The majority shareholders of Nigeria’s indigenous oil giant, Seplat Energy has described as baseless and infantile allegations against the firm’s results for the half-year ended June 2023.
A statement by Barrister Emeka Nnubia on behalf of the core investors described the purported joint press conference by the leader of the Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Moses Igbrude, and Lemmy Ughegbe as an exercise in continuation of the recent onslaught of baseless allegations and ill-motivated lawsuits against Seplat and its Chief Executive Officer, Roger Brown.
Nnubia also described the renewed media offensive as appalling, “after a seeming truce ostensibly occasioned by the reversal suffered in the law courts, by this group of individuals led by Mr. Moses Igbrude but apparently being aided and abetted by a former major shareholder of the company”.
A major plank of the posturing, the statement stressed, is the claim that Seplat spent $19.4m on legal fees and the unconscionable demand for a probe and the sack of the board.
“We consider it a travesty that Mr. Igbrude whose initial sponsored petition introduced the flurry of false and orchestrated allegations against Seplat, its CEO, and its Directors/Officers, still have the temerity to be grandstanding.”
Igbrude’s obvious lies and deception, the statement also lamented, formed the basis of the initial regrettable actions taken by the Ministry of Interior and the criminal charge brought against Seplat and its officers, which was promptly withdrawn by the Nigerian Immigration Service, while Seplat and its officers were entirely discharged by the Federal High Court (Abuja) in April 2023.
“It is also an irony that Igbrude and his cohorts will be talking glibly about the provision for legal fees made in the company’s Half Year report when they were the same people who ignited an avalanche of lawsuits that necessitated the need for Seplat to defend its hard-earned reputation and the high integrity of its officials. The chicanery, which the cases evinced, just like this recent joint press conference, offended civilized conduct even as it stretched freedom of expression to an absurd limit.
“As representatives of the majority shareholders, we were alarmed that a company in which we have made a significant investment and from which we derive ample returns will be unduly maligned and castigated in public by a clique of 13 minority shareholders holding less than 800 shares out of 589m shares (0.0001% of the company’s issued shares),” the statement added.
Seplat’s half-year results showed strong cash generation of $259m, demonstrating continued operational excellence and resilience as evidenced by an unrivaled safety record having now clocked up a commendable 4.2m hours without a Lost Time Injury.
It is clear from the excellent results for the first half of 2023, the core investors stressed further, that Seplat has put its recent travails behind it, delivering good returns despite the distractions faced as a handful of shareholders orchestrated jumped-up allegations against the company and its leaders and successfully defended.
They described Seplat as a future assured company every well-meaning shareholder should be proud of, noting the extension of the Share Sale and Purchase Agreement (SSPA) for the acquisition of ExxonMobil’s share capital of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPNU) to preserve the transaction.
On the half-year 2023 performance, the statement noted that revenues rose by 3.8% to $547.0m (including overlight of $504m on improved production, offset by lower oil price, cash generation of $259.1m, funding capex of $80.8m and improved shareholder returns. Balance sheet, it said, remains strong with $381.0m cash at the bank, despite the impact of the devaluation of the Naira on USD cash balances.
Continuing the statement added: “That ISAN and MADI or people acting at their behest, as disgruntled minority shareholders, would disparage such a high-performing company beggar’s belief. Their desperation also led them to query the noble intention of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) as well as the Federal Government in toeing the path of fairness and patriotism. We urge the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and other responsible government agencies like the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to roundly ignore Igbrude and his likes whose penchant of crying wolf where there is none is becoming legendary.
As representatives of majority shareholders of Seplat Energy, he stressed further, “we restate our unwavering confidence in the Board and Management of Seplat Energy. We state categorically that the action of Igbrude and his fellow litigants was ill-motivated with the intention of diminishing the value of Seplat Energy, which has by its consistent superlative performance, remains at the apex of the best-performing company in Nigeria.”