Business, Business News, Efe Ebelo, Isiaka Idoko, IST, Kemi Adeosun, Moses Igbrude

Investors chide judiciary for delaying market cases  

PHOTO: George Osodi/Bloomberg

Dissatisfied by the delay in adjudicating capital market-related cases, investors have stressed the need for the judiciary to give priority to such cases, and stop granting unnecessary orders to perpetrators of fraudulent activities.

Stakeholders, who insisted that the issuance of interim orders to operators that violate market rules must be discouraged, also noted that unnecessary adjournments are a major drawback to efforts to restore retail investors’ confidence in the market.

Indeed, a good number of investors have suffered untold hardship, following unnecessary adjournment of cases involving operators holding on to clients’ money over a long period of time.

They cited the case of BGL and its subsidiaries, which were later banned from participating in market activities over the failure to liquidate their investments in both the Guaranteed Consolidated Notes and Guaranteed Premium Notes since May 2016.

They, therefore, wondered why it took the court over two years to fix ruling on the various applications brought before it on alleged market fraud.
Such delays, they argued, led to the establishment of the Investment and Securities Tribunal (IST), but the purpose appears defeated, if judgment is not passed on a particular case after one year.

But in a swift reaction, the Chairman of IST, Isiaka Idoko, disagreed with the assessment, insisting that the new members of the Tribunal since inaugurated in 2017, have achieved much.

“Are you sure that they are current, because since the inauguration of the current tribunal on the 19/9/2017 much has been achieved, and the news and commendation is all over. The current Tribunal has been the best so far in history.”

Also, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the apex market regulator, in its own response blamed the delay on the actions of fraudulent operators, who obtain court injunctions arbitrarily to prolong cases unnecessarily.

The Spokesman for the Commission, Efe Ebelo, said: “These people have money; they go and get one injunction or the other. SEC is a law-abiding citizen; we cannot go against the orders of the court.

“Take the BGL case for example; we have been on it for ages. The case is now only going to start formally because the judge last week dismissed the entire injunction. That is the predicament we find ourselves, we have to obey injunctions and follow due process.”

The Publicity Secretary, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Moses Igbrude, argued that many have lost confidence in the market due to frustration faced by some investors that suffered shocking experience in the past.

“It is unfortunate that our judicial system operates in such a manner that lawyers are allowed to use technicalities to delay and frustrate cases in the court.

Cases are delayed for many years, which make the cost of seeking justice so high that the poor cannot easily obtain justice in Nigeria.

“The case with BGL has been on for over two years without any headway, and the perpetrators are walking freely on the streets of Lagos while the victims are suffering. It is not fair.

“I sincerely appeal to those concerned to urgently address this issue because justice delayed is justice denied, and it is not good for the capital market if those who perpetrate frauds are left unpunished. It is eroding investors’ confidence.”

Also commenting, the President, Trustee Shareholders Association, Mukta Muktah, warned that the delay is inimical to market growth because it gives room for bias.

“First of all, court processes and technicalities are long and cumbersome. Defence lawyers will always exploit the technicalities in order to stall cases in court. Secondly, there is corruption in the entire system, which individuals and senior lawyers exploit.

“Corruption is bad in every judicial system because this does not guarantee justice for the oppressed. Until this corruption is done away with, I do not think any meaningful judgment can be enjoyed by our capital market regulators.”

“The only thing I think the government can do, which of course it tried, but got blocked by the National Assembly, is to establish special purpose courts for corruption. These types of court can fast track and treat corruption cases with the necessary precision.”

The President, Proactive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Oderinde Taiwo, equally urged the judiciary to give speedy hearing to capital market related cases.

Oderinde added: “The regular courts should also cooperate with special courts such as the Investment and Securities Tribunal (IST) in resolving capital market cases. A situation whereby IST, which is equivalent to a High Court, gives an order and another High Court gives a counter order is not good for the market.”

An independent investor, Amaechi Egbo, said: “Very sad indeed and frustrating for investors and the entire capital market. ‘Justice delayed is one denied’. The purpose of passing a local legislation, which established special capital market court to promote access and achieve speed, is thereby defeated.
  “The BGL case in court for two years portrays Nigerian entire market space as underdeveloped when benchmarked against those of other emerging countries.”

Recall that last year, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun inaugurated the fourth IST, to enhance effectiveness and efficiency in handling the rising number of cases of operational misconduct in the capital market.

According to her, the Tribunal will iron out operational challenges in the market by ensuring cases are handled effectively and efficiently, and decried the lack of cordial working relationship in the past administrations of the IST, while assuring that the current composition will do a good job.

She also acknowledged that members of the Tribunal faced various challenges due to lack of corporate governance, mistrust, and lacked good working relationships.

The investors therefore, suggested that the IST must collaborate with the judiciary in resolving capital market cases, and ensure that judgment is based on fairness.