The Nigerian Police Force has invaded the offices of Proshare in Omole area of Lagos with members of the Force CID from Abuja under CP Ahmadu Ali who ordered the move based on a ‘petition’ received from Femi Otedola over the publication of a court ordered document on a suit he instituted against five banks – Access Bank, FCMB, GT Bank, UBA and Zenith Bank.
The team led by Superintendent Marcus issued no invitation letter or warrant of arrest but proceeded to, on April 29, hold all the staff members of the firm hostage until the CEO, Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi was produced.
The MD/CEO was fortunately on assignment at the stock exchange and was planned to travel to Abuja over the weekend for an outstanding assignment; hence he was not in the premises.
The MD/CEO got in touch with the team who insisted on having him for interrogations over a matter he knew nothing about.
Mr. Femi Otedola had boasted before today that he would use his close association with state powers to deal with the media houses who comment on his state of indebtedness to the Nigerian banks.
In this case, it did not matter to him that the information reported, in Proshare’s best tradition of deploying only facts, was based on a court document arising from a suit instituted by Femi Otedola himself.
To underscore the significance of this use of force, the officers of the Nigeria Police Force went back to the Proshare offices and started carting away, computers, files and staff members as ‘hostages’ until the MD/CEO shows up.
Intimidation of Staff
The staff members were marshaled into a room and told to stop work while their computers were searched as well as personal belongings and official files. After going to Femi Falana’s chambers to arrest Olufemi Awoyemi, FCA; the returned back to the office seizing mobile phones, files, computers and workers on site working on the renovation of the offices.
It was pure bedlam and one conducted without a court ordered warrant. A clear case of the abuse of process and rule of law is on display here. The police did not give a hoot about due process or respect for the rule of law. This after all was not a police matter under any guise but an abuse of privilege and access to power at the highest level.
When the members of staff pleaded to know why they were being hounded like common felons in the practice of a public interest matter, and why this show of force: they said they were working on orders from above.
This is a new low and an indication for the type of democracy Nigeria is operating under or will be operating under.
All efforts to reach senior officers including the Inspector General of Police proved to be futile. They all turned off or responded that this is the way it is.
Attempts to explain our stand and professional communication of developments based on a public document were side stepped. When they were informed that Messrs. Femi Falana & Co were handling the matter based on a text message received at 8.43am on April 22, 2011 )with no name indicated – they insisted that they have a mandate to protect the presidents friend.
This is unbelievable and as the pictures taken show (taken at great risk), we have no say in the matter and are fearful for the lives of the personnel at this stage.
The Chief Executive officer of Proshare, a market analyst and information portal for the Nigerian Financial Market, Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi, and consultant to a number of quoted companies on investor related issues and communications strategy was sought out by Femi Otedola in his bid to put a lid on the disclosures surrounding his debt situation which has seen him running from meeting his obligations and using his position within the presidency to intimidate, harass and harm people who dare to demand for a restitution.
This formed the background to his petition to the Inspector General of Police, to use the apparatus of the state to force Proshare into a submission after many overtures on his part to get the said MD/CEO to work in his favour.
This latest attempt confirms fears over the life of the MD/CEO of Proshare based on Mr. Femi Otedola’s determination to use all within his powers to silence the platform.
This development is happening on the heels of the publication on the site of an informed commentary by Daily Independent newspapers on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 on how Femi Otedola’s suit against five banks poses increased risk to future debtors.
Proshare subsequently published the following information related to the subject:
1. Recalcitrant bank debtors and implications for economy 2. The Dirty Tricks Debtors Employ 3. Mounting bad Loans – India 4. Bad Debts, Dilemma of AMCON, Banks
5. Issues in bank-debtor relationship 6. The Court Document – Zenon vs 5 Banks – Apr 2011 7. Mareva Injunction against Femi Otedola 2011
The invasion today by the officers of the Nigerian Police Force Headquarters from Abuja in Lagos is allegedly premised on the petition by Femi Otedola that the communications above represent to him an injurious publication (for which the courts was beneath him) and his allies in the police would do – to muzzle all communications regarding recent publications in the media about Mr Femi Otedola’s acknowledged indebtedness of him and Zenon Petroleum to the tune of about N170 billion; to five banks.
Mr Otedola is Chairman of Zenon Oil and African Petroleum (AP); two companies milking the inefficiency of the Nigerian state to resolve the Power Sector problem in the N150 million population and ho has increased diesel prices to about N170 per liter and has plans to raise it even higher at a greater cost to the public, corporations and the whole economy.
Mr. Femi Otedola, it will be recalled, has been having a running battle with his creditors in the last few months resulting in a court case instituted by Zenon Oil against the banks were he claimed he was not owing, in contrast to his public admittance of the debt.
The court documents equally confirm that all his assets have been ‘mortgaged’ for this facility and all he has left is his political capital with the president, a position he feels threatened by if the publications on Proshare and other well meaning media houses to stop or have their web sites shut down.
The deployment of the state police from the IGP’s office is therefore instructive.
The police want to question Mr. Awoyemi about the publications on www.proshareng.com as it relates to the 5-page Federal High Court writ of summons in the case between Zenon Petroleum & Gas Limited and Access Bank, FCMB, GT Bank, UBA and Zenith Bank (Suit No. FHC/L/CS/446/2011 of April 12, 2011).
The management of Proshare in an earlier official statement has expressed dismay at how the publication of a public/court document could translate into the kind of harassment that both the company and its CEO are now being exposed to.
Proshare insists on the integrity on its processes and the credibility of all information published on its online platform. The statement adds that “a debtor owes a duty to pay his or her debts and that failure to do so represents a danger not only to the banking sector but to the economy; where debtors are reluctant to pay, this further raise legitimate questions about lending by banks, and these are issues that are properly in the public interest.”
All efforts to now reach Mr Femi Otedola proved abortive.
Proshare Nigeria Ltd, indicated that Messrs Femi Falana & Co., the human rights lawyer and Messrs Bisi Iyaniwura & Co are handling the maters and have gone to court to enforce the rights of the firm, though with limited hope of a fair response given the vaunted position of the petitioner within the presidency.
It is now left to ordinary Nigerians who voted on April 16, 2011 to appeal to the government’s best sense of civility and a refusal to go back to the dark days.