Chineme Okafor in Abuja
Several months after the forensic audit of Oando Plc was suspended owing to lawsuits and the alleged interference by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Tuesday disclosed that it has directed the accounting firm of Deloitte to proceed with the forensic audit of the indigenous energy firm.
It said this had become possible after Oando withdrew the lawsuit it filed attempting to stop the forensic audit.
Speaking in Abuja Tuesday, the acting Director-General of SEC, Dr. Abdul Zubair, stated that Oandoâ€™s withdrawal of the lawsuit was heard and granted by the Court of Appeal on March 5.
He said this followed the application for withdrawal of another suit filed by the shareholders of Oando at the Federal High Court, and which was heard on February 21 by the court.
According to him, with the dismissal of the lawsuits, SEC has notified Deloitte to proceed with the forensic audit, adding that the commission was committed to its primary mandate of protecting investors in Nigeriaâ€™s capital market and will take all necessary steps to fulfill this mandate and uphold the integrity of the capital market.
Zubair stated that SEC had also transmitted the dismissal notices of the lawsuits to the audit firm, noting that its job would not be interfered with.
The auditor, he added, was given a very short timeframe to do a very thorough job that the market would be happy with.
â€œWe didnâ€™t mince words that the forensic audit will resume and continue as soon as we have the impediments removed, that is what we said. Today, I am here and pleased to give you an update.
â€œAs of Monday, 5th of March 2018, all the two lawsuits had been dismissed from the law courts.
â€œAnd, since the impediment has been removed, I am pleased to let you know that the coast is clear. We did all we could because we needed to respect the law.
â€œWe maintain that we will continue to be good corporate citizens and law abiding,â€ said Zubair.
He further explained: â€œThe important thing is that having received those letters of dismissals, we have also transmitted them to the forensic auditors to continue.
â€œWe have with us evidence that the lawsuits have been dismissed and as we speak today, we have transmitted same to the forensic auditors to continue with their job.
â€œWe will not interfere with their job, everything we did, we did in the interests of investors and to maintain integrity in the matter.
â€œThe assignment will be completed within the shortest time possible. I cannot give you a precise date, as I am not the forensic auditor but we have told them to fast-track the job and do a good job that everybody in the market will be satisfied with.â€
Last year, SEC had ordered the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) to halt trading on the shares of Oando for 48 hours, and subsequently directed the stock exchange to place the shares on a technical suspension, following what it said were a number of infractions committed by the firm.
SEC had given the directive after it had investigated the petitions from two shareholders of Oando â€“ Dahiru Mangal and Ansbury Investment Inc â€“ who had accused the management of the oil firm listed on the Nigerian and Johannesburg Stock Exchanges of mismanaging the affairs of Oando.
SEC also appointed a team of experts led by Deloitte to undertake a forensic audit of Oando to reaffirm its findings.
However, the audit was suspended owing to the lawsuit instituted by Oando, and interference by the finance minister who allegedly ordered the then DG of SEC, Mounir Gwarzo, to stop the audit.
Although Adeosun has repeatedly denied that she asked Gwarzo to stop the audit, 24 hours after his refusal, he was suspended by the minister who set up an administrative panel of inquiry to investigate him over allegations of financial mismanagement.
The administrative panel, last month, found him guilty and recommended his dismissal from the public sector for violation of public service rules.