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Published On: Mon, May 15th, 2017

Ibru vs Ibru: SEC calls time for Ikeja Hotels

FELIX OLOYEDE

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) came to the rescue of Ikeja Hotels Plc to prevent its internal crisis from consuming it as the Commission dissolved its board of directors last week.

SEC sacked the board and appointed Chief Anthony Idigbe, SAN as interim Chairman of Ikeja Hotels, to oversee the conduct of forensic investigation into the affairs of the company.

Ikeja Hotels is owners of Lagos Sheraton Hotel and Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja. It also has substantial stake in Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Trouble started in the company in 2014 when Maiden Ibru, wife of late Alex Ibru, publisher of Guardian Newspapers sued her brother-inlaw, Goodie Ibru over the chairmanship of Ikeja Hotels, who was subsequently deposed on January 6, 2015, at an extra ordinary meeting (EGM) of the hotel and a new board and reconstituted.

But a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja earlier this year 2017 quashed his removed, saying  his removal was “unlawful, null and void and of no legal consequence.”

But despite the judgment, the internal crisis in the organization did not abate as Goodie Ibru took a bow from the company in February this year. He said he took the decision to allow Ikeja Hotels to perform optimally, which have been hampered by multiple law suits filed by shareholders in the contest for the management and control of the company.

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Due to the internal rancour in Hospitality and Tourism Company, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) had on November 10, 2016 suspended trading on the shares of Ikeja Hotel Plc.

SEC while explaining the rationale for the disbandment of the board, said in a statement that it waded in to forestall the warring parties from taking actions that put their rival in disadvantaged position.

“Having failed to resolve its lingering crisis, the Commission in exercise of the powers conferred on it by the Investment and Securities Act, 2007 to protect investors and the integrity of the securities market, hereby approves the appointment of an Interim Board for the company with Chief Anthony Idigbe, SAN, as Interim Chairman. It is the Commission’s expectation that the shareholders and key management staff of the company will work with the new team to ensure that the fortunes of the company are restored in the shortest possible time,” the Nigerian capital market regulator explained.

But shareholders and other stakeholders have started kicking over SEC’s decision to dissolve Ikeja Hotels board.

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They argued that SEC’s intervention in the company was belated.

Mr Godwin Anono, Chairman, Nigeria Professional Shareholders Association, said the dissolution of the company’s board came at the wrong time, adding that the regulator ought to have step in before now and disband the board long ago in order to protect the interest of other shareholders.

He urged SEC to ensure that the interim board of the company goes not stay longer than necessary, noting that the members of the dissolved board should be investigated and prosecuted if found wanting.

Mr Sunny Nwosu, Coordinator Emeritus, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN) holds a different opinion on the issue, saying that might have delayed to its actions  with strong reasons, since many individuals had  intervened in the interest of the company.

“I think SEC was patient to see if they would settle their differences and should not to be accused of acting in haste,” he argued.

The ISAN coordinator opined that infighting had exposed the greed of some individuals, adding that companies should not only be majority shareholders, but for everyone.

 

 

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