
PUC represented DAAR Communications PLC (“DAAR”) at the Federal High Court when its communications/operating Licence was imperilled in 2009, by the National Broadcasting Commission (“NBC”). Although DAAR had been granted Radio and Television Licences by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1995, the same licences were, however, slated for “bidding” in 2009 by the NBC. Notwithstanding the earmarking of the licences for bidding, DAAR participated and won the bid but was not declared the winner, though it was the highest bidder for both licensees. NBC, however, rescheduled another bidding process for the licenses, and subsequently declared another company winner of the bidding process. PUC was briefed and filed for an interim injunction, and subsequently, interlocutory injunction to restrain NBC, Nigeria’s Ministry of Information, as well as the Attorney General of the Federation from, inter alia, re-issuing the licenses to the purported winner of the latter bidding process at the Federal High Court of Nigeria. PUC’s adroit handling of the matter on behalf of DAAR eventually led to negotiation and settlement, leading to the restoration of DAAR’s licences.
Nigerian Communications Commission v. Blue-Chips Communications Company Limited
PUC represented NCC in this action filed by Blue – Chips Communications Company Limited for NCC’s refusal to grant it a third generation spectrum mobile communication licence. The action was defeated by a preliminary objection we raised on the ground that Blue-Chip failed to comply with a mandatory pre-action condition, which allowed the Commission to resolve disputes internally and specifies procedures to be followed by any party aggrieved with the NCC’s exercise of its regulatory powers before the commencement of any litigation against the Commission.