The Ekiti State Government on Saturday denied that it sold off 666.670 million of its 1.191 billion shares in Wema Bank Plc, saying it neither partially nor wholly divested its interests from the bank.
The state government clarified that it only transferred 666.670 million shares to Ekiti Fountain Holdings, a business and trading bureau the administration of Dr. Kayode Fayemi set up to effectively manage the state’s investments.
The Commissioner for Information, Mr. Akin Omole made this clarification in an interview with THISDAY yesterday while dispelling reports that the state government had reduced its stake by 666.670 million in Wema Bank Plc.
Reports had claimed that Ekiti, one of the shareholders of Wema Bank Plc, had recently reduced its stake in the bank by 666.670 million from 1.191 billion shares.
In a notification to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) by its Company Secretary, Mr. Johnson Lebile, the bank had said Ekiti had sold N666.670 million shares at 65 kobo per share on the floors of the NSE, amounting to N433.336 million.
The notification revealed that the transaction took place between March 3 and 4, which brought the stakes of Ekiti State to 524.1 million shares as against 1.191 billion it previously had.
Faulting reports of the state’s divestment from the bank, Omole explained that the state government only transferred the shares to the Ekiti Fountain Holdings, a business and trading bureau owned by the state government, for proper management.
The commissioner said Ekiti Fountain Holdings was saddled with the responsibility of handling business interests on behalf of the Ekiti State Government, noting that Wema bank was also part of the mandate the outfit was to oversee.
He said: “Ekiti didn’t divest its interest or shares from Wema bank, either partially or wholly. What we did was to transfer the shares bought by Ekiti State in Wema to Ekiti Fountain Holdings for proper management.
“The government of Ekiti has no interest in running any business and that was why we created the holdings to handle government investments like private ownership.
“Like it was applicable to Wema Bank, so was it in the Nigerite Limited, Wemabod Estates Limited and other investments the state had in Odu’a Investment Company Limited and other private investments of the government.
“So, what happened was that Wema had officially transferred the shares to Ekiti Fountain Holdings to manage. We did that because there had been some neglect in the past when the government has no separate department or agency managing its business interests or investments.
“Whether the shares are managed by the government or the Fountain holdings, it is still the same, it is still owned by Ekiti. It is only the name that changed, but the interest is the same. So, no sale of shares or investment took place in the real sense of it”, Omole added..