Arbitration & ADR, Insights

The Legal Propriety of Public Officers Owning Shares in Private Businesses or Corporations

The anti-corruption drive of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration has received its first stress test arising from the crisis in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (‘MHADMSC’). The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, recently announced that arising from allegations concerning the alleged misappropriation of N585,000,000 (Five Hundred and Eighty-Five Million Naira), the President has suspended the Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hon. (Dr.) Betta Edu. In the dying hours of the 8th of January, 2024, the crisis took a new turn, expanding its scope to affect the Honourable Minister of Interior, Hon. ‘Bunmi Tunji-Ojo. It is alleged, that a company in which the minister is a shareholder – i.e., New Planet Project Limited – was one of the persons awarded a consultancy contract by the MHADMSC. Hon. Tunji-Ojo has since cleared the air, explaining that though he was one of the promoters and a director of New Planet Project Limited, he resigned his directorship in 2019, after he was elected to the House of Representatives, and he is no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the company.

It is pertinent to state that while the Honourable Minister asserted and provided documentary proof that he had resigned his directorship, there was no indication that he divested himself of the shares he acquired as a promoter of New Planet Project Limited. Thus, the matter of legal concern then is: while serving as the Honourable Minister of Interior, and ipso facto a public officer, is it lawful for Hon. Tunji-Ojo to retain ownership of shares in New Planet Project Limited, a private company? This is the crux of our short piece…

 

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