Some Oando Plc shareholders on Sunday demanded the immediate sack of the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, accusing her of "unwholesome interference in the smooth operation of the capital market."
The aggrieved investors also accused Mrs Adeosun of meddling with the functions of the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), causing "severe damage to the capital market."
The National President, Trusted Shareholders Association of Nigeria (TSAN), Mukhtar, along with the National Coordinator, Proactive Shareholders Association (PROSAN), Taiwo Oderinde, and the Coordinator, Oando Shareholders Solidarity Group (OSSG) made the accusations in a joint statement in Lagos.
They asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the minister, saying the suspension of the former director-general of SEC, Mounir Gwarzo, and last Friday's removal of the acting director-general, Abdul Zubair, reflect Mrs Adeosun's "desperate attempt to shield Oando from probe."
Mr Zubair was demoted and redeployed to the External Relations department of the Commission. In his place, Mary Uduk was appointed.
The shareholders said the minister's conduct has "inevitably caused untold harm both to the independence of SEC and the Nigerian capital market."
"We believe the sack of the minister is the only way to show the federal government remains committed to the fight against corruption in all sectors of the economy.
"We believe also the minister is clearly working to protect her friends in Oando Plc from the impending embarrassment that findings from the forensic audit may cause them," the shareholders said in the statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES.
"We wish to bring the attention of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and all Nigerians to the unwholesome, unpatriotic and strange actions of the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun with regards to the probe of Oando Plc," the aggrieved shareholders added.
They drew attention to the ongoing crisis Oando has been enmeshed in since early last year, bordering on serial abuses of corporate governance and alleged gross financial mismanagement.
The shareholders recalled the comment by the internal auditors of Oando Plc, Messrs Ernst & Young, in the company's 2017 financial report which expressed doubts over the company's ability to continue as a going concern, as its liabilities exceeded its assets.
Consequently, they said petitions were sent to both SEC and the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market, which ordered investigation into these allegations.
The investigations, they noted, led to the setting up of a committee by SEC to carry out a preliminary investigation of the company's affairs.
On October 17, 2017, a report from the preliminarily investigation issued by the Head of Legal unit of SEC, Braimoh Anastasia, found several malpractices by Oando.
Some of the malpractices identified in the report included alleged insider trading, declaration of dividends from unrealised profits, release of false financial statements to the public and the disposal of assets without the knowledge of the regulatory body in contravention of the Investment and Securities Act (ISA) 2007, among several other infractions.
These findings, the shareholders said, compelled the suspension of Oando shares on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) to pave way for a more thorough investigation through a forensic audit ordered by SEC.
Mr Oderinde said "unfortunately, the forensic audit has been stalled due to the unwholesome interference by Mrs Kemi Adeosun to the detriment of Oando shareholders and the entire Nigerian capital market".
He said the real reason Messrs Gwarzo and Subair were removed from their positions at SEC was "because they resisted her (Adeosun's) desperate attempt to shield Wale Tinubu and the present management of Oando from probe."
"Zubair was sacked because he initially resisted Adeosun's attempt to forcefully remove the technical suspension placed on the shares of Oando to preserve investors' funds.
"Unfortunately, she had her way and the lifting of the suspension is part of a grand plan to sweep the weighty allegations against Oando under the carpet.
"This is clearly a negation of the anti-corruption stance of the present administration and a systematic destruction of the Nigerian capital market.
"The show of shame exhibited last week where the Nigerian Stock Exchange was made to implement three different directives with regards to the suspension of Oando shares within 24 hours should worry the federal government and well-meaning Nigerians.
"It sent very bad and negative signals to investors all over the world. The attendant negative impact of Adeosun's meddlesomeness to protect some entrenched interests will haunt the market for a long time to come," the shareholders said.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the minister, her spokesperson, Oluyinka Akintunde, dismissed the allegations as untrue and an attempt to use pedestrian sentiments to tarnish the image of the minister.
"The allegations are absolutely not true. The shareholders are just bringing clannish sentiments and pedestrian issues that do not have any bearing with the matter at hand to tarnish her image. The minister has not interfered in the operations of any agency under the Ministry of finance, including SEC," Mr Akindunde said.
He recalled that in October last year, the former DG of SEC, Mr Gwarzo, had approved the technical suspension of the shares of Oando without consulting with the minister.
Weeks after, he said the now suspended DG came for a retroactive approval by the minister, who gave the approval after studying the reasons given for the suspension.
On the lifting of the technical suspension on the shares of Oando, Mr Akintunde said last week the minister intercepted some official communications between the SEC and the NSE, which she had no prior information about.
He said the minister's findings from the NSE revealed the communication to lift the technical suspension came from the acting SEC DG, Mr Zubair, who previously denied knowledge of it, only to later issue a justification over the decision in a media briefing.