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Corruption Rocks Bata Plc: The Accused, Mrs.Olakunri vows to clear herself


Despite the concerted and ambidextrous efforts of different anti graft bodies in Nigeria (EFCC and ICPC) to rid off corrupt practices in Nigerian system, both in the public and private sectors, the penchant for money making in the country through dubious and criminal means is yet to be laid to rest; it is rather growing astronomically by the day. Some have even come with the notion that corruption is peculiar to the male folks alone, and that women are more decent and upright in their varying positions of leadership.

Meanwhile, Mr. Yusuf, M.A. Co-ordinator Bata Workers Cooperative, Thrift and Credit Society Limited who wrote to in a well substantiated petition has proven that assertion wrong in strong terms, just as he exposed the atrocities committed by one Mrs. Olakunri the board Chairman of Bata Nigeria Plc inspite of her indelible records in her field of endeavors. Olakunri was the first female chartered Accountant produced in West Africa and also the female President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, a foremost professional body of accountants in Nigeria.

Yusuf`s petition reads: ''Permit me on behalf of the above mentioned organisation to present to you a matter that has severely and negatively affected the lives and fortunes of over 15000 individuals and organizations in Nigeria. This matter concerns the fortunes of one of the foremost manufacturing outfits in Nigeria which has in the last 70 years of its existence recorded important firsts in the corporate environment of the Organised Private Sector. This company founded in Nigeria in 1932 initially as a trading company and subsequently a manufacturing outfit in 1964 was originally known as Bata Trading Company and lately up till 1998 as Bata Nig. PLC. It has been the Nigerian subsidiary of the well known universal company Bata Shoe Company headquartered in Canada . Since 1998 it has been re-named and is now known as Footwear and Accessories Manufacturing and Distribution PLC (FAMAD).

''The company single-handedly led to the development and modernization of not only shoe manufacturing in Nigeria but also Tanneries for the processing of leather and allied products such as wet blue. It pioneered the very popular development model of local tanneries that have deep socio-cultural affinity to many third world countries and ethnic groups across Africa , Asia and the Middle East . The tanneries in turn stimulated the development of Cattle rearing, Animal husbandry and related agro-based industries. Many modern abattoirs were set up in order to cater for the specific needs of the leather and textile industries developed by this most important pioneer not only in Nigeria but also and more importantly world-wide. Time and space will not allow me to trace the exciting and great entrepreneurial spirit of the great man Thomas Bata, an origin of Czechoslovakia who invented modern day shoe manufacturing process through the technology of the shoe conveyor. Suffice it to note that Thomas Bata was to modern day shoe manufacturing process what the great Henry Ford was to the modern car manufacturing process!

''The bottom line being that all modern shoe manufacturers in the world owe Mr. Thomas Bata a great deal in the technology and organisational processes of managing their outfits. The tragedy of our country is that a company that has done so much in transferring technology and transferable technical skills to hundreds of thousands of our working class in the leather and textile sub sector of our economy is now converted to a one family chattel thereby throwing thousands of skilled and semi-skilled labourers and their families in to penury and destitution!The tragedy of Bata Nig PLC can be traced back to 1997 when Chief (Mrs.) Olakunri single-handedly masterminded the surreptitious exit of Bata Overseas Trading Company (BOTC), the owner of 40% shares and technical partner of Bata Nig PLC. Contrary to the requirements of the Companies And Allied Matters Act (CAMA) and the regulatory requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the regulator of public companies in Nigeria), Chief (Mrs.)Olakunri, using her position as the sitting chairman of the Board of Directors abused her office as the custodian of the interest of all shareholders of the company by illegally transferring the 40% shares that belonged to BOTC to herself and family members without the knowledge or prior approval of the rest of the shareholders. She achieved this feat by a clandestine incorporation of an offshore company in the U.K. and registered in Panama (a tax haven) to illegally purchase the shares kept in her custody as a trust to be held on behalf of the 15000 individual and institutional investors listed as shareholders of the company! She used the shares that belonged to the commonwealth of registered shareholders of the company as collateral with a local bank to obtain a loan used to pay for the purchase of the same shares for herself and members of her family! All these were done without the knowledge, consent or approval of both the board of directors of the company and its shareholders in an AGM as required by the law.

''Not only that but the worst part of the matter is that since this deed was perpetrated Chief Olakunri has consistently and with impunity refused to audit the accounts of the company and call an AGM for over seven years now just so as to avoid disclosing this fact before the shareholders and regulatory agencies! If the above was shocking news then this next part will astound even the most stout-hearted of your readers! For immediately she stole the company Chief Olakunri then embarked on a systematic and professional looting and plagiarisation of the considerable landed and other assets of the company using proxies and fronts! Also using her position as two term pioneer Chairman of the Educational Trust Fund from 1999-2007, Chief (Mrs.) Olakunri set up an elaborate money laundering operation channeling billions of naira through the accounts of the company for money washing and laundering. The most glaring of the various methods adopted by Chief Olakunri to perpetrate these acts had to do with the importation of leather from Kenya at highly inflated prices and in a manner that not even the procurement and stores officers are aware of any records of figures for the importation! LITTLE WONDER THEN THAT THE ACCOUNTS OF THE COMPANY HAVE DEFIED AUDITING EVEN FOR A PROFESSIONAL AUDIT FIRM OF THE CALIBRE OF AKINTOLA WILLIAMS & DELOITTE! IN THEIR PRELIMINARY FINDINGS FOR THE YEARS 2002-2006 THE AUDITORS DISCLAIMED SEVERAL IMPORTANT HEADINGS IN THE ACCOUNTS SUCH AS THIRD PARTY TRANSACTIONS CASH AND STOCK BALANCES INTER ALIA!NOTE!!!

''The most shocking aspect of this saga IS THAT CHIEF (MRS.) OLAKUNRI IS THE FIRST FEMALE CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT PRODUCED IN WEST AFRICA AND ALSO THE FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT OF THE INSTITUTE OF CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS OF NIGERIA(ICAN) WHICH IS THE FOREMOST PROFESSIONAL BODY OF ACCOUNTANTS IN NIGERIA! Several petitions have been written to SEC and other regulatory and law enforcement agencies in Nigeria concerning this matter without any response except the recent official de-listing of the company from the Stock Exchange thereby giving leverage to the perpetrators of the act to cover their tracks and complete the disenfranchisement of the minority shareholders who have invested their hard-earned income with the hope of reaping a life-time of steady income. Since the take-over of the company by the rapacious Chief Olakunri and her clique there has been a complete dissemblance of all the valued principles of corporate governance required in the running of a public company. Managers have continued to mismanage the company without any fear of reprisals. Tax deductions made from staff payroll at source have not been remitted to the Inland Revenue office and so workers have difficulty obtaining tax certificates as law abiding citizens. Even deductions made on behalf and for the benefit of members of our cooperative society have continued to be withheld by the management. As at the time of writing many members of the cooperative who have been saving with the company have not been settled after unceremoniously being retrenched by the company. Close to a million naira owed to the cooperative society is still being withheld by the management of the company.

''Many workers that have been laid off or retired by the company continue to queue up for their gratuities and terminal benefits for several years without success while managers sell off choice properties and siphon the proceeds to their private pockets! The full extent of the atrocities being perpetrated in this company by Chief (Mrs.) Olakunri need to be seen to be believed! We wish to call on the widely acclaimed reputation of Sahara Reporters to stand up for Fundamental Human Rights and the Rule of Law to please come to the aid of the voiceless masses of retired workers, pensioners and severely impoverished shareholders whose rights are being violated with impunity. We have been told by sources at the Securities and Exchange Commission that as long as Senator Udo Udoma continues to be the chairman of the SEC it would be virtually impossible to bring Chief (Mrs.) Olakunri to order. This is because of the long standing retainership that Udo Udoma's law firm (Udo Udoma, Bello Osagie & Co. ) enjoys from Chief Olakunri. It is also a well known secret that the same law firm (where one of Chief Olakunri's daughters works) facilitated the illegal takeover of BOTC shares by Chief Olakunri as well as handled many juicy property deals for her since the takeover. (You will find enclosed a petition written by a former Managing Director of the company called Mr. Atewologun to that effect.) We urgently seek your assistance in airing our grievances to the appropriate quarters. All efforts to get the relevant authorities to respond to our numerous petitions have fallen on deaf ears. In fact Chief (Mrs.) Olakunri have boasted to any one who cares to listen to her that the regulatory and law enforcement agencies including the EFCC can do nothing about this matter because of her connections in high places! We attach the relevant documents that will help you in conducting objective and independent investigations to ascertain the veracity of our claims. We endeavor to assist you in any manner you may require to bring this matter to its logical conclusion. On behalf of the Bata Workers Co-operative Thrift & Credit Society Ltd, the minority shareholders and all stakeholders of this company we call upon you to come to our aid. Yours-for-justice.'' in our usual thorough, painstaking investigative work spoke to some stakeholders in the organization, in order to be free from bias or lack of objectivity. One of them is the Vice Chairman of Bata Nigeria Plc, who is simply identified as Mr. Chima, while reacting to the stand point of the petitioner (Yusuf) he said:

''Before you called me a lot of press people have been calling me and I have been referring them to Mrs. Olakunri, she's in best position to defend herself. Let me be honest with you at this stage of my life; I don't think I have nothing to lose by telling the truth. No doubt serious allegations have been leveled against Olakunri, the Chairman of the board, and those allegations are well substantiated in those published articles. You know we work as a team in the board and there is nothing she would have done that we would not know. We cannot cover anything provided they are based on truth, but I will have to be very careful with my utterances so that I don't implicate myself this is a very serious and sensitive issue, but I have to preserve my conscience. Well it is true that she contributed to the exit of Bata overseas Trading Company, the owner of 40p percent shares and technical partner, like you said the petitioner have said, but it is not true that she has not audited the company.

''The company's financial dealings have been audited, but the only thing left is that details of the audit reports have not been published yet or made available to the public. SEC and other regulatory bodies are all aware of these facts, nobody is covering anything, and also our auditor Akintola Williams can also confirm that, because they did a thorough job while auditing the company's financial records. But please you have made me speak more than necessary, you need to speak to her further, it is not for me to defend her or to speak on her behalf, please you will need to speak to her yourself directly, and I'm sure she would respond to you. You press people you know how to put someone in a tight corner so that you can get what you need''

However, made several efforts to get the position of Chief Mrs. Olakunri (Board Chairman of Bata Nigeria Plc), as regards the revealing petition, but she declined to receive her calls. When the incessant trials on her phone became embracing to her she would only pick the calls and persistently refused to utter a word, except for the sound that was emanating from the supposed cushion chair where she was sitting during those period of fruitless phone calls. Similarly, Engineer Adetiba who is also a Director in the company also did not pick her calls. In investigative journalism has it that reactions like this abundantly show that such silence and ignore is an indication that the allegations against the accused are based on facts. This is another clarion and wake up call to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission to dig deep to this matter and pronounce publicly every erring official in Bata Nigeria Plc (Footwear and Accessories Manufacturing and Distribution Plc). A high profile corruption related matter like this will definitely send signals to everyone that no one is above the law.

However, just before press time persons close to Mrs. Olakunri contacted and said “No problem. She will give her side of the story. I will ensure that you have access to the person that will co-ordinate it, when she is ready to do that, sometime in the next few days”.

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