The Action Congress (AC) has asked the relevant regulatory authorities, especially the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to act urgently – and without fear or favour – to defuse theÂ risis that is tearing African Petroleum Plc apart and endangering the investments of thousands of shareholders.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said it was compelled to make the call because AP is a publicly-quoted company that is of strategic importance to the country’s economy, being a major player in the energy sector, and the fact that the crisis could have a negative impact on the investments of the company’s 97,000 shareholders.
Equally important, AC said, are the unimaginable consequences of a 150-billion-Naira company going under if the crisis is allowed to fester.
The party said since SEC is not unaware of the crisis in AP, going by allegations that have been published in the newspapers and which have also inundated the airwaves, it should not wait a day longer to investigate the allegations and take necessary actions to stem the crisis.
“SEC must play its statutory role so as to avoid the kind of crisis that was witnessed in the banks, with dire consequences to the economy and to hapless investors, due to poor regulatory controls.
“We do not want to believe the story making the rounds that SEC is being hampered in carrying out its statutory duties in the AP case because of the perceived closeness of the Chairman, Mr. Femi Otedola, to President Goodluck Jonathan.
“We are also worried by the insinuation that this perceived closeness to power has bred impunity in AP, more so at a time the Chairman was bestowed with one of our country’s highest awards – Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) – by Mr.President. Such insinuation, if not dispelled, sends a wrong message to investors and fuels the culture of impunity. We have no reason to believe that this insinuation is true, but Nigerians must be shown clearly that it is not, ” AC said.
The party said the allegations making the rounds in the media are very grave indeed, and bother on cooking of the books to show profitability where a huge loss has been recorded, as well as fraudulent acts such as over-invoicing and non-supply of paid-for stock that have pushed a once-profitable company to make a huge loss of 15 billion Naira!
“Now, the management of the AP is in total disarray, as the Managing Director has been fired while the Executive Director (Finance and IT) and the Company Secretary have been suspended. The management and the board are also acting at cross purposes. In all this, it is the shareholders who are holding the short end of the stick. After all, it is said that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.
“We therefore hope that all those whose responsibility it is to acton this issue will do so promptly without further prompting. Both sides must be given a fair hearing and the hammer must fall on whoever is adjudged to have fallen short of adhering strictly to the tenets of corporate governance,” AC said.