By Modupe Gbadeyanka
South-South Coordinator of the Oando Shareholders Solidarity Group (OSSG), Mr Clement Ebitimi, has expressed worry over the state of affairs in Oando Plc.
Mr Ebitimi, in a statement this week, pointed out it was on this backdrop he led some shareholders to the protest that took place on Monday, September 11, 2017 during the company’s 40th Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Ibom Hall in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
In the statement, Mr Ebitimi faulted claims by the former National Coordinator of the Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Sir Sunday Nwosu, that they were paid to disrupt the meeting.
According to him, “We were in the hall when we started our agitation but because we did not want to disrupt the meeting, we heeded appeals to move to the entrance so the whole world can see our agitation. The same Nwosu was one of those who came to beg us.
“We all know Nwosu is a paid agent sent to discredit our genuine expression of discontent with the state of affairs of Oando Plc.
“If we had wanted to disrupt the meeting, no one could have stopped us. Not even Nwosu and his other paid agents who are supposed to fight for the rights of shareholders but who have become sponsored agents of the management of the company.”
Mr Ebitimi noted that Monday’s protest at the AGM was a way of expressing their displeasure with situations in the leading Nigerian oil firm, describing their action as legitimate.
“We read series of newspaper reports and petitions, which showed that all was not well with the company. The issue is that the values of the shares of our members have been eroded by more than 80 per cent in recent times.
“The company has consistently reported losses over the past three years and has failed to pay dividends, yet the executives are increasing remuneration, acquiring choice properties and buying private jets.
“It doesn’t matter how much shares we have in the company. Even if it is 1,000 shares, we are bonafide shareholders and we refuse to be suppressed.
“Our members are bonafide shareholders of Oando. After the protest and assurances that our grievances would be addressed, we went back into the hall to continue the meeting,” Mr Ebitimi said in the statement.
However, at the AGM this week, hundreds of shareholders of Oando Plc, who attended the 40th AGM of the company, expressed confidence in the leadership style the Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Wale Tinubu, and his team, voting unanimously to retain him and the Board of Directors.
Chairman of the board, Oba Michael Gbadebo, however, said at the event that the firm was going through a period of restructuring resulting from the prevailing global crisis in the oil and gas sector.
He added that despite the challenges, the company was on course towards becoming Africa’s most respected oil and gas company.
“As we pursue our vision to be the most respected African oil and gas company, we are experiencing a period of restructuring for sustained growth.
“We will continue on our aggressive reduction of debt to create a platform for long term profitability while driving growth via our dollar denominated upstream and downstream trading businesses.”
Before the meeting, there had been an attempt to cancel it, but the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finally said the event could go on as planned.
This followed an interim report submitted by the Special Task Team set up by the capital market regulator, giving the firm the approval to carry on with the AGM.
SEC had received petitions from two shareholders of Oando; Dahiru Manga and Ansbury Inc, requesting that the event be suspended due to alleged gross financial misconduct.
But in a letter dated Thursday, August 31, 2017, which SEC wrote to Oando, it said, “Following the submission of an interim report by the Special Task Team, the Commission is of the opinion that it is unable to identify any material findings that would warrant the postponement of the Company’s 40th Annual General Meeting (AGM) scheduled to hold on September 11, 2017. Consequently, Oando PLC can proceed with its 40th AGM as currently scheduled.”
According to speculations, both petitioners were making efforts to remove Mr Wale Tinubu as the Group Chief Executive Officer of Oando Plc.
One of the petitioners, Mr Dahiru Manga, is believed to currently hold shares worth $250 million or 17 percent stake in the company, but allegedly wanted Mr Tinubu out by all means.
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