Capital Market Probe: Unmask the Culprits

We as a nation have a long way to go in putting this house called Nigeria in order if we want it to truly become one of the leading industrial nations in the world. And that is what this National Assembly should be pursuing today in probing the country’s Capital Market, given its very critical role in our nation’s financial economy.

The House of Representatives probe should have been a welcome development had it been conducted with the goal to getting to the bottom of what went really wrong in the Capital Market with fear or favor. But ask most Nigerians watching, and they will tell you that they do not believe that the goal is to truly get the root cause of the problem.

Try to ask them why and they will quickly tell you that there is something hidden in this probe, especially given that the probe is going on without the House first demanding the Court to unblock the Forensic Report that could have shown Nigerians the kind of sheer fraud that went on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Without making the content of that Forensic Report public by publishing it in all the newspapers in the country, Nigerians strongly believe that the House is just avoiding the substance to be chasing the shadow. The probe cannot confront Mrs. Ndi Onyiuke Okereke. Was it out of love for Nigeria that she rushed to the Court to block that Report, especially given that it was she who was the chief of NSE during the period in question. If the swindlers who ran our Capital Market as if it were, their personal fiefdom are not afraid that the content of the Forensic Report if made public would aim life in prison, why not they unblock it in the Court so that Nigerians would judge themselves.

They will tell you that the House Probe is not interested in getting to the bottom of the problem because doing so is to step on the toes of super rich and super-powerful, the so called richest Nigerians and powerful politicians. Most of those who call themselves business tycoons and financial moguls who today parade themselves and their so-called personal foundations actually made their so-called wealth stealing from millions of illiterate Nigerian investors who were lured into investing their savings in what was carefully hyped enough to guarantee the poor investors one way tickets to financial disasters.

In other words, it is only in countries like ours that former bank chiefs having used Ponzi scheme to defraud fellow citizens of their savings through margin lending in connivance with stock brokers could go ahead to establish foundation with their names and parade themselves as champions of corporate world; and do so with impunity and arrogance. And where and how did they become dollar billionaires overnight since there’s no way salaried bank chiefs could make them billionaires.

Those conducting this Probe may not know that most Nigerians are not all that ignorant fools who did not know what went wrong between 2005 and 2009 in the country’s Capital Market; how some robbers went there to enrich themselves and their friends by committing some unheard-of frauds ever committed in the history of any known Capital Market.

>From Casino House to Ponzi scheme, in their money-doubling quest, Public Limited Companies were allowed to illegally participate in IPO (Initial Public Offers) as many times as they would wish. Banks in particular were allowed to raise money in the Capital Market as many times as they wanted even when they had had enough and had no need for raising more money.

Oversubscriptions were kept as long as the money would serve them, and returned after having used the money to hype stock value.

When we all talk about the return of confidence, without making public the Forensic Report so that those returning to the Capital Market should learn some lessons from what went wrong and how they too could become wiser in the Capital Market, then, it is obvious we assume that those who had their fingers badly burnt as a result of investing in the market are still folly enough to leave the safety of bank Certificate of Deposits (CDs) and come back again to money-doublers’ market without guarantee that the fraud perpetuated will never happen again.

We are talking about the return of confidence when the very people working patriotically to ensure that confidence returns quickly are constantly harassed for being bold enough to want to fix the problem. What kind of confidence are we talking about here when the entire world is watching a nation that is not bold to tell itself the hard truth? Confidence while the criminals who used the Capital Market as their platform to steal trillions are yet to be arrested and brought to face the law? Can an economy that deprived citizen participation, want the same citizens to give it confidence — since confidence means trust?
This Probe should stop being about inconsequential. It should stop talking about spending more on food and on housing, since that is done to distract Nigerians from asking the fundamental questions. It should not be about personality clash rather than issues that make the Stock Market to lose unheard-of 66% of its value, dropping from N13.5 trillion to N4.6 trillion (losing N8.9 trillion) within a twinkle of an eye. How come the Nigerian Stock Exchange’s Index was ranked in the 2009 Bloomberg World Stock Market Report as ”the worst performing equity index globally”?

No one is asking how come the oversight and surveillance mechanisms were allowed to go so wrong to the extent of allowing dealing members having liquidity ratios of zero and negative values (in breach of Article 15(e) and Section 32 of the Investment and Securities Act) to take part in the equity market? Or how could it be possible that over 30% of the share capital of Intercontinental Bank that could be purchased with customers’ deposits, that Afribank used depositors’ funds to purchase 80% of its Initial Public Offer, and that the Oceanic Bank chief executive could control over 35% of the bank, borrowing depositors via SPVs (special purpose vehicles)? Where did all the trillions (N2.5 trillions) millions of illiterate Nigerian investors were dispossessed of in margin debts via savings, pensions, and properties (including their houses) have gone, since it actually was not flushed down the drain, who are in possession of this money?

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