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Revealed: How Oando saga consumed 2 SEC DGs

* Market stakeholders raise eyebrows over non-release of probe panel’s report
* Why ex-acting SEC DG was demoted – Finance Minister
The ongoing saga between Oando Plc, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) has caught yet another leader of the commission in its fangs.

Speaking with our correspondent at the weekend, a prominent market stakeholder explained that the decision taken by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun on Friday to demote the Ex-Acting Director General of SEC, Mr. Abdul Zubair, might not be unconnected with last week’s lifting, reinstatement and re-lifting of the suspension placed on Oando’s shares six months ago.

The Daily Times recalls that the preceding SEC DG, Mr. Mounir Gwarzo, had also been suspended following his ordering of a probe into allegations of insider dealings and ownership structure of Oando Plc.

The probe undertaken by independent auditing firm, Deloitte, is under way with details yet to be revealed, hence the apprehension in the market when the suspension of the shares were lifted last week.

An inside source also disclosed that although the SEC said the lifting of the trade suspension was subject to suits filed against the commission, market players are aware of the foregoing underlying facts, but investors are happy and that it is causing a price appreciation in the oil firm’s stocks.

Recall that Oando Plc’s shares traded for the first time on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 after six months of technical suspension.

The shares which opened at N5.99, gained 91 kobo and closed the week at N6.90 per share.

The NSE had placed Oando’s stock on suspension since October 20, 2017, following directive from the Securities and Exchange Commission and pending the outcome of a probe on Insider dealings and shareholding structure of the oil firm.

The lifting of suspension lon Wednesday thus raised eyebrows from market stakeholders as no outcome of the probe being carried out by Deloitte had been announced and more importantly because a statement from the SEC (who according to NSE initially approved the suspension to be lifted) re- ordered the reversal of the lift and a return to October 20 status quo.

The NSE however re-instated the suspension for the remaining trading hours on Wednesday, but said it had resolved the suspension issue in the interest of investors and commenced trading in Oando’s shares on Thursday.

Speaking on the portfolio reassignment at the SEC, the source said the decision to re-align the SEC management positions was to demote Zubair, especially given the fact that other executives were elevated to acting Commissioner capacities.

Adeosun had on Friday, April 13, 2018, approved the reassignment of portfolios in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The Finance ministry oversees the SEC in its duties as the regulator of the capital market.

In a letter signed by Oluyinka Akintunte, Special Adviser, Media & Communications to the Minister of Finance, Federal Ministry of Finance, the minister who redeployed the former acting Director-General of the Commission, Abdul Zubair, to External Relations Department, said the appointments of a new DG in person of Mrs. Mary Udduk had become necessary to ensure effective regulation of the Capital Market.

“Her appointment will, subject to satisfactory performance, subsist until further notice,” the letter noted

Also reassigned were Reginald C. Karawusa, Acting Executive Commissioner, Legal & Enforcement; Isiyaku Tilde, Acting Executive Commissioner, Operations; and Henry Roland Adekunle, Acting Executive Commissioner, Corporate Services.

The Federal Ministry of Finance said the recent communications between the SEC and NSE had adversely impacted market confidence and in the letter to SEC, requested for a formal explanation.

Meanwhile, the aggrieved investors also accused Mrs. Adeosun of meddling with the functions of the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), causing “severe damage to the capital market.”

The National President, Trusted Shareholders Association of Nigeria (TSAN), Mukhtar, along with the National Coordinator, Proactive Shareholders Association (PROSAN), Taiwo Oderinde, and the Coordinator, Oando Shareholders Solidarity Group (OSSG) made the accusations in a joint statement in Lagos.

The shareholders said the minister’s conduct has “inevitably caused untold harm both to the independence of SEC and the Nigerian capital market.”

They drew attention to the ongoing crisis Oando has been enmeshed in since early last year, bordering on serial abuses of corporate governance and alleged gross financial mismanagement.

The shareholders recalled the comment by the internal auditors of Oando Plc, Messrs Ernst & Young, in the company’s 2017 financial report which expressed doubts over the company’s ability to continue as a going concern, as its liabilities exceeded its assets.

Consequently, they said petitions were sent to both SEC and the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market, which ordered investigation into these allegations.

But Adeosun, explained that she had to suspend Zubair at the weekend because she had pointedly asked him not to lift the technical suspension on the energy company’s shares the week before last until a committee comprising representatives from her ministry, SEC, the NSE and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), where Oando has a dual listing, had reviewed the report of the forensic audit submitted by the team of professionals appointed by SEC to investigate the company.

She said in spite of her directive, SEC still went ahead to issue a memo to the NSE lifting the technical suspension the market regulator had placed on the shares of Oando since October last year.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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