Chief Harry Ayoade Akande —the famous Agbaoye of Ibadanland— is one flamboyant business mogul cum politician and socialite that needs little or no introduction. As an accomplished international investor, Akande has a very infectious personality. As a dashing looking socialite, it’s remarked he has a magic about him that drew the admiration of anyone he related with. It’s like a gift, the type only the great Man from above, could bestow on someone sent to earth on a mission. The myth surrounding the Ibadan, Oyo State-born billionaire’s wealth and successes has long been established. Yet as a politician, he failed in his presidential bid a couple of times. Ditto, as a first class business mogul, Akande’s major bid to introduce a new vista of business ideas into his home country, suffered some disappointments. It will be recalled that in 2013, Akande had a bitter row with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) over a piece of land located close to the international airport terminal building purportedly ceded to his company for the construction of a 5-Star hotel in partnership with an international hotel chain. That matter is still pending as of today. The business tycoon later went off the radar until 2018 when he resurfaced after he scored a major legal victory against South Africa retail giants, Shoprite for a breach of contract.
The 76-year-old businessman had sued Shoprite for sidelining his company, AIC Limited, after they had agreed before launching in Nigeria in 2005 that Akande’s company would be the exclusive operator and manager of its brand across West Africa, except Ghana where the Shoprite brand was already established.
Spotlight gathered that there were a series of business meetings between Akande’s representatives and Shoprite Checkers —first in South Africa on April 16, 1998 and then at Akande’s office in Victoria Island, Lagos on May 27, 1998. Shoprite were also said to have flown in representatives who were shown possible locations for retail stores at some locations including Lekki Roundabout, Trade fair Complex and Lagos National Theatre, Iganmu. But when the South African retail giants were ready to commence operations in Nigeria, they allegedly sidelined Akande’s AIC and incorporated another company, Retail Supermarkets Nigeria Limited and began using the new entity to operate in Nigeria, thereby breaching agreements between them. This led to a prolonged legal battle with Akande securing a 2018 major victory against the South African retail group for breaching contract between both parties in Suit No LD/488/2010 —AIC Limited (Claimant) v Shoprite Checkers (PTY) Ltd of South Africa and Retail Supermarkets Nigeria Limited (Defendants).
The latter appealed the judgement and the iconic billionaire, who loves to spot his trademark big shirts and baggy trousers, in May 2020, still went ahead to trounce Shoprite at the appellate court. Though the three-man panel of Court of Appeal seated in Lagos didn’t acquiesced to Akande’s cross appeal, demanding 50 per cent of $92.3million as loss of profit he suffered due to the incorporation of Retail Supermarkets Limited, which he contended amounted to the breach of the agreement for the period of 2005 to 2009, the Lordships unanimously affirmed the judgment of a Lagos High Court that awarded $10 million (N4.7 billion) damages against Shoprite Checkers (PTY) Limited. Apart from the $10 million award, the court had directed the South African retail giant to pay 10 percent per annum on the damages with effect from the date of judgment until final liquidation of the entire sum.
Given the weight of the judgement and sensing that Akande is hell-bent on taking his pounds of flesh for the alleged breach of their agreement, it was gathered that this had spurred Shoprite’s recent announcement of its plan to divest and exit Nigeria —its biggest African market— rather than the surface excuse of low Return on Investments (ROI) as its major reason. Not to be caught unguarded, Akande, it was learnt, has initiated a fresh legal step at the Federal High Court to halt Shoprite Checkers’ exit move. The billionaire, through his company, has got an ex-parte application for an order of Mareva Injunction restraining the South African retail giant, its privies, officers, nominees, successors-in-title, subsidiaries or anyone acting through it or by it from transferring, assigning, charging, disposing of its trademark, franchise and intellectual property in a manner that will alter, dissipate or remove these non cash assets from the court’s jurisdiction.
Since December 2005, when it opened its first store in Lagos, Shoprite has launched additional 25 stores in 11 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Shoprite’s outlets across Nigeria provide market access to over 500 Nigerian farmers and small businesses, helping to get local produce and products to millions of Nigerian consumers.