Vanguard (Lagos)

28 January 2013

Nigeria: NPAN Appeals Ruling in Suit Against APCON Regulations

Lagos — The Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, has filed an appeal against the ruling of a Federal High Court in Lagos, declining jurisdiction over a suit it filed against the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON.

NPAN had, in the suit, faulted some provisions of a law by APCON, requiring media houses to summit advertisement materials for vetting by the council.

It argued that the provisions contained in Article 21 and 137 of the Nigerian Code of Advertising and Sales Promotion, NCASP, are inconsistent with the provisions of Section 39 of the Constitution, guaranteeing the freedom of expression and to hold opinion.

Delivering a ruling on January 10, Justice Musa Kurya upheld the preliminary objection raised by APCON, and held that NPAN lacked the locus standi to file the suit. He, therefore, declined jurisdiction and dismissed the case.

In its notice of appeal dated January 21, NPAN raised five grounds of appeal and prayed the appellate court to allow the appeal and grant an order setting aside the ruling by Justice Kurya.

NPAN also prayed the court for an order for the hearing and determination of its originating summons, as a court of first instance in line with the provision of section 15 of the Court of Appeal Act, 2004. It also asked the court for an order granting all the reliefs being sought on the originating summons.

The appellant argued that the trial judge erred in holding that it lacked locus standi or enforceable right to institute the suit against APCON.

It contended that, as a body established to promote the interest of its members, it was its right to challenge regulatory provisions that affect the interest of media houses in the country.

NPAN said: "It is in consonance with the objects for which the plaintiff was registered to institute an action to nullify any legislation or subsidiary instrument, which adversely affects the interest of its members."

It faulted the lower court's decision on the ground that the judge failed to consider all averments in its supporting affidavit, but relied only on paragraphs 12 to 17 in reaching a conclusion.

NPAN argued that the judge's failure to consider all its processes, including its constitution, which it attached to the further affidavit dated November 21, 2012 was in violation of its right to fair hearing.

It contended that the trial judge erred in holding that it failed to seek and obtain the court's leave to sue in representative capacity. It faulted the court's decision that its suit was a representative one. It argued that the Federal High Court Rules 2009 did not provide that a plaintive must seek and obtain the court's leave before suing in representative capacity.

NPAN argued that the trial judge erred in dismissing the suit on the grounds that the plaintiff lacked locus standi and that the court was without jurisdiction to hear the case. It argued that the judge ought to have struck out the case, upon holding that the plaintiff lacked locus standi, rather than dismissing the suit.

It also faulted the trial judge for dismissing its suit "when he ought, in law, to have proceeded to the hearing of the originating summons on its merit and grant all reliefs being sought by the plaintiff."

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