The majority shareholders of Nigeria’s largest local oil and gas producer Seplat Energy have dismissed calls by a rebel group of minority shareholders for a probe and sacking of the company’s management over purportedly excessive legal expenses in its half year results as baseless.
In a statement issued Wednesday evening, the company’s major shareholders said the accusation “is a continuation of the recent onslaught of series of baseless allegations and ill-motivated lawsuits against Seplat Energy and its Chief Executive Officer Mr. Roger Brown”, by a group of disgruntled shareholders.
These shareholders who own a minority stake in the company, under the aegis of the Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), led by Moses Igbrude, and one Lemmy Ughegbe, an executive director of Make A Difference Initiative (MADI) had called a press conference casting doubts as to the validity of the company’s half-year audited reports which among other things claimed a $19.4m expenditure on legal fees
Against this backdrop, the statement called the actions of the group “a travesty” as the flurry of petitions by Igbrude and his cohorts against Seplat and its CEO largely contributed to the purported rise in legal fees.
“The majority shareholders of Nigeria’s indigenous oil giant, Seplat Energy, have upheld the sanctity of the company’s half-year results even as they also expressed confidence in the management’s capability to deliver superior returns and place the organization on the path of sustainable growth,” the statement said.
Seplat Energy has been fighting a bruising battle to rein in a band of rebel shareholders who are calling for the head of its CEO, Roger Brown, a British citizen, over what insiders say may be his unwillingness to shunt established governance systems in investment decisions.
The shareholders who reportedly own 700 units of the company’s 600 million units of shares in issue, petitioned Rauf Aregbesola, former Nigeria’s minister of interior, stating allegations of favouritism, racism, discrimination and breach of corporate governance against Brown.
Acting on the petition, On March 3, the minister issued a letter to the company’s chairman Basil Omiyi, informing him of the withdrawal of the CEO’s work permit as well as his visa and residence permit. These were later restored by the courts.
It is unclear how long the fresh attack by the disgruntled minority shareholders of the company would continue, especially after the intervention by industry leaders and a respected shareholder of the company, but the majority shareholders are standing by the company.
“As the representatives of majority shareholders of Seplat Energy, we restate our unwavering confidence in the Board and Management of Seplat Energy,” said the release signed by Emeka Nnubia, a lawyer, on behalf of Seplat majority shareholders.