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ATC Masts: Court Declines To Dismiss HEDA’s Suit Against MTN, Others

Justice Yelim Bogoro of the Federal High Court in Lagos has dismissed an application filed by MTN Nigeria Communications Plc challenging the locus standi (legal rights) of HEDA Resources Centre to sue it and ATC Nigeria Wireless Infrastructure Limited over allegations of overcrowding the environment with base stations.
Justice Bogoro, while ruling on a preliminary objection filed by the telecommunications giant, held that HEDA Resources Centre, as a civil society organisation, has the locus standi to institute public interest litigations.
The court, therefore, dismissed the objections for lacking in merit.
HEDA Resource Centre, a CSO committed to the promotion of sustainable development and protection of the environment, in the public interest case, had dragged the Federal Ministry of Environment, MTN, ATC Nigeria before the court seeking an order to restrain MTN and ATC from citing new base stations where there are already existing base stations nearby, based on health and environmental concerns.
Justice Bogoro had also adjourned the hearing of a similar preliminary application filed by ATC challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the HEDA suit on the ground that it is incompetent, to April 22.
Justice Bogoro had on November 21, 2023, issued an ex-parte order restraining MTN Nigeria and its associate, ATC Nigeria, from overcrowding the environment with base stations.
The judge had explicitly barred ATC Nigeria, MTN Nigeria and other defendants in the suit by themselves from taking any step towards establishing new masts near existing ones.
The judge ordered the fourth and fifth defendants, together with their “servants, agents, privies and assigns from commencing, continuing or completing the construction or erection or installation of any base trans-receiver stations/towers/masts (BTS) within proximity to IHS’ existing BTS or operating any BTS within proximity to IHS’ existing BTS pending the determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”
The court also ordered the fifth Defendant (MTN Nigeria), whether by its servants, agents, privies and assigns, from moving, relocating, or transferring any of its telecommunication equipment to any BTS site being or has been constructed, erected or built by the fourth Defendant (ATC Nigeria Wireless Infrastructure Ltd), which is near the IHS’ existing BTS pending the determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.
The order temporarily put on hold the implementation of the relocation of the 2,500 towers project from IHS to ATC, announced by MTN on or around November 10, 2023.
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