The Securities and Exchange Commission in a brazen show of high handedness and a total disregard for the Nigerian justice system which they are sworn to uphold, has disregarded the directives of the Federal High Court, Lagos to suspend the implementation of sanctions against Oando PLC.
As at 3p.m. this afternoon (Thursdauy 6 June), reports reaching the media is that that armed security personnel, on the directive of the SEC remain in Oando’s head office building. The armed security personnel became residents in Oando’s Ozumba Mbadiwe office on Monday, June 3, they are supposedly situated in the ground floor reception, on all the Oando office floors as well as the stairwells, and still remain there. Reports began circulating on Monday that the armed men had laid siege at their office and had caused widespread alarm and panic amongst Oando employees.
An employee of one of the corporate tenants at the Wings Office Complex where Oando’s head office is located said he was taken by surprise when he got to the office on Monday to see so many armed personnel in the ground floor reception. “It just seemed odd when I saw all these policemen but I didn’t take much notice – the building has quite a number of tenants so I didn’t think too much about it. Later in the day everybody in the office was talking about how they had taken over the Oando offices and then I got a little panicked. Having no idea what the issue is with Oando I was worried about the outcome of a full blown altercation with armed personnel. You know in this Nigeria one has to be careful when dealing with someone with a gun.”
The presence of the armed men on the directives of the SEC have intimidated company’s employees and disrupted normal business activities in Oando. The disruption of normal business activity will not only impact the company but will also impact the country at large; specifically since the release of the SECs directives the company has seen a downward spiral in their stock price.
A letter from the Lagos Commissioner of Police clearly states that they were deployed to Oando on the directives of the SEC Director General (DG) to maintain law and order. The question is what disruption were the SEC expecting would occur in Oando on Monday hence the reason for armed reinforcement.
According to the dictionary, law and order is the orderly arrangement of society in which people follow laws and are not disruptive, anything contrary to this is a breakdown in law and order. The question is to date has Oando acted in any way that indicates that it is in the habit of contravening law and order, if no then what was the rationale for the SEC DG taking such drastic steps. Steps that can only be perceived as unnecessary intimidation.
What does the SEC hope to achieve through intimidation in a free country? As Nkechi Agbanusi, a Legal Attorney said: “The SEC’s actions is what you can describe as Dictatorial Democracy, on the surface they are the regulator with the best interest of the market at heart, but in truth they are the destroyers of value, this cuts across all regulators in all facets of the country.”
If SEC’s interest is in protecting the company, its employees and shareholders then how does having armed men barring normal business activity achieve this?
According to Pat Utomi, “The greatest risk of doing Business in Nigeria is not a market risk but regulatory risk and the general attitude of the government to business.” He further said “the problem with institutional growth in Nigeria was the way Africans relate to being in authority positions. To give a uniform of authority to most in Africa was to make them bullies instantly. Just watch the policeman, solider, LATSMA person etc. deal with the public.” This is the exact case with the SEC, who as a result of being in a position of power, are going against the laws of the country.
This SEC and Oando saga is not playing out well, the regulator seems focused on one goal and achieving this goal by any means necessary. In the process they are calling to question, the role of the regulator and in a manner that will have far reaching implications in the long term.