CBN, MBA and Investors

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Bashorun Olurombi
“Let us begin by thanking you for your massive patronage and that we would like to let you know that we appreciate you as business partners who put your hard-earned money in our care for the purposes of business.

“As a business concern, the only asset we have and the one we most cherish is your trust. That is why we are relentlessly dedicated to ensuring that whatever happens, we hold tenaciously to this trust. There is no business worth pursuing and no joint purpose worth hoping on once trust is lost.

“So, again, we thank you for entrusting us with your money. Trust once broken may never be regained and so we never on any occasion took this hard earned currency for granted.”

Those were the exact words of the Chief Executive Officer of MBA Capital and Investment Limited, Mr. Maxwell Odum, in a passionate plea convened to their respective customers last month.
The fulcrum of every relationship is sturdily anchored on trust. Life will be worse than the Hobbesian definition of the state of nature if trust was to be absent in the affairs of mortals. We will explain the unexpected factors which are now threatening this trust between us subsequently.

The funds invested were lost as a result of the volatility of the forex market and not due to the incompetence of our highly skilled and experienced traders. Loss is inevitable in business and ours is no exception. We did all we could as professionals to minimise the losses but the unpredictability of the market which we couldn’t reasonably predict made mincemeat of our laudable efforts.

Like the age-long cliché goes ‘Hope for the best but expect the worst’ was tragically our fate. Some things especially in the risky world of investments are outside the direct control of the traders and our losses only remind us of our human frailty. The unexpected arrival of the coronavirus greatly devastated macroeconomic frameworks and stability worldwide, disrupting international trade and leading to unprepared for shutdowns all over the globe. The containment strategies evolved only ameliorated the debilitating effects of the tales of the unexpected and no amount of proactive strategies or game theory modeling could have anticipated this. The pandemic caught even the clairvoyant napping as it was missed by the best of the world’s forecasters. We were badly hit by it as the markets took a great nosedive no thanks to the sinister virus from Wuhan which brought hitherto developed nations to her knees as they still grapple with its deadly aftermaths over a year later.

Secondly, we are aware that there are many rumours flying around and we have also noted that there are many pages opened on the worldwide web and social media network purporting to be our pages and some behind these pages purporting to speak for us. Please, be aware that our only official pages on the worldwide web and social media arewww.mbatrades.com and mbatradingcil (on Instagram / Facebook). No member of staff or agent of MBA Capital and Trading Investment Limited is authorised to open and run any page on behalf of the company. So, for all credible information about what is going on, do check the right pages. Where necessary to contact you privately, we shall do so via the channels you have provided for such purposes, once this engagement falls within the confines of the laws of the land.

As a regulator the Central Bank of Nigeria has done stellar work in navigating new instruments to guide the emerging new technologies as well as the new forms of financial engineering models arising from it. All over the world we are aware of “great disruptions” to the hitherto established and Central Banks have had to creatively adapt their regulatory frameworks in order not to hold back the wheels of progress and more crucially make their economic players lag behind other countries in terms of innovative competitiveness.
The CBN should give MBA the benefit of the doubt in its demonstrably honest attempt to rectify the damage while monitoring payments to depositors closely and with timelines and deadlines. By doing so they will be emulating the greatly admired German interpretation of “Negotiation” which translates into a process in which everyone comes out believing they have obtained the lions share.

The regulatory authority should not kill the fly with a sledge hammer. Let us cast our minds back to 1934 in the aftermath of the Great Depression in the United States. The then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed a well known securities trader, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, the father of the legendary 35th US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy as the pioneer Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The first thing he did was to outlaw insider trading which ironically was the foundation of his vast fortune. This greatly stabilized the markets and enabled it bounce back from the 1929 tragedy which saw the life savings of millions of Americans wiped out by the stock market crash. The legacy out of the outlawing of insider trading still lives on till date and has been adopted by most regulatory authorities around the globe.

While we acknowledge the statutory responsibility of the CBN to bring sanity into the industry which has been sadly giving a bad name by cow boys in the name of wonder banks, there is also the need to look into the unique peculiarity of our case as we are far from being a wonder bank. We were victims of circumstances beyond our control and there is the need to unfreeze our account so that we can refund the capital to our investors who have numerous financial needs that must be met.

Apart from its practical efficacy, such a method will acknowledge that this is about the first time that the CEO of an affected company and investment institution will be coming forward to own up and accept the tactical errors which occurred and that defaults did happen. The CEO has accepted liabilities and as a person of honour is unambiguous in his steadfast commitment to rectify by paying up. In doing so he will need the breathing space of time to do so.

The investing public who have demonstrated admirable forbearance should see this as an appeal to the apex body to unfreeze the account of MBA to enable them fulfill their obligations to their various customers. There can be no doubt about their willingness to do so as this provides a great opportunity to reboot and reclaim their reputation.

The new and social media has sadly brought us into the ugly era of fake news as anybody with a smart phone and internet access is now a ‘journalist.’ There is the need to decipher what is the truth and what is maliciously false and so we urge every investor to only follow updates from the above mentioned official channels of communication to avoid being misinformed especially by fifth columnists who want to take advantage of the crisis to further cast a dent on our credibility. It took us years to build up our reputation and our adversaries naturally want to take advantage of this temporal crisis to paint us as fraudsters who make a living hoodwinking unsuspecting members of the public. We boldly say that we are straight forward and are only a victim of circumstances beyond our control. We recall the tragic case of the French trader, Jerome Kerviel whose trading activity led to the loss of $7 billion in Societe Generale Bank. This didn’t lead to the bank’s closure despite the bad press generated from the tragic affair. Tough times never last, only tough people do and we are certain that we are no exception and will come out of this phase much stronger and ready to take on more challenges headlong.

Thirdly, we have also been made aware that in the midst of the situation we have found ourselves, some of our clients calling our offices for information have found themselves scouting for relieving information. We have received a few complaints in this regard, but we take our corporate responsibilities to our clients seriously. We also assure you that we understand the nerves of the moment and will not do anything to aggravate an already tense situation. None of our clients also deserves to be insulted by those with whom he or she is doing business just because they seek information. You are our valuable partner, and shall remain so.

Now, following the challenges we are currently grappling with in our business due to market volatility and other unfortunate developments, which means we are unable to meet up with the expected outcomes, we are strongly committed to ensuring that you do not at least lose your capital. We sold you an idea that we believed in and you have invested your funds into it because you trusted us. Where for one reason or the other things do not work out as expected in terms of your returns, the least you would expect is that your capital is safe.
Our commitment is to pay back all capital funds. In fact, we have commenced that process by paying out our clients on the N360, 000 category (which has the largest volume of persons).

To this end, we have slowly paid out hundreds of persons before we encountered an unforeseen circumstance. The central bank suspended any dealings in our accounts because, according to them, it became imperative to carry out some checks to ensure that we have been acting lawfully. All other payment gateways we normally use for easy payout of funds have also blacklisted us causing even more difficulty in the initial process. On our part, we recognize the role of government’s intervention in moments of hazy optics. While we are not perfect, we do not subscribe to criminality and will not convert this intervention to exploitation of your patience to shy away from our responsibility. However, you will agree with us, in circumstances like this, we are expected to cooperate with the authorities until they lift this embargo and allow us to fulfill our commitments to you.

We assure you that this is what we will do the moment we are cleared to do so, which is the refund of capital funds to all our clients. We are hopeful there shall be fair and just appraisals of our operations and processes in a way that does not discourage other persons of perceived or suggestive high-handedness. As we do not know for how long we have to wait though our lawyers are working assiduously to vacate the order, it is our hope that the order restricting our account for 180 days would be vacated so we can resume paying you again.

Trading is fraught with inherent risks and we also lost substantial sums of money due to no fault of ours as we only profit when our clients do. However, we are obliged to ensure that you don’t lose out completely but please pay no attention to the fake news and malicious rumours spreading like wild bush fire in the harmattan orchestrated by our envious detractors who will stop at nothing to bring down our hard earned good name which took us years of labour to build.

In as much as we would have loved you to recover your investment capital as soon as possible, we cannot go against the order of the CBN as we are a law abiding financial institution. For now our hands are tied with regards to the speedy payment of your capital but be rest assured that once the moratorium is lifted, we will do the needful by promptly refunding your capital. We cannot go against the ambits of the law and so we appeal to you to be patient with us as we exhaust all legal options to ensure that we are free to resume paying you back your capital.

At this juncture, it is also important to clear the air on the mountains of smear campaigns against certain individuals who have sacrificially committed their time to stave off crisis from inception till now. Especially our former Director, Mrs. Vodina West. Let’s make it abundantly clear that Vodina West is not in possession of MBA’s corporate funds, neither is she deliberately or remotely a trigger-factor within the trajectory of our current development. As a matter of fact, even after taking on other opportunities completely different from what we do, she has still gone ahead to lend her hand of expertise to MBA as we fashion out the roadmap to resolving our current impasse.

Once again, we apologise for the obvious inconveniences all this has caused you, especially as this is coming at a time there is a prevalent reputational deficit with Nigerian business concerns, but we are not a fly-by-night business outfit and certainly not in the category that traffic in deceit. We are also not engaged in another notorious ponzi scheme reminiscent of the infamous MMM which made many investors develop needless health complications.

We know we face difficult challenges at the moment, but we believe it also offers a learning curve for us all, especially us as a business. This intervention by the apex bank is for us not a slight, or a torment. Rather, we are adopting the observing and learning mode to be navigated by their experience and model of probity till we survive this with you all.

There is also a selfish reason we are investing in your trust and making sure we pay you your capital, at least, no matter what happens. We have a business with tens of thousands of clients on our platform, each of you putting your money on our idea. Wouldn’t it be myopic to, for whatever reason, lose thousands of you and foreclose the possibility of future business growth? Wouldn’t it be wiser to keep your trust, so tomorrow you can still count on us? Because we want to make our words our bond, we will never undermine ourselves by undermining you, our esteemed partners.

So, please, give us some time to sort things out; no matter how inconvenient it appears, we are working zealously for your advantage keeping in mind that the current conditions are exhaustive and depressive. Confidently, by the time we are communicating next with you it would be to inform you that we have resumed putting some money in your accounts. No investor big or small will be abandoned in this trying time of theirs and we assure you that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Please let us endeavour to be law abiding and follow the due process laid down by the law especially by the CBN which is the financial institutions’ regulator as it will be on our overall best interest.

Throughout history, crisis has challenged humanity. Some are political, some are economic while others can be social or natural disasters. How we interpret, react and bounce back today are what determines our capacity to survive tomorrow. An opportunity is here for MBA to walk its talk in fulfilling its promise to investors and the watching public, the CBN should grant the Firm this benefit of the doubt.

Olurombi, a financial consultant wrote from Lagos via olurombibashorun23@gmail.com