LAGOS — A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, weekend, set aside the audit report, which investigated Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, under its former Director-General, Professor Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, prepared at the instance of Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC.
It will be recalled that SEC had ordered for an audit report into the affairs of NSE under Okereke-Onyiuke’s leadership, which indicted her.
Okereke-Onyiuke had gone to court, praying the court to declare among others, that the defendants have no authority, jurisdiction, power or control over her, within the context and meaning of Section 13 of Investment and Securities Act, to warrant the letter of invitation for investigation into the affairs of NSE under her headship.
She had also asked the court to restrain the defendants, their 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 NSE or using same to instigate, arrest, harass, intimidate and blackmail her.
Justice Charles Archibong, held that since Okereke-Onyiuke was not allowed to defend herself before the audit report or before its interim version was made public, it was therefore void.
The court consequently quashed the report and held that it was a breach of Section 36 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, saying “The audit exercise was short of due process and is hereby set aside.”
The court held that SEC had no authority, jurisdiction, power or control over the plaintiff, who was no longer the chief executive officer of 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 court added that nothing in the ruling precludes any legitimate investigation into the affairs of NSE that is untainted by the highly politicised audit exercise referred to in the current suit.
The court noted that 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 authority of the council to draw the attention of SEC to the financial affairs of NSE.
The court also held 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 was on the basis of the report that a charge was filed against Okereke-Onyiuke before a Lagos High Court by the Lagos State Government.