BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos –
Oando Plc has asked the Lagos State Division of the Court of Appeal to reverse the order made by Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court striking out the suit seeking to lift the technical suspension imposed on its shares on the floor of the Nigerian stock market by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Justice Aikawa had on November 23 this year struck out Oando’s suit, holding that he had no jurisdiction to entertain it, as the only legal judicial body to adjudicate on the subject matter of the suit was the Investment and Securities Tribunal.
Oando Plc had gone before the court to challenge SEC’s powers to suspend its shares and an audit of its business activities by forensic experts hired by SEC.
Before handing off the case, Justice Aikawa granted an interim injunction to the oil company restraining SEC from carrying out the audit.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, Oando, through its counsel, Seyi Sowemimo (SAN), is asking the Appeal Court to restore the matter to the cause list of the Federal High Court for accelerated hearing.
Sowemimo maintained that the Federal High Court rather than the IST was the appropriate forum to hear the case.
He said the judge erred in law to decline jurisdiction because “the suit touched and concerned the operation of a company incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act.”
According to him, by virtue of Section 251(i)(e) of the Constitution, the Federal High Court is empowered to entertain CAMA-related cases.
He is, therefore, urging the Court of Appeal to make an order “reversing the (Justice Aikawa’s) order striking out the suit and restoring the matter to the cause list of the Federal High Court for accelerated hearing.”
At the resumed hearing of the case on Monday, Sowemimo informed the judge about the appeal and urged the judge to make an order “preserving the res to prevent the appeal from being rendered nugatory.”
However, the lawyer for SEC and the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), opposed Sowemimo’s application for the preservation of res.
Idigbe contended that the issues canvassed by Oando in its appeal “are not substantial in law.”
The lawyer argued that it was in the best interest of investors, shareholders and members of the general public that SEC placed Oando’s shares under technical suspension.
Idigbe further submitted that the technical suspension was to prevent panic and dumping of Oando’s shares by investors and members of the public.
He insisted that the technical suspension was temporary and was imposed to allow for an independent forensic audit of Oando’s business activities.
He said there was no point for Justice Aikawa to make the order because, “the suspension of the trading of the plaintiff’s shares in the Nigerian Stock Exchange has already been completed.
“The forensic examination of the plaintiff’s business activities has already commenced and the parties are waiting for the report of the said investigation.
“The temporary suspension of trading of the shares is not a punitive action against the plaintiff but a device to protect the shares of the plaintiff from further decline because of the investigation.
“The undertaking of the forensic examination of the plaintiff by independent experts will not prevent a return to status quo if the appeal succeeds,” Idigbe added.
Sowemimo prayed for time to file a reply to Idigbe’s counter-affidavit.
Justice Aikawa adjourned further proceedings in the case till Wednesday, December 13.