Oando Drags SEC to Appeal Court Stop Forensic Audit
By Dipo Olowookere
Not satisfied with the November 23, 2017 ruling of Justice Rilwan Aikawa of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, Oando Plc has headed to a Court of Appeal to challenge the judgement of the lower court, which declined to hear its suit for lack of jurisdiction.
Oando had dragged the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to the High Court to stop the technical suspension of its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) as well as a forensic audit of its affairs by independent auditors hired by the capital market regulator.
The lower court had ruled that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the matter, referring the oil firm to the Investment and Securities Tribunal (IST), saying it was the body established to settle capital market disputes.
But Oando, through its counsel, Mr Seyi Sowemimo (SAN), wants the appellate court to upturn the judgement, insisting that the regular court can hear the case.
According to Mr Sowemimo, the Federal High Court 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 (CAMA).”
He said by virtue of Section 251(i)(e) of the Constitution, the Federal High Court is empowered to entertain CAMA-related cases, urging the appeal court to reverse 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 proceeding today, the Oando counsel informed Justice Aikawa’s of the appeal, but counsel for SEC and the Nigerian Stock Exchange, which was joined as the second defendant, Mr Anthony Idigbe (SAN), opposed Mr Sowemimo’s application for the preservation of res.
Mr Idigbe argued that the issues canvassed by Oando in its appeal were “not substantial in law.”
He insisted 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.
He explained that the technical suspension was to prevent panic and dumping of Oando’s shares by investors and members of the public.
Mr Idigbe also added that the technical suspension was temporary and was imposed to allow for an independent forensic audit of Oando’s business activities.
He argued there was no point for Justice Aikawa to make an order preserving the res because “the suspension of the trading of the plaintiff’s shares in the Nigerian Stock Exchange has already been completed and the parties are waiting for the report of the said investigation”.
Mr Sowemimo then asked the court for time to reply to this assertion and more made by Mr Idigbe in his counter-affidavit.
However, Justice Aikawa has adjourned further proceedings in the case till Wednesday, December 13.