Tuesday, February 10, 2009

CAPITAL MARKET CRISIS: Should We Consider Our Investments As Contributions to Nation Building?


The above question has become expedient in the light of the rigmarole and blame game currently being played out by self-confessed economic czars. Just two days ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission attributed the crisis in the capital market to what it described as the financial recklessness and greed of the banks, adding that the inability of banks to recover their loans from stock broking firms had a devastating effect on them. According to SEC, the banks granted N388 billion loans, which are yet to be recovered. Everyday the share goes down, the value of this loan decreases. The SEC DG, Musa Al-faki (who is obviously trying to learn on the job as he once admitted that he had never stepped into any Exchange in the world before OBJ appointed him as SEC DG) even alluded to the flamboyant lifestyle of bankers, saying that some of the banks’ chief executives are richer than the banks. SEC presently regrets the fact that its plan to recapitalising the stockbrokers to the tune of N1billion was blocked by politicians.


Al-faki recalled that there was a time of boom when the banks lent out money, especially to politicians without collateral even though he wasn’t man enough to name the banks. In addition to this, SEC attributes the current liquidity squeeze to some foreign investors who are selling their shares because they have problems at home. Presently, the situation of the capital market has worsened to an extent that shareholders sell their shares and deposit the cash in the banks where there is huge profit. Also to be blamed is the volatility of the exchange rate, which aggravated the Nigerian capital market’s decline.


Meanwhile, the operators of the capital market responded yesterday in Lagos by upbraiding the Federal Government for not taking urgent steps to bail out the market. At the Lagos meeting, which was convened by Oba Otudeko, President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, were chief executives of stock brokering firms and senior stockbrokers as well as Ndidi Okereke Onyiuke, the NSE DG. They all berated the government for its poor approach to the resolution of the market’s crisis, demanding an overhaul of the pension laws, which forbids pension funds administrators (PFAs) from investing not more than 25% of their funds in the capital market. They, on their own part, believe that government should allow PFAs to invest between 50 and 60% in the capital market. This according to them, will engender confidence and the liquidity needed at this time in the capital market. They now want Government to play active roles in buying back some of the shares of the blue chips sub-sector in the economy, as well as relax terms on funds used for margin trading facility by allowing brokers more time to pay back since stocks bought have down to as low as 60% in value.  And the blame game goes on and on


For emphasis sake, the Nigerian capital market in its booming days between 2005 and 2008 experienced a spiral increase in the market from N2.5 trillion to N12trillion in March 2008, a growth of 824%. People were selling and trading volume increased by 820% while the market index also increased, which made investors to make gains by dividends. This led to impressive inflow of foreign investments of about $2b coming from overseas. When Nigeria cleared up her debts and got better rating from capitalist and imperialistic firms, pension, insurance and banking reforms brought so much money into the system, setting the stage for massive funds chasing stocks on the Nigerian capital market.


But all that is now heaped on the bin of history as the global meltdown which Yar’Adua’s economic wizards shouted themselves hoarse trying to convince us some months ago that it will not affect Nigeria has entered right into our kitchens. Now we know better. The market capitalisation dropped to N2trillion on 30th January 2009, losing over N8trillion in 6 months.  The All-Share Index is down 27.5 per cent since January 1, and is the worst performing equity index in the world so far this year, according to Business Monitor International, which said in an earlier report: Add to that a 9.2 per cent drop in the currency, and you are looking at a third of your investment gone in one month. 


In place of an innovative and hard creative thinking to solve the current turmoil, Nigeria’s Government and capital market operators are busy, fixated in “bolekaja” economics that will not cushion the effects of the meltdown which has already affected Nigeria’s economy in the areas of capital flight, exchange rate of the naira, upward pressure on inflation and dwindling foreign reserves.”


In the light of these discordant tunes emanating from the seat of power, we may all begin to prepare our minds for the worst as Bola Ige once posited, “Blessed are those who do not hope for they shall not be disappointed”. In no distant future, our leaders will come to us with the usual mantra: “let us forget the past, forge ahead and consider our investments in the capital market as part of the sacrifices we all have to make in nation-building”.



 Atayi Babs 

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