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Oando boss and boardroom giant, Wale Tinubu faces his biggest challenge in the corporate world

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Wale Tinubu, group Chief Executive Officer of Oando PLC and foremost energy solutions provider is fighting the battle of his life. For a business man whose story in the corporate world reads like a fairy tale, this obviously is a turning point in a career that had sailed smoothly and untainted for many years.
Without any doubt, the Oando boss, represented everything good and progressive in business for many years. He stood shoulder high among his peers and competitors and was easily a reference point on issues of best practice and excellence. In the oil and gas industry where he is a big player, he received accolades and awards from far and near. He was also recognised for courage, ingenuity and hard work in business.
Tinubu has really had a good run. His company, Oando PLC is listed on the Nigerian and Johannesburg Stock Exchanges and he sits on the board of different blue-chip companies. In 2007, the oil magnate was awarded Global Young Leader by the World Economic Forum, Geneva, in acknowledgment of his achievements as one of the leading executives under 41.
Three years after, Tinubu again won the Africa’s Business Leader of the Year award by the African Business Magazine and Commonwealth Business Council for his contributions to the development of the african oil and gas industry. He is also a recipient of African Business Leader of the Year Award which was presented by the African Investor.
But like everything in life, Tinubu is facing unprecedented challenges, especially in this season of troubles when he seems to have more than enough in his plate.  Forces, both visible and invisible, appear to be up in arms against him and this is seriously destabilizing the once formidable empire of the business mogul.
The whole crisis began when Mr. Gabriel Volpi, a billionaire who holds dual Italian and Nigerian citizenship wrote a petition to the Securities and Exchange Commission, (SEC) against Tinubu, alleging gross mismanagement, cooked books and huge debts. The man is also insisting on the sack of Tinubu and his deputy, Mr. Omamafe Boyo, over the above-mentioned allegations and the duo’s inability to pay back a whooping sum of $80 million he lent their company.
Volpi’s allegations jolted both big and small players in the oil and gas industry because of his stature and influence. The Italian-Nigerian, aside being one of the founders and a major shareholder at Intels Nigeria Limited, a company that operates oil and gas logistics terminals in Onne, Rivers State and Warri, Delta State, he also runs Ansbury Investments Incorporated, a well-known player in ports logistic services, real estate and oil and gas. The highpoint of the petition, however, was the unsuccessful but spirited attempt by Volpi to stop Oando Nigeria PLC from holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) which took place in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom, State on September 11, 2017. Though Oando survived the Uyo coup, the allegation by Ansbury that the company is wobbly, regardless of the impressive official financial documents from Oando is a factor. And this has negatively affected investors’ confidence and the company’s profile. The revelations have also dramatically and awfully opened the company’s underbelly to the public.
But it is important to note that Ansbury also revealed, in its petition to SEC, that Oando’s present liabilities as at December 31, 2016 surpasses its current asset by N263.7 million, a pointer to grave financial disparity from the earlier financial year.  It added that even in the face of harsh financial condition at Oando, the company continues to increase the remuneration of directors.
Understandably, these allegations and petitions to SEC by Ansbury necessitated the setting up of a task force to review all the outstanding issues arising from the petitioner’s claims. But Ansbury failed despite its insistence and on hard stance, especially with regard to sacking Tinubu, his deputy and the suspension of the AGM which still held.
No doubt, these developments in the last couple of months have created huge gaps and image problems for Oando and its subsidiaries. The company is also suffering a backlash as its shares continue to experience volatility, both in Nigeria and South Africa.
This is the regrettable turn of events for a company and a CEO that once enjoyed unquestionable admiration, patronage and followership. As expected, Oando is already fighting unswervingly to put out its own story even though the company admitted in a statement that they are aware of Ansbury’s petition.
The company insists that all the issues raised lack merit since they had been attended to by the board, shareholders and SEC at different times.  It added that “the petitioner is not a shareholder of the company, but a shareholder in a company domiciled in a jurisdiction outside Nigeria which in turn holds shares in a Nigerian investment company that is a shareholder in Oando”.
A source at Oando even revealed that the issue of financial mismanagement is a hoax. He argued that a representative of Ansbury, Mr. Francesco Cuzzorea, sat on Oando’s board from 25 July, 2013 to 19 February, 2016, yet he endorsed the company’s account without raising any objection. He further revealed that the $800 million loan was not due for repayment, adding that “all this is arising because Ansbury is under financial strain and wants us to buy them out. But doing so at this time would be injurious to Oando because it has other obligations,” the source added.
Interestingly, there is also the belief among sympathizers of Oando, some investors and industry watchers that there is an attempt to hound Oando and make the company take decisions that would be favourable to Ansbury and her interests.
Whether this is true or not depends on the final outcome from the allegations and counter allegations that are still flying back and forth from petitioners and respondents. What is however sacrosanct is the perception out there.  Tinubu, who has built an enviable image as a business man and trendsetter in the oil and gas industry, has a herculean task of explaining and dousing the heat generated by this scandal. And many believe he may take a life time.

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