While the commission was on Monday, June 3, ensuring that Oando carried out its directive and allow Sunmonu takes over the running of the firm, some workers of SEC where in Abuja protesting the reinstatement of suspended DG, Mounir Gwarzo.
The workers, under the aegis of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, SEC Branch, rejected the judgement by the National Industrial Court, which ordered Gwarzo’s reinstatement with immediate effect.
The workers shut the premises of the commission and paralysed business activities for most part of the day before later suspending their industrial action.
Speaking on action, the Chairman the union, Nelson Oleghe, said: “The suspended DG of SEC has been on suspension for almost two years following allegations of abuse of office levelled against him. The suspended DG was charged to court by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission. In all of the court cases, the issue of fraud was not mentioned.”
He said the union decided to hold the protest after an emergency meeting held on Sunday on the issue.
“We believe that an institution that prescribes good corporate governance should be seen taking the lead. We say no to Gwarzo,” he said.
This development was said to have sent demoralizing signals to most management staff of the commission, who are yet to come to terms with the reality of the judgment. In fact, there is still palpable air of uncertainty hovering over the commission because the dust is yet to settle.
Suspending Oando’s AGM
Again, while the last was yet to be heard about the return or not of Gwarzo, SEC announced the suspension of the annual general meeting (AGM) of Oando scheduled for Tuesday, June 11, 2019.
SEC said the suspension of the AGM was in furtherance to the Ex-parte Order of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi Lagos in Suit No: FHC/L/Cs/910/19 In Mr. Jubril Adewale Tinubu & Anor V Securities & Exchange Commission & Anor.
According to the commission, the action was taken to allow the parties maintain status quo, explaining that it will update the public on the outcome of the ongoing litigation.
But reacting to the suspension of the AGM, Chairman, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria (PSAN), Mr. Boniface Okezie said the regulator should have allowed the AGM to go on.
“I think SEC has not done the right thing because the AGM has been approved before now, suspending it will lead to loss for the company, which has also booked for the venue and paid for other things necessary for the meeting to take place. What I think SEC should have done is come and observe,” he said.
Okezie explained that since the release of the forensic audit result, the shareholders have not had the opportunity to hear from the directors, noting that the AGM would afforded them the opportunity to get more information from the board of the company.
Speaking in the same vein, the Chairman, Ibadan Zone Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Mr.Eric Akinduro said suspending the AGM was unfortunate.
“There should be a human face to some of these things. There is a court order saying the status quo should be maintained and I believe the AGM is one of the things referred to by the court order. Suspending an AGM 24 hours to the meeting is not good for the shareholders and even the market. Some of the shareholders have travelled from other states to Lagos for this AGM,” he said.
However, the President, Constance Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Mallam Shehu Mikail said SEC did the right thing.
“To me, SEC has done the right thing because there are so many issues in the company right now and we do not know how the meeting will look like. So the proper thing is to suspend the meeting. If SEC goes ahead to hold the AGM, it means it is disrespecting the market regulator,” he said.
SEC Board underway
Market stakeholders have said the absence of a governing board for SEC for over four years contributed to some of the decisions by the commission, which considered negative in some quarters. But there is a glimmer of hope that the board would soon be constituted and a lawyer, Mr. Olufemi Jinadu has been penciled down to be the chairman.
Operators and investors have decried the absence of SEC board and had called on the federal government not to delay further. For instance, Chairman, Association of Securities Dealing of Houses of Nigeria (ASHON), Chief Patrick Ezeagu, who had said the federal government should not delay any longer to get a board for SEC.
“We have been calling for a board for SEC without response from the government. SEC, which is regulating a market of several trillions of naira should have a board to enable a smooth running. It is disheartening to know that most of the laudable projects espoused in the master plan are being affected by lack of a board, which is statutorily mandated to take some major decisions in that direction.
Apart from not having a board, the DG and the commissioners are all in acting capacities. This does not send good signals to investors out there. Appointing a board for the commission and confirming the officers would significantly boost investor confidence, thereby restoring some level of stability to the market,” Ezeagu said.
Also speaking on why SEC needs a board urgently, a senior market operator and lawyer said the commission could not be an arbiter over corporate governance of listed companies whereas it does not have a board.
According to him, “can you give what you do not have it. You cannot be superintending over what you do not have.”
He added that SEC is signatory ‘A’ member of International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), explaining that being a signatory A member requires that commission should have an institution in place and the head of that institution is the board.
“In terms of market dynamics, information is key and the timeliness of information is pivotal. For information, which is key and timely you must have a board that quickly take decisions because as it is today, the Ministry of Finance serves as a board. For any decision to be taken, the ministry, which is already saddled with the running of the economy, and over burdened with such, what time will it have to attend to the commission. Though the ministry supervises the commission, what capacity with specific reference to capital market that the ministry to be able to give a guided advice to the commission,” he added.
The operator noted that time between the last board and now, it is it totally abnormal, abysmal and unacceptable in international governance.
“So the international community will not take your decisions seriously because there is a possibility of policy summersault as a result of political interests. So professional things should be left for professionals and political things be left for politicians. The SEC is a professional institution and it is knowledge based institution.
“So it behooves government to see it as a prime institution in policy making and essence of driving a developmental economy. One of the major reasons why the economy has been jerking has been because the capital is not in the mainstream. The government has not been able to appreciate the importance of the capital market in the development of the economy, especially a nascent economy like Nigeria where one of the greatest deficit we have is long term capital,” he declared.