A Federal High Court in Lagos Friday quashed the forensic audit report by the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC) into the affairs of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) under its former Director-General, Professor Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke.
Ruling on suit number FHC/L/CS/1430/10, presiding judge, Justice Charles Archibong, held that since Okereke-Onyiuke was not allowed to present her reaction or given an opportunity to defend herself before the audit report or its interim version was made public, it was therefore void and of no effect.
The judge consequently quashed and set aside the report in whatever and held that it was a breach of Section 36 of the Constitution
According to the judge, "The audit exercise was short of due process and is hereby set aside."
He submitted that SEC (defendant) has no authority, jurisdiction, power or control over the plaintiff who is no longer the chief executive officer of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), adding that in the instance therefore, any invitation or summons from the commission in that regard may be honoured by her or discountenanced as she chooses.
The judge added that nothing in the ruling precludes any legitimate investigation into the affairs of the NSE that is untainted by the highly politicised audit exercise referred to in the present suit.
Reviewing the submissions of counsel to Okereke-Onyiuke, Dr Dapo Olanipekun, the court found that the NSE is a securities exchange subject to the regulation of SEC.
The court also concluded that NSE is not a parastatal or a quasi-government organisation but an autonomous company required by SEC regulations to be minimally capitalised to the tune of N500 million
The court also found out that NSE has a governing council and that Alhaji Aliko Dangote as a member of the governing council acted alone and without the sanction of the council to draw the attention of SEC to the financial affairs of the NSE.
Moreover, it was held by the court that the externalisation of the domestic processes of an autonomous company by an insider such as Dangote, resulted in the direct intervention of a regulator who was indeed empowered to audit the NSE.
It would be recalled that SEC had ordered for an audit report into the affairs of NSE under Okereke-Onyiuke's leadership.
It consequently made the report public without hearing from the former NSE boss, who later filed a motion on notice at the court praying among other reliefs, a declaration that the defendants have no authority, jurisdiction, power or control over her, within the context and meaning of Section 13 of the Investment and Securities Act to warrant the letter of invitation for investigation dated November 1, 2010 written by the defendant to her in respect of the audit report into the affairs of NSE.
In the motion, which was supported by a 25-paragraph affidavit, she further prayed for an order setting aside the purported audit report.
She prayed the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, its agents, officers, servants, privies and whomsoever from acting upon or giving effect to the said letter, implementing, acting or giving effect to the purported audit report of the affairs of the NSE or using same to instigate, arrest, harass, intimidate and blackmailing the plaintiff.
In the ruling, the judge declared: "This matter is at an end."
With the ruling, it is expected that the suit filed against Okereke-Onyiuke by the Lagos State Government, which is based on the audit report, would be struck out or dismissed.