By Chinenye Anuforo
One of the leaders of the shareholders who protested at the 40th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Oando Plc held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State has said the protest was an expression of their discontent with the state of affairs of the company.
Clement Ebitimi, the South-South Coordinator of the Oando Shareholders Solidarity Group (OSSG), who stated this also faulted claims by founder of the Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Sunday Nwosu, that they were paid to disrupt the meeting.
Ebitimi described as “unfortunate”, Nwosu’s attempt to downplay the significance of his members’ legitimate protest.
“We were in the hall when we started our agitation but because we did not want to disrupt the meeting, we heeded appeals to move to the entrance so the whole world can see our agitation. The same Nwosu was one of those who came to beg us.
“If we had wanted to disrupt the meeting, no one could have stopped us.
Ebitimi said contrary to speculations and attempts by the management of Oando and ISAN to discredit them, they were “not sponsored by anyone to protest.”
He said: “We read series of newspaper reports and petitions which showed that all was not well with the company. The issue is that the values of the shares of our members have been eroded by more than 80 per cent in recent times. The company has consistently reported losses over the past three years and has failed to pay dividends, yet the executives are increasing remuneration, acquiring choice properties and buying private jets.
“It doesn’t matter how much shares we have in the company. Even if it is 1,000 shares, we are bona fide shareholders and we refuse to be suppressed. Our members are bona fide shareholders of Oando. After the protest and assurances that our grievances would be addressed, we went back into the hall to continue the meeting. We are orderly, decent and law-abiding citizens and we proved this by our conduct.
“We don’t want to kill Oando, but we demand more responsible behaviour from the management,” Ebitimi said.
He said the protesters’ agitation has been justified by the report of the independent auditors, Ernst & Young, whose report to the Annual General Meeting casted doubt over the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.
According to him, “The Company reported a comprehensive loss N56.6 billion in 2015 and N33.9 billion in 2016 and to date, it’s current assets exceeded current liabilities by N14.6 billion.
“The independent auditors clearly stated that a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the company (and Group’s) ability to continue as a going concern.