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False accounts: SEC accuses Cadbury of frustrating inquiry


July 27, 2007/ Punch



The Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday alleged that Cadbury Nigeria Plc was frustrating efforts to investigate the overstatements reported in the company’s accounts last year.


Cadbury, however, denied this and said it was collaborating fully with the regulator.


“We are cooperating with SEC,” the spokesman for Cadbury, Mr. Kufre Ekanem, said by the telephone on Thursday.


An overstatement in the accounts of Cadbury Nigeria was discovered last year after the company appointed an independent investigator, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to probe its accounts.


SEC, which regulates the activities of all quoted companies, said it constituted an Administrative Proceeding Committee to conduct a thorough investigation into the fraud but said Cadbury was blocking the investigations.


The acting Director, Investigations and Enforcement, SEC, Mr. Charles Udora, said that when the panel was to hear the position of the company, Cadbury Nigeria brought an order from the Federal High Court and stopped the proceedings.


Udora, who spoke in a programme, on Channels Television monitored by our correspondents in Lagos, said that as a law-abiding corporate citizen, SEC stayed proceedings on that day, went to that court and discharged that order.


“We were able to discharge that order and we fixed other date for the hearing, which were July 23 and 24. And then, we were slammed with another injunction from company,” he said.


He said that with the information available to the Commission, it would have sat down and taken a decision.


According to him, SEC decided to go a step further by bringing in all stakeholders to a very transparent atmosphere that was clear to everybody.


“But the issue is being prevented by the same company we are trying to assist to bring out the truth. If this goes on for a longer time, the Commission will do what it ought to have done,” he said.


Cadbury declined to comment on the court injunction.


“The matter is in court. We can’t comment,” Ekanem said.


Udora, however, said that Cadbury, which claimed to have discovered the overstatements, should allow transparent investigations.


He said, “We only invited everybody, including the directors, auditors, members of the audit committee to come and say what they know for the world to know. We have constituted the panel but the company is the one preventing the panel from hearing from them.”


The President, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Mr. Boniface Okezie, flayed Cadbury for going to court to stop SEC.


According to him, since the APC was a legal organ meant to resolve issues in the market, Cadbury ought to have waited for the outcome and if not satisfied, it could then decide to go to the Investments and Securities Tribunal. 

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