Lagos — Shareholders of African Petroleum tore at each other in Abuja yesterday, over the fate of unclaimed dividends declared by companies nationwide.
Responding to a statement by chairman of the company's board of directors, Rev. Benson Omomukuyo, a shareholder, T. Nwosu, said unclaimed dividends should be shared to identified shareholders. He said that the Bureau for Public Enterprises should not meddle too much in the affairs of companies to be privatised by government.
Another shareholder, Ahmed Rabiu, said while it was okay for the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to set up an unclaimed dividends trust fund to manage such funds, zonal centres should be established to encourage small-time shareholders to claim their dividends. But Goodluck Akpore, another shareholder held the view that "those clamouring for the sharing of unclaimed dividends without the involvement of SEC are either illiterates or are paid agents trying to cover up for those who were busy stealing shareholders investments."
He said it had been discovered that some companies declared unclaimed dividends of N2 million whereas they had as much as N800 million of shareholders profits they were embezzling. Akpore said that SEC should be encouraged to determine the actual amount of money involved in unclaimed dividends and evolve ways for investing the money wisely. No sooner did he make the observation than Rabiu raised objections and a shouting match ensued.
Earlier, Omomukuyo had told the annual general meeting that African Petroleum's 1,500 shareholders across the country would share dividends of N648 million for 1999. He said each shareholder would get N3 per share of N28 held in the company.
The chairman said the balance of N455 million from the profit being shared would be transferred to the company's reserve for future capital investment. Omomukuyo said the company's turnover improved by 83 per cent from N10.8 billion in 1998 to N19.79 billion in 1999. He said the increase in turnover resulted significantly from increases in the selling of petroleum products in the country.
He said operating profit before tax also went up from N307.95 million in 1998 to N1.29 billion in 1999, reflecting the impact of reviewed profit margin granted to marketers of petroleum products by the NNPC
"Similarly, profit after tax rose from N209.41 million in1998 to N1.1 billion in 1999," Omomukuyo said.
Omomukuyo said the company spent N797.1 million in 1999 to redevelop its retail outlets, replace worn-out equipment and on other capital projects in 1999 compared with the 1998 expenditure of N309.9 million for similar services. "In spite of the harsh operating environment, AP recorded significant improvement in 1999 over its performance in1998," he said