Associates of former President Daniel Arap Moi have moved to stage a take-over of the Kenya Seed Company in the latest chapter of a drawn out battle pitting private shareholders against the state.
Led by former CEO Nathaniel Tum, the private shareholders have summoned an annual shareholder meeting. They plan to appoint new directors and a new Chief Executive, and to declare dividends for the past six years.
The government has insisted that the firm is a parastatal majority owned by the government, while private shareholders lay claim to 60% stake in the firm. Tum has been fighting for control since 2003 when he was ousted as CEO for allegedly irregularly transferring ownership of the farm to the family of former President Moi.
In April 2020, Tum had led a virtual AGM to replace former CEO Azariah Soi, which the government through Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya dismissed.
Munya asserted that the AGM was not recognized by the government, and declared that the government was in the process of setting up a board.
“The government was not aware of the said AGM. There is no board in place to have called for the meeting as we are currently in the process of constituting one.
“For people who are engaging in wishful thinking and want to reap where they did not sow, this is not an opportunity and we will not give them the chance,” Munya stated at the time.
Other than Tum, other private shareholders who have called for the AGM before March 14 include Soet Kenya Limited, Paul Kandie and Joseph Otieno.
“We as private shareholders of Kenya Seed Company request the company to convene an AGM to be held within 21 days from today.
“If no meeting would have been called by the company as per the Companies Act, the private shareholders will go ahead to requisition for one,” the shareholders’ letter to Kenya Seed Company read in part.
Tum, during his time as CEO, oversaw a 2001 share sale deal that saw nine million shares of the company issued to the public.
The deal was vehemently opposed by the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), which stated that it did not meet the threshold for disposal of public assets.
In 2017, Tum made an unlikely return to Kenya Seed Company when he was appointed to its board by Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett. His tenure ended in 2019.
A section of farmers had in 2020 praised the government for appointing Fred Oloibe as Managing Director in an Acting Capacity. They vowed to oppose any further privatization attempts and criticized the Agriculture Ministry for delaying to appoint a board to work with the Acting MD.
“Kenya Seed is a totally state-owned company which shouldn’t be seen as a private entity the way it was being run when Nathaniel arap Tum was MD. That was a bad era where theft was commandment number one,”
“This is the highest height of impunity on the side of the government through the cabinet secretary for Agriculture to delay appointments of management and board of the company,” Henry Wakasiaka, a representative for North Rift farmers, told reporters at the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) show in Kitale.