Sayyu Dantata: Building Strong Governance, Enduring Legacy in MRS Group

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Business Interview

Nestle, Guinness, PZ, Unilever, Coca Cola, Mobil, Total among others are today big global names. And   while their founders have long gone, the companies continue to flourish, delivering services to customers and significant  returns to investors. One of the major reasons those companies have survived over the years is the  great vision of their founders, which was supported by strong corporate governance. In Nigeria, some notable corporate groups have gone under with the demise of their founders.
However, one entrepreneur that is ensuring that his business outlives him and become a global brand is  the founder of MRS Group of Companies. 

While this publicity shy, reticent, is Sayya Dantata quintessential business man has been working  silently to build a conglomerate that  provides business solutions across the African continent, he took a major and  commendable decision last week in one of the subsidiaries of the group – MRS Oil Nigeria Plc. A decision many would say is un-African and even more so, un-Nigerian.

Dantata resigned as the chairman of the board of  MRS Oil Nigeria, which is  a company listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). In his place,  Patrice Alberti, a French, has been appointed as chairman.  Alberti holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the Paris Academy and has been with the MRS Group since 2004. He is currently the group managing director of MRS Group of companies and a director on the board of Corlay Global S.A.

Prior to joining MRS Group, he held a number of positions over a period of 20 years in various banks in Europe including BNP Paribas, Banque Arabe Internationale D’Investitssment, Banco Central, South Africa.
With this development, capital market analysts and management experts said Dantata is trending a part many entrepreneurs in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular dread to trend.

“Many business do not survive the demise of their founders because of the tendency to remain in full control and not putting strong corporate governance in place. And once the founders die, the businesses collapse and go under. But with what Dantata has done at MRS Oil, he has sent a very clear message out. He is building structures that will make the business to remain strong and survive in many years to come,” an investment  analysts said.

To Mr. Moses Igbrude, a shareholder activist, the move by Dantata to appoint a new chairman for MRS Oil is “not only an intelligent one but it also in line with the tenet of  good corporate governance and indicates he really wants to build enduring businesses that would outlive him.”
“Besides, by putting a new man as chairman of MRS Oil, Dantata been able to address one major problem facing African businesses, which is leadership succession,” Igbrude said.

Another analyst said many companies   hardly outlive their owners because of lack of structures in place.
“But when you have structures and good institutions in place, companies will outlive their founders and owners.  Nobody remembers who set up  companies such as Mobil, Nestle,  Agip, Cocacola and so on. Because  those who set  them up have the vision of the future and were able to  put in place structures and institutions  so that they outlive them.  Dantata is apparently toeing this line  and it is highly commendable,” he said.
The National Coordinator, Management Systems Consultants Association of Nigeria, Mr. Coleman Obasi, once said anybody who has leadership qualities is not threatened or afraid of bringing people closer to him.
“You cannot succeed alone no matter what you are.  You must bring in people to assist you, competent hands, people who can buy into that vision. A lot of business owners also lack leadership qualities, anybody who has leadership qualities is not threatened or afraid of bringing people closer to him. But when you lack those things, you think that if you bring in people they will take the business from you. So, I advise any entrepreneur who wants to grow his business to a level to bring in competent hands,” Obasi said.
It is believed that why the new chairman of MRS Oil will focus  on supervising the execution of the strategies of the subsidiary, Dantata will now have more time to oversee  the successful running of the entire group in line with the founding vision to be   on the global listing of world class companies.
MRS, founded in Nigeria in 1995, is an integrated group of companies comprising Ovlas Trading & Supply in Geneva, Koggi Shipping in Ghana, MRS Oil & Gas and MRS Investments in Nigeria.
MRS is an African conglomerate in diverse activities, yet focused on capturing the entire value chain in oil trading, shipping, storage, distribution and retailing. The company is one of the largest and most efficient downstream players with solid roots in Nigeria and leading positions in fuels and lubricants market in Cameroon, Benin, Togo and Cote D’Ivoire. The company has a strong foothold in petroleum products marketing in the international market.
As a growing company, MRS has great passion and commitment to Africa and its people.  Although it has other subsidiaries, MRS Oil Nigeria Plc is most popular because it is public firm listed on the NSE.
MRS  Oil  Nigeria  Plc (formerly  known  as  Texaco  Nigeria  Limited)  was  incorporated  as  a  privately  and  wholly-owned  subsidiary  of Texaco Africa Limited, on the 12th of August  1969,  thereby inheriting  the  business  formerly carried out in Nigeria by Texaco Africa Limited. MRS was converted to a Public Limited Liability Company, quoted on the NSE  in  1978,  as  a  result  of the 1977 Nigerian Enterprises Promotions Decree.
Currently,  MRS  Oil  Nigeria  PLC  (MRS)  has  a lube blending plant that is ISO 9001:2008 certified with a 23.9 million litres annual capacity, 1.3 million kilograms annual capacities  grease  plant,  7.3  million  litres  annual  capacities  tank  farm  storage  and  finished-goods warehouses located in various parts of  Nigeria.  MRS  has  modern  Jet  A-1  facilities in Lagos, Kano and Abuja international airports with over  five  million litres cumulative storage  capacity/tank  share.  The  aviation  depots  which  serve  the  domestic  airports  in  Lagos,  Abuja  and  Kano  are  100 per cent  operated by MRS. Being one of the largest down-stream  operators,  MRS  Oil  Nigeria  Plc  has   two million litres/day fuel terminal in Apapa and  over  393  retail  stations  all  over  Nigeria  which  carries  a  wide  range  of  petroleum  products   including   the   new   eco-friendly   composite cylinders.