In a decisive response to the technical suspension of the trading of its shares and proposed forensic audit of the company’s affairs, Oando Plc has fought back, obtaining an ex-parte order from the Federal High Court, to restrain the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and any other party working on their behalf from effecting the directive of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to implement a technical suspension of the shares of the Company pending the hearing and determination of the matter.
The order also restrains the SEC and any other parties claiming through or working on behalf of the regulator from conducting any forensic audit into the affairs of the Company pending the hearing and determination of the matter.
The SEC had on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, issued a public notice stating amongst other things that it had issued a directive to the NSE for a full suspension in the trading of Oando shares for a period of 48 hours followed by a technical suspension until further directed and; announced that a forensic audit into the affairs of the Company be conducted by a team of independent professional firms.
Oando, in its official statement signed by its Chief Compliance Officer & Company Secretary, Ayotola Jagun,described the SEC’s directives as illegal and invalid, and one calculated to prejudice the business of the Company.
The company noted that in view of the development, the NSE and the SEC are legally obliged to comply with the interim orders pending the substantive determination of the suit.
Jagun added Oando found it necessary to go to court for the several reasons.
The statement reads in part: “Having declared to the public that it has acted drastically to suspend the shares of Oando PLC due to its “weighty” findings in the course of its investigations, SEC then concludes that a forensic audit is necessary in order to investigate whether its findings are true. This is a clear contradiction.
“How did the SEC arrive at its findings if it cannot be sure of the veracity or otherwise of those findings and how did it ascribe the appropriate level of weight to be given to those findings, enough to warrant an immediate suspension followed by a technical suspension of the shares of the Company, if those findings are still mere allegations at this point.
“The Company has fully co-operated with the SEC since the commencement of this investigation in May 2017 and provided all information requested. It is evident that submissions made to the SEC have not been duly considered due to the conclusions reached and actions taken, as all of the matters raised have been responded to in great detail with all supporting documents requested by the SEC. The Company repeatedly, through its Chairman, requested an audience with the SEC to enable it present its case before the Commission but to date, no invitation has been extended to the Company.
“Each of the alleged infractions has a penalty as prescribed by the respective provisions of the ISA, SEC Code, SEC Rules and Regulations, NSE Listing Rules and CAMA; none of them whether singularly or together warrants the suspension of free trading in the securities of the Company or the institution of a forensic audit.”
In addition, the statement noted that “the latest actions taken by the SEC are prejudicial to the business of the Company as it would hinder the ability of the Company to enter into new business transactions and affect the confidence that existing stakeholders (lenders, JV Partners, Vendors etc.) have in transacting business with the Company. The Company has received numerous queries from critical stakeholders, including its lenders as a result of the SEC’s actions and an indefinite technical suspension of its shares as well as an open-ended forensic audit will negatively impact the ability of the Company to conduct its day-to-day business and meet the expectations of all its stakeholders.
“By two letters dated August 24th and August 28th the Chairman of Oando petitioned the DG of the SEC alleging bias and lack of due process in the way and manner in which the SEC has conducted this investigation. The current action by the SEC, despite its internal findings, confirms that the SEC appears to be working to its own conclusion rather than looking at the facts before it and acting in the best interests of the Company and the minority shareholders whom it claims it seeks to protect.”
Oando also accused SEC of bias stating that in its most recent communication to the Group Chief Executive (GCE) dated October 17, 2017, the SEC unilaterally qualified one of the petitioners, Ansbury Inc. as a Whistleblower despite the fact that Ansbury brought its petition to the SEC as an indirect “shareholder” of the Company.
According to the statement, the Company had from the date of its earliest communication to the SEC on this matter, challenged both the legal capacity of Ansbury to bring a petition against the Company and the SEC’s jurisdiction to consider the petition.
“This is because, Ansbury is not in fact a shareholder of the Company and furthermore, there is an on-going arbitration in the United Kingdom in respect of its indirect investment in the Company. Under the SEC’s Complaints Management Framework it shall not consider any matter which is currently in arbitration. The unilateral and arbitrary re-classification by the SEC of the basis upon which Ansbury wrote its petition at this late stage is at odds with accepted principles of fairness and due process. It is also difficult to understand how Ansbury can be a whistle-blower when the information and allegations contained in its petition were obtained from the publicly disclosed 2016 Audited Financial Statements of Oando and based on Ansbury’s own interpretation of those financial statements.”
To further prove that SEC gave the petitioners undue advantage, Oando noted that the two petitioners, Alhaji Dahiru Mangal and Ansbury Inc. were copied on the SEC’s most recent communication to the Company’s GCE on October 17, 2017.
“It is unheard of and prejudicial to our case for petitioners to be copied on correspondence to the investigated party on findings yet to be concluded. Throughout this investigation, at no point has the SEC copied the Company in its correspondence to the petitioners. We are concerned that the petitioners have been given undue access to what ought to be strictly confidential information between ourselves and the SEC to the detriment of the Company,” the statement read.
Oando also objected to the forensic audit due to its cost implication. It described N160, 000,000.00 for the forensic audit which is to be borne by the Company is onerous, unnecessary and irresponsible in light of the above submissions and not the best use of shareholder funds at this time.
“It is our position that the SEC has not presented a strong case to support either the directive to suspend free trading in the shares of the Company or the engagement of a Forensic Auditor to conduct an audit into the affairs of the Company. The Company’s response to each of the alleged findings made by the SEC are stated in the following link.
“The Company reserves the exercise of its full legal rights in the protection of the Company’s business and assets whilst remaining committed to act in the best interests of all its shareholders,” the company said.
Jim Ovia: Garlands To ‘Grandfather’ Of Banking
Though of noble birth, Mr. Jim Ovia, the pioneer Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc and current chairman of its board realized early in life that having blue blood in one’s veins wasn’t enough ticket to guarantee stardom in one’s chosen endeavor and opted for the narrow path? And unlike the present dispensation in the country whereby desperation for materialism has dwarfed the age tested virtues of honesty and dignity in labor, Ovia, apparently due his strict upbringing in the royal court imbibed integrity and hardwork holding the attributes firmly as master keys that will unlock all doors in his life journey.
Little wonder therefore that the topmost banker who will clock 68 on Monday November 4th has attained not only the pinnacle of his chosen career –banking but regarded as an exceptional role model to many upcoming Nigerians especially those with eyes on business.
He is also reputed to be a reference point on philanthropy. Indeed his distinguished attainments also in business, as motivational speaker, writer and in the information technology communication, ICT remains a classic example of someone who waded through life journey from grass to grace.
A prince, Jim Ovia was born on the 4th of November, 1951 to Obi Olihe of Agbor-Obi, one of the most revered royal fathers in Agbor Kingdom, Delta State , attended Ika Grammar School, Bojiboji-Owa for his secondary education before traveling to the United States for the proverbial golden fleece, where he had his tertiary education.
While there, he bagged a B.Sc. degree in Business Administration from Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and later Master’s degree in Business Administration from University of Louisiana, Monroe. He is also an alumnus of Harvard Business School.
Ovia admitted that he was encouraged to venture into his course of study by his uncle and thereafter resolved to excel in his chosen career, adding that his golden rule since then has been ‘honesty and integrity’. “Always honour contracts: it is very important to be of tremendous integrity.
Those who try to take shortcuts will always fail’’ he declared in one of his famous quotes. No doubt, his life philosophy above has a fundamental backing of American billionaire Warren Buffet who maintained that three attributes: intelligence, energy and integrity are a must for any one aspiring to be an achiever with integrity not negotiable.
For him, without integrity the other two attributes are useless. Rather than stay back in the U. S. to savour the vast opportunities, Ovia upon graduating, returned to his fatherland, joined Union Bank for his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), and worked in Lion Bank where he rose to the position of branch manager in Lagos.
He later joined International Merchant Bank (IMB) in 1980 rising from financial analyst to bank manager from where he moved to Merchant Bank of Africa. And following an unblemished career in the affected banks coupled with the experience garnered, he alongside some investors established Zenith Bank in May 1990 after the administration of former military president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida deregulated the banking sector.
As prime mover of the financial institution, he became the pioneer managing director and chief executive officer of the bank, a position he held for 20 years before resigning his position in July 2010. But four years later and given his track record of service, he was appointed the chairman of the bank. It is on record that under his leadership, Zenith Bank grew in leaps and bounds thus first becoming a Public Limited Company, Plc in 2001 before it got listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE) as well as the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
Significantly, on April 27, 2007, Zenith Bank Plc became the first Nigerian bank in 25 years to be licensed by the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA), giving birth to Zenith Bank UK Limited and also with subsidiaries in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, South Africa and China. Truly and like the biblical mustard seed, the bank which was established with a capital of just N20m some 29 years ago with currently over 500 branches nationwide and thousands of employees announced recently that its total assets stood at N5.97 trillion as at end of September this year.
Perhaps Ovia’s humility and disciplined background has made him to distance himself from public space and one who doesn’t like blowing his own trumpet. For instance he sees the flourishing story of Zenith Bank as not due to his financial wizardry but borne out of vision and a passion to make it a reality. ‘’You can build an app or a company or a product or service, I happened to build a bank’’, he noted while speaking on his business secrets. The foremost banker also has interests in real estate; Information Communication Technology, ICT; founded Cyberspace Network Limited one of the pioneers of internet services in the country as well as Visafone Communications Limited, a Nigerian wireless network provider, a company that has been acquired by MTN.
As an author, Ovia in September 2018 published his first book, an autobiography ‘Africa Rise and Shine’ containing his business success secrets and how he was able to create one of Africa’s largest banks. Recognizing the fundamental role that sound education played in his life success and the need to offer a helping hand to the less privileged members of society, he established Jim Ovia Foundation, a non-profit organization with the aim of investing in the African youth’s ‘unlimited and untapped potential as the key to socio-economic growth’ convinced that such gesture will not only enhance the standard of living of the society but improve the nation’s economy.
Described as the ‘Godfather of Banking’ by Forbes Africa, the philanthropist has similarly invested a fortune on humanitarian work through the Jim Ovia Foundation comprising of four arms: The James Hope College, Jim Ovia Scholarship, Jim Ovia ICT Entrepreneurs Programme and Empower Youth Programme with over 1,500 students said to have benefitted from university scholarships since October 2010, and empowered over 3,500 students and entrepreneurs since its inception. A man of many parts and one who has bagged numerous laurels, Ovia is a recipient of the national honour of Commander of Order of the Federal Republic, OFR.
As a true patriot and in deference to public opinion, Ovia recently withdrew from the World Economic Forum (WEF) that held in South Africa even though he was already at the event, following the uproar that trailed the xenophobic attacks on some Nigerians and other black foreign nationals by rampaging youths. As one analyst noted, Nigeria will attain greater heights in no distant future if most of her prosperous citizens emulate Ovia’s philanthropy especially his passion for developing the human capital through scholarships to youths from less privilege background.
* Imonikhe, former editor Daily Champion, writes from Lagos
Folake Ani-Mumuney Hits Another Feat, Clinches Lifetime Award In Ghana
Folake Ani-Mumuney, Chairperson, FBNInsurance Brokers; Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications, First Bank of Nigeria Limited and Vice President, World Federation of Advertisers yesterday in faraway Ghana, clinched the Lifetime Achievement awards.
The Marketing World Awards (MWA) recognizes outstanding performances by individuals and corporate bodies across the marketing communications industry in Africa that have delivered superior product values to the market and exhibited excellence in upholding concrete marketing strategies, display uniqueness and among offerings, convey clear message to its consumers and stand out from the competition will be rewarded and celebrated.
Folake is widely admired for her wit and intelligence which she brings to bear in her well over 25 years career in the world of marketing communications across various industries, having worked in different geographies globally.
IWEC Foundation Appoints FirstBank’s Ibukun Awosika As New President Of It’s Board Of Directors
November 8, 2019. New York, NY.
The International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Foundation (IWEC) has announced the appointment of Ibukun Awosika to their Board of Directors as its New President. Awosika is the Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s Premier and Leading financial services provider.
Mrs. Awosika was elected to replace Miguel Valls, former president of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and president of the IWEC Foundation, who passed away last month. “The Foundation is very excited to announce the appointment of our new president,” stated Ruth A. Davis, IWEC Chairwoman and distinguished former U.S. Ambassador. “Ibukun Awosika has been a solid, steady presence at IWEC since its inception, and she is also a past IWEC awardee. Ibukun has not missed one IWEC Conference since 2008 and has lent her voice and experience not only to our conferences, but to our meetings after joining our Board in 2017. We are delighted that our Board of Directors voted on her appointment, and we’ll introduce her as our president at our upcoming 12th Annual IWEC Foundation Conference in New Delhi, on November 10th.”
The Foundation’s 2019 Conference will focus on “Connecting Women Businesses Globally: Leading the Way to Innovation and Integration”. The event would be hosted locally by the FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO) of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), which represents over 5000 women entrepreneurs and professionals across India. This year, IWEC welcomes 39 awardees from 18 countries, with a combined revenue of over US$5.7 billion among all awardees to date.
IWEC Foundation Vice Chair, Carmen Castillo, CEO of SDI International, adds: “Ibukun has demonstrated a significant commitment to IWEC over the years. Her breadth of knowledge extends from being an entrepreneur running ?SOKOA Chair Centre Limited, to overseeing the board of directors for the renowned First Bank of Nigeria Limited. We are looking forward to her wise counsel and to continuously drive IWEC globally as a source of support, connection and impact for women business owners all over the world.”
Ibukun Awosika heads Nigeria’s premier bank, and she is also the founder and CEO of the Chair Centre Group, an association of large companies in the manufacturing, retail, and financial security services. Mrs. Awosika further holds seats in the corporate boards of Cadbury Nigeria, Digital Jewel Limited and the Convention on Business Integrity, and she is a former chair of several other enterprise boards.
Ibukun is a graduate of Chemistry from University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Nigeria, an alumna of the Chief Executive Program of Lagos Business School, the Global Executive MBA of IESE Business School, Wharton’s Global CEO Program, and the IESE and China European International Business School (CEIBS). Ibukun is a multiple award-winning entrepreneur and the first Nigerian recipient of the prestigious International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) Award as a nominee of the US Department of State in 2008. Ibukun is also a best-selling author and motivational speaker.
Ibukun was just honoured last month with the International Friendship Award presented at the IESE Business School by the Queen of Spain.
About the IWEC Foundation
IWEC is a New York-based international economic empowerment organization exclusively for women business owners, formed in 2007 with the assistance of the U.S. Department of State. In addition to the State Department, its founders include the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce (MCC), FICCI/FLO Chamber in New Delhi. IWEC’s mission is to develop a global business network for successful women entrepreneurs, helping them gain and expand access to international markets by presenting a platform to exchange knowledge, experience and connections, and to promote dialogue among women entrepreneurs and business leaders throughout the world.
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