By Innocent Anaba
LAGOSâ€”A FRESH petition by counsel to Alhaji Aliko Dangote, whose election as president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, was nullified, weekend, by a Federal High Court in Lagos, yesterday, stalled further hearing in the suit.
At the resumed hearing in the matter by some shareholders of African Petroleum Plc, who are challenging Dangoteâ€™s membership of the council of NSE, which sat over AP Plc shares manipulation case, the trial judge, Justice Lambo Akanbi, said he was adjourning the case to reply to the fresh petition, which he said the Chief Judge, Justice Dan Abutu, only called his attention to, Monday night.
Earlier, Dangoteâ€™s counsel, Mrs. Fola Sowemimo, told the court that she had filed an appeal and application for stay of execution of last Fridayâ€™s ruling, and had also written the Chief Judge, requesting the transfer of the case to another judge.
But at that point, the judge said that what was sent to the CJ, was a petition. He said: â€œI was just informed by the CJ yesterday night (Monday), that there has been a petition against me by Chief Sowemimo (Dangoteâ€™s lead counsel). I have not seen the petition yet. But as this appears to be the second petition against the second judge in the case, as the suit was transferred to me on the strength of an earlier petition by the same Chief Sowemimo, I feel that out of respect to the CJ, that I should keep the matter in abeyance until I see the copy of the petition from the CJ to enable me react appropriately.â€
In his reaction, counsel to the shareholders, Mr. Onyebuchi Aniakor, said: â€œI was surprised that Dangoteâ€™s counsel has come to inform the court that they had filed an appeal and an application for stay. They also claimed to have applied for a transfer of this matter, none of which has been served on us.â€
He added: â€œthis has become more of a tradition that Chief Sewemimo would send correspondences to the CJ without copying us. This was the case with the first petition, which brought this matter to this court, which we only learnt of through the dailies. In any event, since neither the appeal nor stay has been served on us, it remains a hear-say, which cannot be noted.â€
Earlier petition by Dangote’s counsel
The court consequently adjourned the matter till March 29, 2010 for mention.
It will be recalled that following an earlier petition by Dangoteâ€™s counsel, the matter was withdrawn from Justice Mohammed Limah and re-assigned to Justice Akanbi. But following last Fridayâ€™s ruling by the court, which nullified Dangoteâ€™s election as NSE president, a fresh petition was written against the judge, the second petition so far in the matter, each against the judges hearing the matter.
Vanguard gathered that the fresh petition had complained that the new judge, having been transferred out of Lagos, ought not to have heard the matter, in which he had already made an order, nullifying Dangoteâ€™s election.
Even before Justice Akanbi took over the matter, counsel to Dangote had tried to stop the court from hearing the application to set aside the election of Dangote, which the share holders brought immediately the election was held in defiance of the court order of August 4, 2009, with no success.
The shareholders are, meanwhile, calling on the CJ to allow the judge to continue with the matter, as the petitions were meant to delay hearing in the matter.