The reason ERHC has not responded to phone calls regarding a story in preparation by DJNS reporter Norval Scott is that the company's new Chief Executive Officer, Ali Memon, is in Africa and communications with him are problematic, according to a source with with first-hand knowledge of the issue.
Memon, who was hired after bids for the choice blocks in the Nigeria-Sao Tome Joint Development Zone failed in the first round of licensing, is a former Marathon Oil executive with wuide experience in Africa. While he is in Africa, DJNS reporter Norval Scott is in London, and the two have had difficulty matching schedules and phone calls, the source indicated.
The source said that in fact ERHC does want to talk to Dow Jones, which publishes the Wall Street Journal and maintains the Dow Jones News Service, the wire service for which Scott works.
The story is expected to be a positive one, and the company's silence has raised question about ERHC's failure to respond. The issue's share price has been depressed for months, and it has long been under attack by short sellers who have now reduced their naked short positions, resulting in the stock's removal from the Threshhold Securities list last night.
There has been speculation that the company itself may have an interest in keeping the share price down due to a possible merger or buyout that would come after awards.
Such a possibility was first raised by the Los Angeles Times in May 2003.
The company's controlling stockholder, Sir Emeka Offor of Nigeria, no longer maintains ownership of a majority of the company's 629 million outstanding shares after settling a lawsuit on Nov. 10 with Nigeria's First Atlantic Bank by transferring 60 million shares to the plaintiff. Since then, according to the well-regarded Menas Consultants monthly newsletter, Offor has "taken a back seat" at the company, allowing Memon to take the lead.
Update 1035am EST: Reader markvo10 caught a mistake in an earlier version of this story. There is no difference in time zones between London and Abuja; the phrase "time zones" should have been "schedules." We regret the error.