By Innocent Anaba

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has adjourned till July 22, 2010, for billionaire businessman, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, to appear in court to show cause why he should not be committed to prison for disobeying an order of court, by continuing to parade himself as the President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, despite an order of court, nullifying his election to the position. Also joined as respondents in the contempt proceedings are Dangote, Prof Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke and Mrs Josephine Igbinosun,  Director General and Secretary of NSE, respectively.

Trial judge in the matter, Justice J. Tsoho, similarly ordered that the contempt proceedings initiated against they alleged contemnour should be served on them through substituted service,  by same being advertised in national dallies.

It will be recalled that another judge, Justice Lambo Akanbi, had on March 12, 2010, nullified the election of Dangote as the President and Chairman of the Council of NSE. The nullification was sequel to  an application by some aggrieved shareholders of African Petroleum, AP,  Plc against Dangote’s election, who had argued that after a court had on August 4, 2009, ordered parties  to maintain status quo in a suit they brought, challenging Dangote’s membership of the Council of NSE, who sat as a council member in the AP share manipulation matter, the NSE went ahead and conducted its election on August 2009, at which Dangote emerged the President. 

But following an ex-parte application by counsel to the AP shareholders, Mr Onyebuchi Aniakor, who brought Form 49, notice of consequence to disobedience to court order, and also sought to serve same processes through substituted serve, Justice Tsoho granted same.

The Form 49 read, “the applicants will apply to this court for an order for your committal to prison for having neglected to obey the order of this court, made on March 12, 2010, nullifying, vacating and setting aside all steps taken by the Nigerian Stock Exchange Ltd/GTE in the purporting to elect the 11th defendant, Alhaji Dangote as President of NSE, including but not limited to the entire purported election held on August 6, 2009, during the pendency of this suit and in disregard of the possitive order of this court made on August 4, 2009.

Justice Tsoho in his order said, “it is hereby ordered that there shall be substituted service of the plaintiffs/applicants motion for an order to show cause dated July 6, 2010 together with the accompanied processes on the respondents herein by publication in at least two national newspapers and that such service be deemed good and sufficient service of same.”

Further the court ordered, “the matter stands adjourned to July 22 for notice to show cause.” The applicants had averred in an affidavit in support of the contempt proceedings, that this court, made an order on March 12, 2010, nullifying, vacating and setting aside all steps taken by NSE in the purporting to elect Alhaji Dangote as President of the NSE, including but not limited to the entire purported election held on August 6, 2009, during the pendency of this suit and in disregard of the possitive order of this court made on August 4, 2009.

“Notwithstanding the said order made in the presence of parties and counsel, and a certified true copy served on Dangote and the NSE, rather than comply with the said order, Dangote has continued to parade himself and has actively been encouraged, urged on and/or permitted and allowed particularly by Prof Okereke-Onyiuke and Mrs Igbinosun, to parade himself as President of NSE,” they averred.

According to the plaintiffs, “on July 2010, Dangote was reported in the national dallies not only to have presided over a meeting of the Council of NSE on June 29, 2010, but equally, in company of Prof  Okereke-Onyiuke, proceeded to receive the Governor of Bayelsa State, in NSE Council Chambers as President of NSE on June 30, 2010 and we believe that the conduct of the respondents is disgraceful of this court and amount to contempt of court and it is in substantial interest of justice that each of the respondents are committed to prison until they purge themselves of their contemptuous conduct.”

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