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Operators seek govt’s intervention in SEC, Oando face-off

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Operators in the Nigerian capital market have called for urgent intervention of the Federal Government in the face-off between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Oando Plc.

They reacted in Lagos to the outcome of a forensic audit on Oando released by SEC on May 31, as well as a court injunction restraining SEC from sacking Oando’s Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO), Adewale Tinubu, and his deputy, Omomofe Boyo.

The operators applauded the courage of SEC’s Acting Director-General, Ms. Mary Uduk, in releasing the outcome of the forensic audit.

Following the outcome of the forensic audit, SEC on June 2, constituted an interim management team under the leadership of Mutiu Sunmonu for Oando Plc.

It said in a statement that Sunmonu would oversee the affairs the company and conduct an Extra Ordinary General Meeting (EGM) on or before July 1, to appoint new board of directors.

The commission said that the new board of directors would subsequently select a management team for Oando Plc.

However, a Federal High Court in Lagos on June 3, granted an interim injunction restraining SEC from executing the interim management in Oando.

The injunction followed an application filed by Tinubu and Boyo, who applied for the enforcement of their fundamental rights.

The court also restrained SEC from imposing a fine of N91.13 million on Tinubu, and barring him and Boyo from being directors of public companies for five years.

Ambrose Omorodion, the Chief Operating Officer, Invest Data Ltd., said that the Federal Government would need to intervene in the matter to safeguard investors’ confidence.

Omorodion said that the unfolding events between Oando and SEC could dampen investors’ confidence and tamper with Nigeria’s integrity.

He said that the international investment community was watching to see the manner the Oando issue would be handled.

He said: “The way SEC and government will handle this issue will go a long way to determine the success of the nation’s drive for financial inclusion and attraction of new retail investors and foreign investors returning to the market.”

Omorodion also urged the government to strengthen the commission by ensuring appointment of its board members soon.

He expressed disappointment that SEC had been operating without board for about four years and had been with an acting director-general for over a year.

Moses Igbrude, Publicity Secretary, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), alleged that shareholders had suffered enough loss in Oando with no dividend and poor market pricing.

Igbrude said that court injunction could lead to long legal battles which could further affect the company’s shares price on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

He urged the exchange to place the share price on technical suspension to protect investors from further loss.

The shareholder activist said that SEC should not allow its authority to be undermined if the outcome of the forensic audit was true.

He said: “I will appeal to whoever that is affected to obey the directives from SEC for the sake of our investments. Oando as a company has suffered enough of reputational risk, adding that shareholders, for a long time, have not been paid dividend.”

Boniface Okezie, National Chairman, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria (PSAN), said: “The grass suffers when two elephants fight.”

Okezie said that SEC and Oando must maintain the peace in the interest of all stakeholders, especially retail investors.

The PSAN boss, who commended the commission for protecting investors, said that SEC should also beam searchlight on other oil companies quoted on the exchange.

The National President, Constance Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Shehu Mikail, said that the SEC/Oando dispute needed a holistic approach to restore confidence.

“Oando saga is a big issue in the Nigerian capital market that needs a holistic approach if really we are going to adhere to the truth of corporate governance,” Mikali said.

He said that the action of SEC was in the right direction and aimed at protecting the interest of Oando shareholders.

“Foreign investors are watching the drama and local shareholders and stakeholders are also awaiting.

“The outcome of the saga would determine the direction of the capital market,” Mikali added.

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THE NATION

EU report: 2019 elections fair, Presidency insists

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Ahead of the 2023 elections, the European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria has called for a reform of the nation’s electoral process.

It stated that a lack of transparency and inconsistent numbers during the collation of results by the Independent National Elecoral Commission cast a long shadow over the integrity of the 2019 elections.

It has, therefore, presented 30 recommendations on electoral reform to improve future elections in the country.

The EU EOM final report on the 2019 elections was presented by the EU Chief Observer, Maria Arena, and her deputy, Hannah Roberts, at a press conference in Abuja on Saturday.

The report read in part, “The EU observed 94 collation centres. In almost all, the results forms and smart card readers were not packed in tamper-evident envelopes as required.

“Numerical discrepancies and anomalies on polling unit results forms were identified and were mostly corrected by collation officers on the spot, but without a clear system of record-keeping.”

It added, “Leading parties were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by their supporters, and abuse of incumbency at federal and state levels.”

“Inconsistent numbers during collation, “lack of clear checks and explanations, and insufficient public information undermined the integrity of the elections.

“Citizens did not have sufficient means to scrutinise results. INEC did not provide centralised information on the declared results for the different locations and has not posted complete results data on its website.

“Similarly, there is a lack of disaggregated results by local government, ward or polling unit, which would allow for thorough checking of results.”

The mission observed further that the discrepancies and the insufficient public information were not in line with international standards for access to information and public accountability.

It also noted that the citizens did not have sufficient means to scrutinise results, stressing that INEC did not provide centralised information on the declared results for the different elections.

The mission, in its recommendations, stressed the need to strengthen the procedures for the collation of results to improve integrity and confidence in electoral outcomes.

It submitted that the systemic failings seen in the elections, and the relatively low levels of voter participation, indicated the need for fundamental electoral reform.

Arena said, “Such reform needs political leadership that is dedicated to the rights of Nigerian citizens, and an inclusive process of national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society and the media. This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections.”

She also said INEC should considerably strengthen its organisational and operational capacity as well as its internal communication, noting that the inter-agency body responsible for electoral security should work more transparently and inclusively with regular consultations with political parties and civil society.

The mission said the the seven areas of priorities for electoral reform included requirements in law for full results transparency with data easily accessible to the public.

The EU EOM also called for the introduction of a legal requirement for parties to have a minimum representation of women among candidates, faulting the low number of female candidates for the polls.

It further recommended that election tribunals should cover pre-election cases in order to improve access to remedy and to avoid petitions being taken to different courts at the same time.

Overall, the EU EOM concluded that the elections were marked by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, security problems and low turnout.

It added, “Positively, however, the elections were competitive, parties were able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability. Leading parties were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by their supporters, and abuse of incumbency at federal and state levels.”

-PUNCH

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N2.8bn Fraud: Court admits more evidence against Ex-NAMA MD, Abdulsalam

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday tendered more evidence against Ibrahim Abdulsalam, a former Managing Director of the National Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, who is being prosecuted before Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos over an alleged N2.8bn fraud.

Abdulsalam is facing trial alongside Nnamdi Udoh (still at large), Adegorite Olumuyiwa, Segun Agbolade, Clara Aliche, Joy Ayodele Adegorite, Randville Investment Limited and Multeng Travels and Tours Limited for conspiring to induce NAMA to deliver the sum of N2.8 billion to Deposit Limited, Air Sea Delivery Limited and Sea Schedule Systems Limited under the pretext that the money represented the cost of clearing NAMA’s consignments.

One of the counts reads: “That you, Ibrahim Abdulsalam, Adegorite Olumuyiwa, Agbolade Segun, Clara Aliche, Joy Ayodele Adegorite, Randville Invesment Ltd And Multeng Travels And Tours Ltd, between the 1st day of January and the 30th day of December, 2015 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did commit an offence, to wit: conversion of the sum of N336,803,308 property of NAMA, which sum was derived from stealing, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”

At the resumed hearing today, a prosecution witness, Nurudeen Bello, told the court that the total sum of N2.8 billion was transferred from the Agency between 2013 and 2015 to different companies’ accounts for the personal use of the defendants.

Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, Bello, an investigator with the EFCC, told the court that “The money was transferred in tranches to Randville Investment Limited and was further disbursed to several companies’ accounts, including another different account owned by Randville Investment Limited.

“The companies that received part of the money included Multeng Travel and Tours, Multeng Engineering and Multeng Aviation, among others.

“N30 million was transferred to the account of a filling station belonging to the third defendant, Segun Agbolade, while N50 million was transferred to one Alaba Odunlami.”

In his further testimony, Bello also said that over N100m cash, mostly in tranches of N3m, were withdrawn from Randville by Agbolade.

Bello said the balance in the account of Randville before the fraud was perpetrated was N8.7 million, adding that “when the unlawful act was carried out, the credit turnover of Randville Investment Limited was N3.6billion while the debit turnover was also N3.6 billion.”

The prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, through the witness, sought to tender in evidence before the court the statements of the fourth defendant dated February 15, 16, 17, 18, 29 and March 12, 2016.

Oyedepo also sought to tender in evidence the statements of sixth defendant dated February 15, 18 and 22, 2016 as well as the statements of the fifth defendants dated February 24, 25, 29 and March 3, 2016. The statements were admitted in evidence by the court.

However, when the prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, sought to tender the statements of the first, second and third defendants, their counsels objected to the admissibility of the statements by the court.

Counsel to the first defendant, Etti Olawuni, objected to the admissibility of his client’s statements dated February 12 and March 6, 2016 on the grounds that they were not made voluntarily.

He therefore urged the court to conduct a trial within trial to verify the statements of his client.

Counsel to the seventh defendant also opposed to the admissibility of the statements of his client, saying, “the statements were purportedly made.”

He, therefore, also asked the court to conduct a trial within trial to verify the statements.

Also, counsel to the second defendant opposed the admissibility of the statements of his client on the grounds that the prosecution had failed to front- load the statements amongst the “proof of evidence”.

In response to the arguments of the defence counsels, Oyedepo told the court that the statements of the first defendant was taken voluntarily and that there were no confessional statements made by him that could warrant a trial within trial.

Regarding the second defendant’s statements, Oyedepo applied to make copies of the statements available to the defence counsel after the proceedings. His application was granted by the court.

However, Oyedepo admitted that the statements of the seventh defendant were contentious.

“I will not oppose the prayer of the defence counsel to the seventh defendant for trial within trial,” he said.

In his ruling, Justice Kuewumi held that “trial within trial shall be conducted to verify the statements of the seventh defendant”.

The Judge further held that he would need time to peruse the statements of the first defendant before ruling on it.

Consequently, Justice Kuewumi adjourned the case to June 14, 2019 for the commencement of trial within trial and also for ruling.

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Amnesty Programme beneficiaries ‘ll transform Nigeria’s economy – Osibanjo

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-L-R- Prof. Charles Quaker Dokubo, Coordinator Presidential Amnesty Programme , Mrs Lauren Braide, Representing the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Hon Agboola Ajayi, deputy governor, Ondo State and Madam Enetimi Evah Bunuzigha, CEO Ezonebi Centre at the Graduation Ceremony of Presidential Amnesty Programme delegates in Leather Works, Fashion Design and ICT, held in Lagos on Monday 10, June 2019.

…As 137 graduates get starter packs

Vice President Yemi Osibanjo said yesterday, that beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty Programme who have been trained in various skills and empowered in their respective trade areas will become the backbone of Nigeria’s economy.

He gave assurance that the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari will continue to work to create an enabling environment for beneficiaries of the programme to actualize their aspirations.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony for 137 beneficiaries held at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, the vice president told the graduates that there are opportunities for linkages with relevant agencies for loans, grants and technical support for their prospective businesses.

Osibanjo, who was represented at the occasion by a director in his office, Mrs. Lauren Braide, described the Amnesty Programme as a much-needed intervention developed and implemented as part of a larger developmental agenda for the Niger Delta region.

“I have no doubt that what you have learnt from this Programme will translate into significant personal and professional advancement for you and into great benefit for your communities and for the Nigerian economy as a whole. The kinds of skills you have acquired in this programme are the backbone, the engine of Nigeria’s economy. Without our artisans, our technicians, our small business people, Nigeria’s economy would be a vastly less productive one.

The Programme has made available start-up kits and packages for your use; ensure that you use them for the purpose for which they have been given to you. As you proceed from here, never forget that hard work and integrity are non-negotiable, and will make all the difference you seek. As fashion designers, leather workers and technology professionals, apart from your service skills, the most important asset you will have will be your reputation – for honesty, diligence and reliability”, he admonished.

The vice president reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to the full implementation of the New Vision for Niger Delta, an umbrella initiative aimed at fast-tracking the development of the region and ensuring that communities and people in the region benefit from the wealth of their land. “It is not mere rhetoric when I say that young people are at the heart of our vision for the Niger Delta”, Osibanjo emphasized.

Earlier in his opening remarks, Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme, Prof. Charles Dokubo, said henceforth, beneficiaries of the Programme will immediately be given starter packs at the end of their training for them to commence their businesses.

He noted that the 137 beneficiaries cutting across the entire Niger Delta region and are to receive their starter packs at the end of their graduation ceremony, were products of six months of meticulous and painstaking training in fashion and design, leather works, Information and Communication Technology.

“In my just over one year in office, the PAP has trained over 1, 500 delegates in vocational skills. In addition to the above, over 800 other delegates are undergoing various training programmes in about 20 qualified local training partners for duration of three to six months. The uniqueness of today’s graduation is that the delegates would receive instant empowerment. It is the first of its kind in the history of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.

It has been observed that from the inception of PAP that after completing their training, delegates would have to wait a considerable amount of time before being empowered. This basically is as a result of the tight budget within which the Programme operates. But we intend to make a statement here and change the narrative. Be that as it may, over 1,200 delegates have been empowered during my tenure”, Dokubo disclosed.

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