It is often said that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. This is proving to be the case between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Oando PLC as concerned minority shareholders, who are the aggrieved party in the on-going issue, have seized every opportunity to vehemently air their grievances against the SEC, specifically faulting the recent actions of the regulatory body against Oando PLC.

There has been a wave of strong reactions and criticism across various media as to whether the capital market regulator actually has the best interests of shareholders, the company and capital market at the heart of its decisions and actions. Conversations that initially started with Oando speaking, but swiftly took a life of its own with Oando minority shareholders and now independent third parties joining the fray.

Recently, at the Annual General Meeting of Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC in Abuja Chief Olatunde Okelana, a concerned minority shareholder, relayed his concerns about the processes SEC has followed. He stated that an accused person is always entitled to a fair hearing before judgment is passed.

He further opined that the accuser, in this case, the SEC, cannot play the role of both accuser and judge, neither does it qualify to dictate the tone of an appeal. He then charged the regulatory body to follow the rule of law in exercising its regulatory powers, faulting the last minute suspension of Oando’s AGM by the SEC. Present at the AGM as with all AGMs for publicly listed companies was a SEC official who Chief Olatunde Okelana directed all his concerns to.

At the June 2019 Institute of Directors (IoD) Nigeria New Members’ Induction Olufemi Awoyemi, founder / CEO of Proshare Nigeria Limited was in attendance as a guest speaker, the topic of his address ‘Governance: Who Guards the Guardians?’. He spoke specifically to the SEC and Oando issue saying, “This situation unfortunately is further exacerbated by the lack of, absence and the perception that those empowered to exercise such oversights themselves have serious issues of corporate governance to contend with. So, where do we begin to reset our sovereign corporate governance issues?

“While this debate struggles with traction, it is my considered view that, Directors are better served by immediately availing themselves with best practices; upgrade their knowledge, understanding and application of their roles and responsibilities to render unto themselves and society a risk-based discharge of their functions. Waiting for clarity brings with it unintended consequences,” Awoyemi stated.

He further opined that in a regulatory clime that assumes the role of accuser and judge (as the rules currently stand); it is no longer optional for directors to update their knowledge on the rules of engagement. “There is a huge premium on assuming things based on intentions, general practice or/and best practice,” he said.

However, he wants the IoD to retain a watching brief on regulatory developments especially on the SEC/Oando case with a view to coming out with learning guidelines around the pain points of the case study when the dust finally settles.

The SEC and Oando saga has gained steady momentum since SEC released alleged infractions and sanctions on the 31st of May, the increasing range of diverse voices that have contributed to the conversation means that this is likely to continue to dominate local and international news. With the general public waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the court case adjoined to the 24th of June.

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