Albert-Okumagba

Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed November 27, for ruling in the suit filed against the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by BGL Group.

In a fresh application argued on Wednesday by its counsel, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), BGL is seeking an order to nullify the two rulings made on September 17, 2015 by Justice Mohammed Yunusa.

Yunusa, who sat as a vacation judge, had in the said rulings vacated an interim injunction barring SEC from expelling BGL from capital market.

The vacation judge also dismissed BGL’s application seeking to stay further proceedings in the matter.

But in the fresh application Pinheiro is contending that as of the time that Yunusa gave the rulings, he no longer had jurisdiction.

Pinheiro argued on Wednesday that Yunusa’s jurisdiction on the case, as a vacation judge, had ended on September 11 and maintained Yunusa had been drained of jurisdiction as of September 17 when he made the two rulings.

He urged the new judge on the case, Justice Idris, to vacate those two orders.

Yunusa had on September 22, when he was due to deliver a third ruling in the case, told the parties that the case file had been returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, for re-assignment to another judge.

At the resumed proceedings before Justice Idris last Wednesday, Pinheiro said, “Justice Yunusa was constituted as a special court. His jurisdiction to entertain cases is not at large.

“On September 17, the purported vacation court proceeded to deliver a ruling outside of jurisdiction.

“The question before the court is to determine whether the ruling of September 17 was legal or not, when the court vacation had ended on September 11.

“Our application is not to seek for the appeal of what took place brother your learned brother, Yunusa, but we are urging Your Lordship to set aside every proceeding that were taken outside of jurisdiction because Justice Yunusa had been drained of jurisdiction.”

But in opposition, counsel for SEC, Prof. Kayinsola Ajayi (SAN), described BGL’s application as an abuse of court processes, which was incurably bad and could not be remedied.

Ajayi said there was nothing like vacation jurisdiction, adding that the only factors that could affect the right of a judge to hear a case would be whether the judge was indeed a judge, whether the subject matter was within his purview and the case fell within the territory of the court.

He further maintained that the arguments which led to the September 17 rulings were taken prior before that date, adding that the date for ruling was chosen by the consent of the two parties.

He accused the BGL counsel of bogging down the case during vacation, recalling that they had once said they brought an application “to frustrate the proceedings” during vacation.

“The conduct of the plaintiffs is one that demonstrates that the court should not demonstrate discretion in their favour.

“The plaintiffs have not come with clean hands,” Ajayi.

After listening to the parties, Justice Idris fixed November 27, 2015 for ruling.

BGL had in May filed the suit before Justice Saliu Sadiu to challenge its proposed expulsion from the capital market by SEC.

The SEC had announced the expulsion of BGL from the Nigerian capital market after receiving over 40 petitions from aggrieved investors who claimed to have been defrauded by the company.

BGL’s Group Managing Director, Albert Okumagba, was also banned from operating as a Registered Sponsored Individual with SEC.

In its preliminary objection to the suit, SEC alleged that BGL is indebted to various capital market investors, including the Rivers State Ministry of Finance to the tune of N5.8bn as of June 2, 2015.

SEC further claimed that as of December 2014, BGL had run at a loss running into over N48bn, adding that BGL had severe liquidity problems.

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