Change of Lawyer Stall Court Proceeding in Suit against Obazee, FRC

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The change of lawyer by Financial Reporting Council (FRC) today stalled further trial before a Federal High Court, Lagos in a suit filed by the Shareholders seeking to bring the Chief Executive Officer of FRC, Mr Jim Obazee before the court to show cause why he should not be committed for contempt for implementing regulations that are subject of litigation before the court.

Justice Okon Abang had on October 30 adjourned trial till November 5, 2015 to allow the application filed by the plaintiff’s Kemi Pinheiro SAN, to be filed properly before the court, and for the defence lawyer, Mr Fabian Ajogwu SAN, to respond before the court could reach a decision.

But when the matter came up today, it was another lawyer, Emmanuel Akpudugu from Bola Ajibola chambers that represented FRC, confirming speculations that Mr Ajogwu have withdrawn his services from the defendants.

When the matter came up, Akpudugu told the court that his chambers have just been briefed aout the matter two days ago. He therefore urged the court to grant him a short adjournment to enable him study the matter properly.

Pinheiro addressing the court said that he sympathize with the defence counsel but that the justice of the matter demands that the court orders a temporary suspension of the directive of the defendant dated October 26, 2015, suspending the chairman and some directors of Stanbic IBTC Holdings. He said that while the lawyer is seeking for an adjournment, the defendants still continue to implement the regulations which forms the cause of action before the court.

HoweverAkpudugu pleaded with that he was ready to give an undertaking that the defendants will not do anything on the directive pending the argument of the motion before the court.

Justice Abang in his ruling said that he would not want to give his ruling on the motion before him piece mill, and that he would prefer that parties in the case argue their motions and the court gives its ruling once and for all. He thereafter adjourned the matter till November 20, 2015.

On the February 27, 2015, 10 members of the Shareholders’ Association of Nigeria led by the cChairman, Chief Timothy Adesiyan, had filed an Originating Summons before the court seeking the court to determine whether the  Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment can, in the exercise of the powers conferred on him by Section 73 of the FRN Act, 2011to make regulations, proceed to “create new offences and impose sanctions and or penalties and or otherwise expand the scope of the principal Act itself, or lay down entirely new regulations which are not ancillary to the provisions of the Act”.

The shareholders also wanted the court to determine “whether regulations published as government notice No 94 of October 6, 2014 particularly the provisions of Rules 10, 16, 17, 18, and 24 to the extent that those provisions set out new offences and sanctions other than those contained in the principal Act, are not ultra vires the first defendant (Minister) having regard to the provisions of section 73 of the Act under which the first defendant purportedly acted to issue and or make the regulations”.

Joined with Adesiyan as plaintiffs in the suit are Mr Sulaiman Adenrele, Prince Sunday Ogunnowo, Mr Frederick Oduyemi, Chief Robert Igwe, amd Mr Bello Owonikoko.  Others are Mr Lazarus Onwuka, Mr Tajudeen Adeshina, Mr Peter Okoh, and Mr John Ogundipe.

The Defendants are the Honourable Minister of Trade and investment, the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRN), the Attorney General of the Federation, and the Steering Committee on the National Code of Corporate Governance. The Defendants had entered appearance before the court through their lawyer, Dr.  Fabian Ajogwu SAN on April 24, 2015. After filing appearance, the matter came up before the court on June 18, 2015 AND and Justice Abang subsequently adjourned the suit till October 30, 2015.

However, prior to the adjourned date, the FRCN went ahead with the implementation of the regulations under contention before the court. It sanctioned Stanbic IBTC Holdings in relation to the company’s financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2013, and 2014.

Through a letter that was signed by the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of FRCN, Mr. Jim Osayande Obazee, the FRC sanctioned Stanbic IBTC over its audited accounts for 2013 and 2014 and suspended the Financial Reporting Numbers of the bank’s chairman, Mr. Atedo Peterside, and its chief executive, Mrs. Sola David-Borha, and also barred them forthwith from vouching for the integrity of any financial statements in Nigeria.

The FRC also suspended two other directors – Mr. Arthur Oginga and Dr. Daru Owei – for attesting to what it termed the “misleading” 2013 and 2014 financial accounts of Stanbic IBTC, as well as Ayodele Othihiwa of KPMG Professional Services for his firm’s alleged complicity in the infractions highlighted in the financial reports for the two-year period. Furthermore, FRCN fined Stanbic IBTC  a sum of N1billion for alleged contravention of the regulations.

When the suit came up for mention on October 30, 2015, the lawyer to the plaintiffs,  Pinheiro  told Justice Abang that the act of the defendants is in “utter disregard for the powers of the court in relation to the eventual determination of the suit”.  He argued that some of the plaintiffs are shareholders of Stanbic IBTC Holdings. He, therefore, urged the court to restrain the defendants from further implementing the regulations.

 

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