Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Court Fixes Jan. 31 to Rule On Suit By Shareholders of Newswatch Communications

Justice Ibrahim Buba, of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on Tuesday fixed Jan. 31 to rule on whether or not to dismiss a petition filed by two shareholders of Newswatch Communication Ltd.

Mr Nuhu Wada Aruwa and Prof. Jibril Aminu, on Jan. 17, filed an action to quash a share purchase agreement which transferred ownership of the company to one of its directors, Mr Jimoh Ibrahim.

The petitioners also sought an interlocutory injunction to restrain the respondents from publishing Daily Newswatch, Saturday Newswatch and Sunday Newswatch, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

Also joined as respondents are Newswatch Communications Ltd., Global Media Mirror Ltd., Newswatch Newspapers Ltd., and the Corporate Affairs Commission.

The judge fixed the date for ruling, after listening to arguments by counsel representing both parties.

Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, counsel to the respondents, in a preliminary objection, urged the court to dismiss the application because the petitioners lacked the locus standi to file the action as minority shareholders.

Ayorinde, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), also contended that the action was an abuse of court process because a similar case was before another judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos.

He also argued that the court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the petition.

According to him, the principal relief which the petitioners are seeking is to set aside a contract between Newswatch and Global Mirror.

He said that such a relief was a matter within the exclusive jurisdiction of the State High Court.

Replying on points of law, Counsel to the petitioners, Mr Adekunle Oyesanya, also a senior advocate, urged the court to dismiss the respondents' objection and proceed with the substantive suit.

He argued that the petitioners possessed the locus standing to institute the action even as minority shareholders of Newswatch Communications Ltd.

"We submit that in the circumstance of this particular case, the petitioners are entitled to institute an action against the respondents regardless of the fact that a company is the proper plaintiff to sue where a wrong had been done to it," Oyesanya said.

Supporting his argument with relevant authorities, Oyesanya contended that the action was not an abuse of court process.

He pointed out that the issue before the other court was quite different from the present suit, including the reliefs and parties.

According to him, there is therefore no basis for the submission that the suit is an abuse of court process.

"The rights and subject matter in the two suits are not the same.

"And it has been held by several authorities, that where the same parties feature in the same subject matter but on different issues, there is no abuse of court process," he said.

The judge adjourned the case to Jan. 31 for ruling on the preliminary objection.

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