EXCHANGE by its accepted nature is a two-way traffic with possible diversions. There is giving, there is taking. Where the Stock Exchange is involved, investors give their money in exchange for shares in organisations of their choice.
Matters are not that simple as the exchanges at the House of Representatives investigation into the crash of the capital market is showing.
The exchanges are clear departures from the concerns of Nigerians, which centre on why the capital market crashed. What went wrong? Could the situation have been redeemed? Would it happen again?
Exchanges between Miss Arunma Oteh, Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, and Dr. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, former Director-General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, are closer to theatre than reality. People want answers to questions about how their shares acquired less value than sheets of paper.
Thousands of investors, lured to the Exchange by the huge dividends companies paid, thought someone was watching over their investments. When the Exchange crashed, they expected someone would accept responsibility, particularly for the sheer looting through some of the banks.
Failure of the Stock Exchange was worse than the bank failures of 1994. The shares not only crashed, some investors suffered a double loss. Banks in which they had investments died through marginal loans that gave impression of high activity at the Exchange. The manipulations of the market with those loans deceived investors.
The Exchange acquired plaudits from global market experts on its growth. SEC acquiesced as the malpractices went on, possibly, it was clueless about them, including acquisition of quoted banks without considering investors.
What worries most people is the trend at the House hearing. What will this hearing achieve? When will the exchanges get to causes of the collapse of the capital market? Should that not be the focus of the hearing?
For a nation that scandals no longer shock, cataloguing who stole what and who did not leads nowhere close to resurrecting the Exchange. Yet it may be reasonable to know why an Exchange would reward anyone with a time-piece worth more than N1 million which Nigeria does not manufacture.
Wastes abound in our systems. One way of punishing deliberate waste and the attendant criminality is stringent laws that are no respecters of personalities. The operational procedures of many organisations need standardisation to be proper guides against misconducts.
If the House hearing achieves these, it would have gone far in freeing the Exchange from factors holding it captive. The collapse of the banks through marginal loans is not a trifle matter. No investigation of the capital market is complete without it.
Enough of the theatre, the House should ask real questions for real answers.