In recent weeks, media sites, blogs, and social media have been saturated with allegations of corporate malfeasance at Duport Midstream Company Limited.
The accusations are being made by some board members. In the hollow courts of online comments sections, the villain is Dr. Akintoye Akindele, chief executive of the petroleum refining company. Akindele is a businessman, investor, and philanthropist.
I am inclined to believe that the slew of ad hominem attacks on Akindele and his family that have proliferated online are being carried out by sponsored busybodies.
What should, ordinarily, be an exposé on serious matters of corporate governance and financial control at one of the fastest growing companies in Nigeria has become a firing range for character assassination.
Notwithstanding, discerning folk are asking hard questions. Some of the claims made do not add up. The fact that Nigerians are yet to be treated to an in-depth investigative news report of the events at Duport Midstream weeks after the crisis broke speaks heaps about the state of journalism.
Then there is the one-sidedness of the stories out there. After all, audi alteram partem is a fundamental principle of natural justice and a cornerstone of journalism.
Just as unsettling is the involvement of the police in what appears, from my perch, to be a purely and exclusively civil dispute.
The sequence of events pertaining to Akindele’s detention raises a number of questions. On July 20, the Police stormed his office in Lagos where they met his absence.
When he received information about the raid, he immediately reached out to the police authorities to find out the purpose of the invasion. A day later, on July 21, a letter was received at his office inviting him to visit the Police headquarters in Abuja on July 24 over a petition.
However, he had already scheduled to be in Senegal for an event, the annual Africa Walk, which was planned months in advance. He travelled on July 23. Africa Walk is organised yearly by Platform Capital, an investment firm where he sits as the chairman.
In any event, an acknowledgment of the invitation and request to be permitted an extension until July 31 to be at the Police headquarters was sent by his lawyers.
This was delivered to and acknowledged by the Police headquarters on July 24. When he arrived back in Lagos on the July 27, he immediately made plans to be in Abuja for the committed appointment. To his utmost shock, on July 30, a day before his trip to honour the invitation, his home was invaded by the police. He was whisked off to Abuja. The purported reason was that he was evading arrest.
According to reports, that his arrest became necessary to enable the Force to carry out a thorough investigation. Pray, since when did the start to put the cart before the horse?
Should an investigation not have been concluded by the honorable Nigeria Police Force before his arrest? By putting the cart before the horse, a reputation that took decades to build has been pilloried in the public square.
To backtrack a bit, the warrant that served as the basis of his arrest were issued by a Chief Magistrate in Nasarawa State. This warrant has now been set aside by the same court because it lacked the jurisdiction to hear the matter in the first place, and vital facts were concealed when an application for a remand order was made.
The Shock and Awe tactics applied by Akindele’s traducers have only served to bolster my confidence that desperation lurks beneath the surface of the tempest blown his way.
In the interest of full disclosure, Akindele is a close friend of twenty-nine years standing. This transparency is necessary because it has become the fashion to write public defenses under pseudonyms. If, at the end of the day, he is found guilty of the allegations by a court of competent jurisdiction then I will accept that I erred in my character appraisal.
But supported by the modicum of facts, which I am privy to I am optimistic that he will be vindicated. Throughout the time I have known him, he has always come across as a focused, hardworking, and principled go-getter.
Over the years, I have seen him hit highs and dark troughs. In high stress situations, have witnessed him his vent his anger – yes, that too – when those he trusted to execute on a project did not share his commitment to an outcome.
The last thing I will do here is to pretend that he is a man without flaw. But just as quickly as he flared, I saw him don his boyish charm to express remorse when he hurt people dear to his heart. I have seen him fall and rise again. This has happened not once or twice.
But above all, I have watched him stand loyally by his friends high and low. He is what we used to call a dependable 1 a.m. friend. That is someone you could ring in the dead of the night to come to your aide at an inconvenient hour.
Up close, I saw Akindele build himself up to become the man he used to tell me he would become. The only difference is that he came up with a better version of himself than we could have dreamt of. Our relationship dates back to the salad days of youth at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in the mid-nineties. I was admitted to study Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE). He was in the Chemical Engineering Department, three years ahead of me.
We were introduced by a mutual friend who was his contemporary at Nigeria Navy Secondary School, Ojo. Right away, we took a liking to each other.
It was not hard to see why. We shared a common upbringing. Our parents were cut from the same yardage of the old school public service system. My dad rose to the height of his career in the national power parastatal, and his dad flourished at the Central Bank of Nigeria, where he rose to become a director.
In the excitement of first year liberty, I almost got carried away by the sights and sounds of Great Ife. Woe betide me.
The trio of he, Tope Osazee, and Henry Imona, sadly now late, all my seniors, came to my rescue. They taught me how to walk the minefield between having fun and graduating with good grades. Akindele’s motto, which I imbibed, was “Work smart. Play well.”
Later on, our friendship extended to our families.
His older brother, Bola “Sir Bolly” Akindele, founder of Courteville Plc., a listed company on the Nigerian Exchange, became a highly benevolent mentor to everyone in his circle. I wish to place on the record that Sir Bolly offered me my first job after graduation.
I may add here that Oluwatosin Odusanya, one of directors up in arms against Akindele at Duport Midstream, was a member of that coterie. They were inseparable. On my side, Akindele embraced my younger brother, Nwachukwu, as his own.
When he observed that I was not enamoured of the rigours of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) qualification, he shifted the pressure to my sibling. He encouraged him every step of the way. Those close to Akindele can attest to his affinity for mentoring younger people.
I am pleased to say that Nwachukwu is a proud Charterholder working in the United States today.
After completing his national youth service, Akindele made a detour to finance. Starting at Guaranty Trust Bank in the days when Fola Adeola held sway, he thereafter moved to Lead Merchant Bank under the cerebral Bimbo Olashore at a time when the franchise was a Top-3 house for investment banking in Nigeria. Later on, he was headhunted by John Darlington, a visionary banker, to join the foundation team at Bond Bank. There he found his calling working with emerging companies. Soon, he landed at African Capital Alliance, a PE firm founded by the polymath Dr. Okey Enelamah.
After a couple of years, he decided to venture out on his own. First came Synergy Capital, then, Platform Capital.
Bracketing his record at the last two, Akindele has been involved in some of the most transformational financing for emerging in Africa in the last 8 years.
I have had the privilege to see him in his element during meetings with founders and investors. The force of passion he projects can only impress that he was born to do this.
There is no debate that Platform Capital is in the first rank of VC companies on the continent. Its portfolio its portfolio ranges across fintech, distribution, media, healthcare, online travel, blockchain, to list a few. Beyond funding, Platform opens doors to global networks and top-tier talent hires.
The firm’s annual Africa Walk is locked on the calendar of several global investors. Since 2021, they have come from around the world to see the reality of Africa for themselves. In between their stay, Platform Capital facilitates meetings with companies in its pipeline. As far back as I can remember Akindele has been a believer in Nigeria’s potential. I cannot recall a single time when he spoke about moving overseas.
Even in our undergrad days under General Abacha’s dictatorship he always told me that Nigeria would work for us. Back then, I mistook his belief for naïveté. His journey has proved me wrong. The Duport Midstream refinery is a dream long in the making. As early as 2014, he used to speak about building an integrated petrochemical complex to meet local consumption demand. Whenever I teased him about the boldness of his dream, he would answer “It’s not nuclear physics.”
That dream has become a reality today. This is why I cannot find joy in the boardroom quarrel that risks tearing the company apart.
The strategic importance of Duport Midstream’s refinery is underlined by the fact that it is one of four functional refineries in the country. Bear in mind that a major cause of Nigeria’s current economic doldrums is the huge portion of its foreign earnings depleted annually for the importation of refined products.
The allegations raised by Duport Midstream’s directors are weighty ones indeed.
Good may yet come out of this boardroom row. By turning to the courts, judicial clarity will be given over the responsibilities of a company promoter in an executive position, the proper rights of a major shareholder, and the limits of non-executive director powers. I am holding my breath for a quick resolution or speedy adjudication.
On the subject, I can state with prejudice to none that “All eyes on the judiciary”.
One can only pray that the jobs of several hundred workers, livelihoods in the host community, and investor confidence in Nigeria’s energy industry are not penalized by the hasty crucifixion of one good man.
Onyeaso, is the founder of Customs Street Advisors, a communications consultancy.