COVID-19: SEC Introduces Electronic Filing, Processing of Applications, Returns

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Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja

In furtherance of its role as the apex regulator of the Nigerian capital market, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued an advisory that would mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in capital market operations.

In a circular to capital market stakeholders on COVID-19, the SEC released a number of market-focused adjustments to be adopted in the interim in response to the effects of COVID-19 which includes filing and processing of applications electronically, extension of deadline on 2019 annual reports and Q1 2020 reports, postponement of the quarter 1 (Q1) Capital Market Committee meeting earlier scheduled for April 23, 2020.

The Commission stated that applications shall be filed electronically, while pending applications and requests by Capital Market Operators (CMOs) for update of information would be processed via registration@sec.gov.ng.

However, fresh applications for registration of CMOs are suspended until further notice.

Also, returns shall be filed electronically, while the Commission has approved a 60-day extension, in the first instance for public companies and capital market operators to file their 2019 annual reports and Q1 2020 reports.

By the advisory, public companies are to take appropriate precautionary measures as recommended by the federal and state governments as well as the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to ensure the safety of shareholders and participants at Annual General Meetings/Extra-Ordinary General Meetings and other meetings which may be held during the prevalence of the pandemic.

“The first Capital Market Committee meeting for the year scheduled to hold on April 23, 2020, and all other meetings have been postponed indefinitely. All complaints and enquiries should be made to the Commission at sec@sec.gov.ng, 09-4621100 and 09-4621168 or at our various social media accounts

“It is important to note that the foregoing guidelines are not exhaustive, but rather represent an outline of immediate actions the Commission considers necessary to sustain the actualization of its regulatory mandate and maintain the integrity of the Nigerian capital market during this challenging period. Accordingly, the Commission will continue to issue updates to market stakeholders as appropriate. The Commission will also continue to closely coordinate with other financial regulators and governmental authorities,” the SEC stated.

The SEC enjoins all capital market stakeholders to adhere to all recent directives on safety and social distancing, adding that it is focused on the following measures, amongst others: ensuring the continuity of its operations; monitoring market functions and systemic risks; providing regulatory flexibility and guidance to issuers, trading platforms, capital market operators and other stakeholders impacted by COVID-19; and continuation of investor protection efforts and relevant enforcement actions.

The spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide has created a degree of uncertainty and anxiety, as governments and health experts attempt to curtail the proliferation of the virus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had warned that given Africa’s fragile health systems, the threat posed by COVID-19 in the continent is considerable. This has led to various actions taken by the federal and state governments in Nigeria to curb the spread of the virus.