Oando Appeals Court Ruling on Suit against SEC

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Says battle far from over

Peter Uzoho

Dissatisfied with yesterday’s ruling of the Federal High Court, Abuja striking out its suit against the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Oando Plc has approached the Court of Appeal to overturn the decision of the lower court.

The court, in a ruling by Justice Giwa Ogunbanjo, declined jurisdiction to hear the suit on its merits, stating that the Investment and Securities Tribunal (IST) is the appropriate forum to hear the matter.

The Justice Ogunbanjo based his decision on Section 36(2) of the constitution, which allows aggrieved individuals to first approach any tribunal or administrative agency to determine civil rights and obligations as long as that process and the resulting decision is not final.

Consequently, he said the IST has primary jurisdiction over the applicants (Oando and its principals) in respect of capital market issues and not the Federal High Court.

However, Oando in a statement explained that as much as it respects the decision of the court, it argued that the court did not address its concern.

The company stated that the battle is far from over as it has lodged an appeal with the appeal court in Abuja, contesting the lower court’s decision to refer the suit to the IST.

The company and its affected directors argued that the powers conferred by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on its citizens to enforce their fundamental rights supersede the provisions of the Investment and Securities Act 2007.

It stated that it has also filed an application for stay of execution as well as an injunction pending the appeal on the SEC’s May 31, 2019 letter to the company, and as such the status quo that existed before yesterday’s ruling remained unchanged.

In 2019, Oando and some of its directors filed a suit against the regulator for breach of their human rights to fair hearing, following sanctions imposed on the company and its directors by the SEC in a letter dated May 31, 2019.

However, following a suit filed by the company’s principals, Mr. Adewale Tinubu and Mr. Omamofe Boyo, the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos granted an injunction restraining SEC from executing any of the sanctions.

Worried by the impact of the suit on them, Oando shareholders called on the SEC and Oando to settle the matter out-of-court, as the tussle keeps impacting their investment.

Some shareholders dragged both parties to court to seek an end to the matter.

The court hearing between the SEC and aggrieved shareholders has been adjourned to March 17.

Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court had on Tuesday ruled in favour of an Oando shareholder, Mr. Patrick Ajidua, who had challenged the regulator in a suit.

He had challenged SEC’s right to prevent the convening of an Annual General Meeting (AGM) as a breach of his right to freedom of association.

In a ruling by Justice O. A. Musa, the court granted all his pleadings.

Justice Musa declared that the May 31, 2019 letter of SEC to Oando sanctioning its management, as unconstitutional, null and void, and a violation of Ajudua’s fundamental right to fair hearing.

He said the letter breached Ajudua’s human right to receive information on the affairs of Oando and his interest and shares in Oando.

He said Oando must convene an AGM for her shareholders within 91 days of his ruling.

SEC had denied the claim by Ajudua that he won a court case against it.

The commission had disclosed in a statement on Wednesday that it was never served with court processes with respect to the purported matter at the FCT High court.