WHO SHALL TELL THE PRESIDENT?

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Sola Oni urges the National Assembly to stop bullying the SEC to operate as a profit-making venture

The title of this piece is a reminder of the classic novel, published in 1977, by the English author, Jeffery Archer “ Shall We Tell The President?” The Theme is about the plot to kill the President of the United States, Edward Kennedy, but foiled by the Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) agent, Mark Andrews, working with the head of FBI. Archer later revised the novel, using fictional characters with plot structures on love affairs. This piece has no direct link with the Theme of Archer’s celebrated novel. There was no assassination attempt on President Muhammad Buhari. But there are issues that the President need to know in order to engage the relevant government functionaries on the way forward.

Ghana secured freedom from its colonial masters in 1957 and power changed hands from the white to black officials. Seven years after the independence, the famous Ghanaian novelist, Ayi kwei Armah, released his political satire titled: “The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born”. The novel blames the political, social, and economic challenges in Ghana on phony leadership.

Nigeria does not lack the Beautiful Ones. However, artificial obstacles have consistently prevented the beautiful ones from attaining leadership positions. The few that manage to operate in the political space often stand the risk of being tainted through group influence. Only the super-rich can afford the cost of election in Nigeria and the same set of people have always resurfaced at juicy political levels while the country moves without motion. Expectedly, Nigerians do not trust the ruling class. New strategy brings new results. This is the focus of Rescue Nigeria, a group of astute professionals in search for Nigerians with topsoil management skills and integrity to reposition the country.

Every day, Nigerians contend with insecurity, acute unemployment, macroeconomic instability and blurred political future among others, fuelling uncertainties. Over 90 million Nigerians live in abject poverty of less than one dollar per day. Manufacturers battle with high cost of production and low consumers’ purchasing power. The naira is devalued, and analysts have forecast another devaluation this year on low oil output, politics of petroleum subsidy and likely increase in interest rate. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), a major pillar of economic transformation shrinks daily because of the country risk. Portfolio investors have put a hold on their hot money as a risk aversion measure, thereby denying the stock market the much-needed liquidity. The country can no longer attract Hedge Funds and other private capitals.

The recent unveiling of mega rice pyramids and celebration of Anchor Borrower’s Programme of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), are mere political cosmetics. Food inflation that causes migraine for the poor in Nigeria rose from 17.21 in November 2021 to 17.37 percent in December. Ordinary Nigerians carry the burden of a trust deficit.

The weakness of the economy as the underlying asset for the capital market have prompted some analysts to cast doubt on the efficacy of the market as the barometer for the economy. Commodities market, including commodities exchanges ought to be another gold mine for the country’s revenue stream but regulatory arbitrage stifles the sector. It is the voice of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the statutory regulator of the commodities ecosystem and hands of the apex bank, a case of loss of focus.

It is never too late for President Buhari to redeem his administration’s economic credentials by focusing on the capital market which channels funds from the surplus economic unit to deficit one. Unfortunately, this is one sector that government does not pay desired attention. The capital market operators in Nigeria are not bereft of ideas that can transform the economy into infinite exponential growth. The big elephant in the house is the government’s lack of political will to implement the operators’ consistent recommendations. In its recent Webinar on Economic Review and Outlook for 2022, the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS), articulated some prayers that can hedge against

the current and future economic headwinds: The federal government should commence engagement with the capital market operators on utilization of the market to finance the N7 trillion deficit in the 2022 budget rather than continuous borrowings with dire consequences of interest payment on the revenue. Government is obliged to review some knotty areas of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to rebrand the Oil and Gas Sectors for profitability. The tax burden, including the re-introduction of the controversial capital gain tax should be reversed. The tax is not only a disincentive to investors but a drawback to the market’s global competitiveness. It is time to consummate the commercialization of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with listing of its shares on the securities exchanges to deepen the market. Stockbrokers have always sought alignment of monetary and fiscal policy and representation on the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) for enhanced professional advice on the implications of every policy on the capital market. The foreign exchange market should be reformed to stabilize the exchange rate and tame volatility. The National Assembly should expedite action in passing the pending bills to further globalize the capital market.

The financial engineers of the market, Stockbrokers or Securities Dealers in a broader sense face hard time. While less than 20 percent of the Dealing Member Houses under the umbrella of Association of Securities Dealing Houses of Nigeria (ASHON) are fat cats because of their strong financial muscles, others operate with loose life jackets.

The latest upward review of registration by SEC has triggered market disquiet . Annual registration of stockbroking firms has risen from N500,000 to N5 million. That of individual stockbrokers has jumped from by 1000 percent, from N125,000 to N1.25 million and this cuts across other Capital Market Operators (CMOs) in varying degrees

The Commission should engage the entire CMOs to strike a common ground in the face of the current economic realities. The National Assembly should face its fiduciary duties squarely and stop bullying the Commission to operate as a profit-making venture. it is against the spirit and letter of the Commission’s statutory functions. In the first instance, regulators exist because of investors and operators.

Oni, an Integrated Communications Strategist, Chartered Stockbroker and Commodity Broker, is the Chief Executive Officer, Sofunix Investment and Communications