MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
With less than two weeks to its Quarterly State of The Nation Review slated for Friday March 31, 2023, during which it will, inter-alia, review the state of notable corporations operating in Nigeria, Corporate Governance and Pro-Development Group, Greater Nigeria Renaissance Group (GNRG) has cautioned a prominent businessman Dr. Ambrose Bryant Chukwueloka (ABC) Orjiako against any action inimical to an enduring positive investment climate in Nigeria and specifically to refrain from stoking disaffection and disunity in Seplat Energy Plc.
The Group in a Statement signed by its National Coordinator Mazi Omife Ike Omife noted that recently the hitherto tranquil environment at Seplat has been polluted by the antics of a bunch of misguided elements, mostly outside of the organization but who are believed to be acting at the behest of the erstwhile Chairman of Seplat Dr. ABC Orjiako. “The five trouble makers who launched the attack on Seplat own just a mere 161 shares between them against almost 600 million shares in issue. They can only be pursuing this expensive campaign if someone else is paying for it,” the group said.
Seplat was the first Nigerian corporate to dual list on the Nigerian and London Stock Exchanges and has been there for almost a decade. The current blatant and baseless attack, Omife noted, “is creating a tidal wave of negative sentiments and adverse consequences far beyond Nigeria’s shores. Seplat is widely seen as the poster child for the Nigeria energy sector and is a shining light against several well-known Nigerian corporate failures. It is the five puppet shareholders and their masters that are unpatriotic and their actions are directly against the Federal Government’s drive to make Nigeria a desirable place to invest.”
Omife, who is also the Convener of Alliance Against Monopoly (AAM), a Pan-African business integrity group and past President of Association of Past Presidents of Town Unions in Anambra State, urged Orjiako, himself a native of Anambra State, to either retrace his step if indeed he is the brain behind the agitation against Seplat or publicly denounce the ill-motivated actions of some hirelings purporting to be acting in his name.
Omife stated that it is regrettable and indeed sad for any group of persons to allow themselves to be goaded on a path that can lead to the destruction of Seplat. He described Seplat as ‘’easily one of the biggest and best indigenous companies in Africa South of the Sahara’’ which should be allowed to continue to thrive. The GNRG also noted that historic reports of Orjiako’s severe financial difficulties have resulted in Seplat being embroiled in court actions, to the detriment of its reputation and shareholder value.
Omife has therefore urged all stakeholders including the Federal Government and relevant Agencies to ensure that the elaborate plan to destroy Seplat, said to have been hatched by supporters of Dr. Orjiako, is forestalled. The plan according to him is in three stages. The first stage is to remove the Chief Executive Officer of the company on trumped up allegations. The second is to take over total control of the company with a view to ultimately milking it dry. The third is to sell off what ever remains of the company to cronies and make it susceptible to asset stripping.
He noted that it is ironic that Dr. Orjiako who only a few months ago was singing ‘’Hosanna’’ for Mr. Roger Brown, the CEO of Seplat, is now suspected to be instigating the horde that now chorus ‘’Crucify Him’’. He recalled that on November 18, 2019, the Board of Seplat, under the leadership of Dr. A.B.C. Orjiako, announced that her pioneer Managing Director and later CEO, Mr. Austin Avuru will be retiring in July 2020 after 10 years of leading the company. In that same announcement Orjiako had gushed thus: “To lead the Company in her latest aspirations, the Board has selected Mr. Roger Brown as the successor to Mr. Avuru as CEO, when Mr. Avuru steps down on 31 July 2020. The Board also decided that the CEO designate will lead the restructuring during the Transition period between now and final exit date of Mr. Avuru on 31 July 2020.”
Attesting to the sparkling credentials of Mr. Brown and his current enviable tenure at Seplat, Omife further avowed that even Dr. Orjiako had on many occasions acknowledged “Mr. Brown joined SEPLAT in 2013 as the CFO and played a key role in the successful dual listing of the Company in 2014.
Similarly, since joining the Company, he has played significant roles in various asset acquisitions by the Company.” Orjiako further disclosed “Mr. Brown brings to the CEO role, a deep knowledge of the Company in his six years as the CFO and a member of the Board. He has strong financial, commercial and M&A experience as well as proven people skills which will be an asset as the Company embarks on the next phase of its growth plan.”
According to Omife, Mr. Brown, has continued to exceed expectation in his role as CEO of Seplat. He therefore wondered why the sudden U-turn by Orjiako who is suspected to be behind the group baying for Mr. Brown’s blood on the basis of frivolous, baseless and vexatious allegations that include accusation of marginalization of indigenous manpower. He was emphatic that there is no truth in the claim of forced resignations and sacking of Nigerian staff based on the discriminatory policies. If anything, it was the Board under the leadership of Dr. A.B.C Orjiako that approved that Mr. Brown should carry out a restructuring of Seplat.
Omife noted that he carried out the task successfully as the few who had to leave the organization did so on voluntary basis.
Far from being a racist, Omife contended that Mr. Brown is a true citizen of the world and that his record shows an exemplary equal opportunity employer. He also contended that the appointment of Mr. Roger Brown did not negate the provisions of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010 (the Nigerian Content Development Act). He is persuaded that Seplat has remained a law-abiding corporate citizen that maintains the highest level of corporate governance standards. All the activities of SEPLAT as a corporate citizen, he opined, are in fulfillment of all applicable laws. He reiterated his appeal to Dr. ABC Orjiako to sheath his sword and allow Seplat to continue to thrive under the visionary and purposeful leadership of Mr. Roger Brown.