April 6, 2011 by JOSEPH ONYEKWERE
THE Investment and Securities Tribunal, Lagos has reserved ruling on whether it has jurisdiction to entertain the suit file by 14 representatives of investors of Nospetco Oil and Gas Limited against the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the company also known as ‘Wonder Bank’ for April 13, 2011.
At the last sitting, the chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Salihu Usman informed the court that the ruling was not ready due to what he called “technical reasons”, thereby announcing the new date for the delivery of the ruling.
Though counsel to the applicants, Mr. Debo Adeleke, attempted to implore the tribunal to allow him move his application of urgency, the court, acknowledging the urgency of the matter, objected and told him to wait until after the ruling before taking any further application.
Nospecto through its counsel, Abubakar Shamshudeen of Ricky Tarfa Chambers, had earlier opted out of the peace pact initiated by claimants’ counsel, Adeleke and challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal to entertain the matter. The peace pact was aimed at settling out of court.
Justice Usman granted leave to parties to explore the idea of settling out of court, saying it was commendable since the philosophy of Nigerian jurisprudence hinges on justice and peaceful settlement.
He also directed the leadership of the investors’ forum to take up an advertorial in three major national dailies to ask all the investors to register with the group, as well as, to make a complete compilation of all investors list. All the parties had agreed and complied with the directive.
But Shamshudeen surprisingly objected that move and directed the attention of the tribunal to his application dated November 25, 2010, challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal to adjudicate on the matter.
Moving his application, Shamshudeen said that he was contesting the jurisdiction of the court on the ground that the subject matter of the suit was a simple contract and not securities issues, which the tribunal is empowered to adjudicate on. He said: “The third respondent is not listed in the capital market and so the tribunal has no authority to adjudicate on the matter and we urge the tribunal to so hold.”
In his response, Adeleke contended with all the submissions of the third respondent’s counsel and informed the tribunal that his objection was supported by a 17- paragraph affidavit deposed to by Mr. Samuel Okechukwu of his chambers dated December 13, 2010.
Adeleke, who spoke passionately about the sufferings of the claimants, some of whom, he said were suffering without the benefit of reaping from their investment under the custody of the second respondent (the CBN), however, punctured the argument of the third respondent’s counsel by drawing the tribunal’s attention to some provisions of the Investment and Securities Act, which empowers them to adjudicate on the matter. He contended that the transaction was purely and investment and not a contract.
He said, “on the issue of the jurisdiction, section 284 (1) (f) of the Investment and Securities Act empowers the tribunal to adjudicate on disputes arising from the management, operations and administrations of collective investment schemes.
“The court should dismiss the third respondent’s applicants notice of preliminary objection and determine the issues raised in favour of the applicants.”
However, counsels to the first and second respondents, Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Victor Adedipekun and Loretta Onyenyionwu respectively did not oppose the application. The matter was then adjourned to April 13, 2011 for ruling on jurisdiction.
The applicants had dragged the respondents to the IST praying the tribunal to declare that the refusal of the first respondent (SEC) to direct the second respondent (CBN) to release their fund it salvaged from the ‘wonder bank’ to them on demand was contrary to its statutory duty.