BY NKIRUKA NNOROM
The Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Ms. Arunma Oteh, has said that the recovery being witnessed in the capital market is an outcome of the commission’s reforms and zero-tolerance for corrupt practices.
Speaking in an interview with BBC News, Oteh said the focus of the commission on her assumption of office in 2010 was restoration of market integrity encapsulated in the various reform programmes initiated by the commission to sanitize the market.
She said: “The global financial crisis was really bad for Nigeria. We had our market declining from a peak of N12.6 trillion in March of 2008 to a bottom in February 2009 of N3.9 trillion. So, you can imagine what that meant; to every dollar we invested; we lost more than $76. It was that horrible for Nigeria.
“The reforms we initiated were varied, but the most important thing was really to establish that we will not tolerate anything that is wrong in the Nigerian stock market from anybody, whether investing through a company or investing through the exchanges in Nigeria because nobody will ever accept to give another person money if he knows that he will be defrauded. S
o, that was first and foremost, the most important thing for us. What we call restoring integrity of the market.”
“Today, our market has more than doubled since January, 2010 when we started this reform programme. We are back at the level we were in 2008. We have a market capitalisation in our stock market that is over N12 trillion; we have both the domestic and foreign investors fully investing in the market on 50/50 basis,” Oteh added.
She emphasised that no financial market around the world was as intolerant of corruption as Nigeria was, saying that all those that were found culpable of corrupt practicse prior to 2008 global financial crisis were all dealt with.
“Let’s take the financial sector for instance, there was a global financial crisis and we the financial market regulator in Nigeria took a very bold step. The people that needed to be brought to book for wrong doing were all brought to book.
Those that needed to be punished for illegal acts were punished. Tell me the country in the world that recovered as fast as Nigeria did in terms of making decision as in tackling corruption in the sector?
We have zero tolerance for corruption because of the cost to us in Nigeria,” she further stated.
She posited that opportunities abound in agriculture, power, oil and gas and other sectors in Nigeria, saying that the only way for both foreign and local investors to fully access the opportunity was to use the capital market as a vehicle.
The SEC boss restated that Nigeria would not meet her $35 billion annual infrastructural needs without the capital market.
In her words, “The World Bank said that Africa needs about $100 billion for development of infrastructure; we are told by the Africa Development Bank that Nigeria needs $35 billion per year for infrastructure.
And we know that it cannot come from the Federal Government’s account. Our total budget is $30 billion to pay salary and others.