Oyedepo contests court jurisdiction in suit over N9b stock market deal
A Federal High Court, Lagos has further reserved ruling till May 27, 2015, on the preliminary objection filed by the founder, Living Faith Church, popularly known as Winners Chapel, Bishop David Oyedepo, against the N1.86 billion claim by a stock broking firm.
The firm, Valueline Securities and Investment Limited and its Managing Director, Samuel Enyinnaya, had sued Oyedepo for alleged breach of contract in a N9 billion stock market deal.
Also joined in the claim are Oyedepo’s family, his book publishing company, the Winners’ Chapel and the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). The plaintiffs are particularly accusing the NSE of being biased in its investigations into the N9 billion business dispute.
They are praying the court to declare as illegal the freezing of their bank accounts by NSE, and to make an order to immediately unfreeze the accounts. But Oyedepo, through his counsel, Mr. Chioma Okwuanyi, had urged the court to discountenance the plaintiffs’ claims and to decline jurisdiction over the case which was a fallout of capital market transaction.
The ruling on the objection was, however, adjourned for the third time till May 27, the parties having filed and moved their final written addresses since February 26. In the three-ground preliminary objection, Okwuanyi argued that by the provisions of Section 34 of the Investment and Securities Act, only the Investment and Securities Tribunal has the vested authority to entertain a dispute between a capital market operator and his client and not a Federal High Court, to which the plaintiff has brought the matter.
The lawyer further argued that the plaintiffs’ suit, as presently constituted before Justice Mohammed Yunusa, was premature, as they were yet to explore all the avenues laid down to resolve such a dispute before heading for the court.
“My Lord, what we are saying is that, going by the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs, they have said that this issue is a simple contract relating to investment portfolio management and our contention is that issues of simple contracts are never within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court. “Also, going by the Clause 14 of the Investment Management Agreement, this matter as presently constituted, is premature .
What Clause 14 prescribes is that parties would resort to arbitration to resolve all disputes. “My Lord, Section 251 of the Constitution does not donate jurisdiction to this court in respect of capital market.
We therefore urge your Lordship to uphold our objection and to strike out this suit or refer the case to the Investment and Securities Tribunal or to arbitration,” Okwuanyi had submitted.
In its own objection, the NSE, through its counsel, Mr. M.O. Liadi, contended that the plaintiffs ought to have approached the NSE Council to ventilate their grievances rather than approach the Federal High Court.
“Given the complaints of the plaintiffs against the decision of the applicant, the plaintiffs ought to have approached the applicant’s council and if still unsatisfied, the plaintiff is obliged to proceed to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
If still unsatisfied, by the provisions of Sections 284 and 289 of the Investment and Securities Act, the plaintiffs are permitted to proceed to the tribunal. We submit that the plaintiffs have failed to do this.”
But counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN), urged the court to assume jurisdiction and to dismiss the defendants’ preliminary objection for being irregular and for failing to comply with the court’s rules.