JUSTICE Charles Archibong of a Federal High Court, Lagos has set aside the audit report on the affairs of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) under its former Director-General, Prof. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke.
The report was prepared at the instance of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In his ruling on a motion by Okereke-Onyiuke at the weekend, the judge held that since the plaintiff was not allowed to present her reaction or defend herself before the audit report or its interim version was put in the public domain, it was therefore void.
Justice Archibong consequently quashed the report 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.”
According to him, SEC (defendant) has no authority, jurisdiction, power or control over the plaintiff who is no longer the chief executive officer of the 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 chose.
The judge, however, noted that nothing in the ruling precluded any legitimate investigation into the affairs of the NSE that would be untainted by the highly politicised audit exercise referred to in the existing suit.
The court also said that the NSE was 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 noted that NSE had 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.
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.
Concluding, the judge declared: “This matter is at an end.”
With the ruling, it is expected that the suit filed against the plaintiff by the Lagos State government, which is based on the audit report, would be struck out.
SEC had ordered 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 had 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.