‘Investments, Securities Tribunal adopts cost-effective approach to dispense justice’
Dr Ngozi Chinakwalam is the Chairman and Chief Judge of the Investment and Securities Tribunal (IST), the organisation established by the Federal Government to adjudicate on matters concerning the capital market. At the first stakeholders’ workshop of the tribunal held in Lagos, Justice Chianakwalam used the opportunity to explain the mandate of her tribunal and its challenges, among other issues. NIKE SOTADE was there.
WHAT is the mandate of the Investments and Securities Tribunal?
The IST is a specialized fast-track civil court dedicated to the resolution of cases arising from Investments and Securities Transactions. It was established pursuant to Section 274 of the Investments and Securities Act 2007 and was constituted and formally inaugurated on December 19, 2012. It is a fall-out of the recommendations of the late Denise Odife’s panel set up to review the operations of the Capital Market, and bring about the needed reform in line with global best practice. The panel saw the necessity for a specialised court that is responsive to the time sensitive nature of the Capital Market.
What is the vision of the tribunal?
The Tribunal has a vision to be a world class Capital Market Tribunal that is fair and transparent, dispensing justice without fear or favour. This vision is in tandem with the Tribunal’s overriding objective which includes inter-alia: to deal with cases fairly and justly by providing reliable, informed, expedient, flexible and affordable dispute settlement mechanisms proportionate to the complexity of the issues and resources of the parties and ensuring equal footing of the parties.
The Tribunal’s proceedings accord litigants a more relaxed merit-based dispute resolution platform which is devoid of the usual technicalities prevalent in the regular courts.
Furthermore, and in view of its mandate to determine cases brought before it within three months from the commencement of the hearing of the substantive suit pursuant to the provisions of section 289 (5) of the Investments and Securities Act 2007, the Tribunal adopts a flexible, time responsive and cost effective approach in the handling of matters before it.
Kindly recap some achievements of the tribunal so far.
One of the cases that were mentioned during the workshop is one of the landmark cases. It dealt with non-executive directors and their responsibility, the culpability in case of any infraction. The other achievement is moving into our personal building in Abuja. When I resumed in 2013, one of the challenges we had was that we were in two different offices in Abuja at very exorbitant rates and you know landlords and the way they keep increasing the rent every year. So we said the best thing was to see what we could do. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) gave us a grant, the then Minister of State for Finance requested that they assist us and the grant was supposed to clear the rent for about three years. So when we got the money, I said if this money can get us our own space, it would be better for us. It was a cost-saving mechanism and we approached the Ministry of Works to help us. Then we got the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC); that was at the beginning of the year and by the grace of God, we were able to move in this year. The FEC also mandated the FCT Minister to give us land, where we would build our own befitting purpose-built structure for IST. We are looking forward to the new Minister of FCT helping us to get land as well as the Ministry of Finance assisting us to build a befitting place for our Courts.
What are some of the challenges of the tribunal?
That was part of the sensitization that we did and we talked about whether our Constitution should be amended or whether a fresh bill should be presented or both. And then we also looked at whether we should be an independent agency or whether we should still be under the Ministry of Finance, where we are now. These are all options that we have now and it is very important that the status of IST be secured in the role it plays in adjudication in Nigeria. At the same time, we need to be careful about where we really want to be. Do we want to be in the Judiciary or the executive arm of government, we have to understand which one would serve the purpose? So in that case, we would set up a work group that would work on it. I have had discussions with the Honourable Minister of Finance and she is also of the view that this should be resolved as soon as possible.
I have also discussed with the chairman of the Capital Market Committee of the House of Representatives and the Chairman Capital Market Committee of the Senate. All of them are of the view that this is important and it has been a long while that we have been talking about this. Even the Vice-President, who is a lawyer, has handled cases in the Investment and Securities Tribunal and he is very familiar with our court and he is desirous of having the bill presented. Now that everyone is anxious to get that bill passed, we are really going to work on it and I believe that this would be the focus in the New Year. There would be limited challenge to the Jurisdiction of the Tribunal once the Bill is passed and the Constitution is in place.
Right now, the position of the Law is that after Judgment, the person who wants to enforce the law has to go to the Federal High Court and register our judgment there. This is part of what the new work group would look at and part of what would be in the new amended ACT. This means that IST should be able to enforce its judgment. If someone commits contempt of court before us, there is not much we can do. You can’t really try the person but in a regular court, if anyone commits contempt of Court, you should be able to summarily try the person. Some people were even talking about having criminal as well as civil jurisdiction but I do not know how that would work out for now. However, these are part of the things that we are looking at and we would look at everything holistically.
At the same time, the Vision 2020 committee recommended that the jurisdiction of the IST should be expanded to include all the financial services. To include the Banking and Insurance Act, that all financial institutions should come under the jurisdiction of the IST. The work group would also look at the recommendation of the Vision 2020 committee and see if it is plausible or not. That means that the qualification of the judges must also be expanded.
Some people are of the opinion that lawyers contribute to part of the problems in the sector. How valid is this observation?
Yes, most times the case is not a good one. So instead of taking the case, advise your client about this the lawyers do not do this. Most times, by not doing the right thing, they deny the actual person who should get justice. What they usually do is to delay the case by making frivolous applications or claiming that the tribunal does not have jurisdiction and things like that. And, when you say that the tribunal has jurisdiction, they would just go and appeal and the substantive matter that they brought would not be heard. That is why we inserted a section in our amended Rules that is now in use since September 2014.That rule says that if you have such a preliminary objection raise it and incorporate it in your final objection, so that the tribunal would look at everything holistically.
What is the idea behind the workshop that you had?
One of the key performance indexes of the IST is that we must have at least three enlightenment workshops in a year. For some time now, we have not been able to do this because of lack of funds and non-budgetary provision for the organization. We have not been able to have such workshops for a while and if you look at the course of events that has unfolded throughout the year and resulted in the delay in knowing the way forward.
So we said that the best thing to do was to end the year with a workshop, particularly in Lagos where we have most of our stakeholders, so that by 2016 this would give us a sense of direction and know where we are going to take off from for the year. Now that the economy is quite down, the performance of the capital market has gone down a lot. We, therefore, thought that we should also share some enlightenment with them.
One of the indexes for measuring a capital market is its conflict resolution mechanism which many countries do not have. IST is a trail blazer in the market especially in Africa and other emerging markets.
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