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Power is nothing without control

By Pini Jason
MY caption today is borrowed form the pay off of the Pirelli tyre advertisement. I find it very profound whenever I contemplate the appeal to importance and the relish of power by people. Nigerians love their power and always like to wield it exclusively.

For example, during the days of police check points, if you queried a policeman for standing dangerously on the middle of the highway to flag down a vehicle hurtling down at the speed of 160 kilometres per  hour, he simply retorts: “You want to teach me my job?” Nigerians at every opportunity exhibit this type of infallibility in exercise of their power. That is why many things go wrong for us!

In recent times, members of the National Assembly have shown us that they are not in the mood to brook any opinion from us who presumably “elected” them into office. The mood has been to crack down on anybody and any institution that stands in their way.

They summon anybody at the slightest provocation. Even the President of the Federal Republic is not spared! They order the sack of any member of the executive that crosses their way, and once the fatwa is pronounced on you, you become un-person, unfit to attend a seating of its committee. As someone said, we are witnessing the emergence of an executive legislature!

Nobody is in doubt about the National Assembly’s power of oversight, except, perhaps the National Assembly itself. The three prominent Investigative probes of the House of Representatives—the Elumelu power (no pun intended) probe, the Herman Hembe Capital Market Crash probe and the Farouk Lawan Subsidy probe—have all been tainted by corruption allegations.

he disgraced Hembe Committee yielded way to the Hon. Ibrahim Tukur El-Sudi Committee. On 17 July, the El-Sudi Committee submitted its report to the House of Representatives. The report did not surprise a few in its observations, conclusions, tone and acerbity. Its inelegant language, grammar  and  syntax did not do justice to the powerful Committee, either.

From the preponderance of submissions by various stakeholders, it was clear why the Capital Market crashed. But what was rather surprising was what the Committee chose to make of the submissions. It seems the Committee only heard what it wanted to hear, from whom it wanted to hear it, took only what submissions it wanted to take and peremptorily dismissed those that seemed to run counter to preconceived conclusions.

If we remember previous encounters between the National Assembly and the Governor of the Central Bank, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, it could not surprise anyone that those who had previously stepped on the toes of the National Assembly were made to taste the powers of the House.

There seems to be an old boy network in operation. I was not surprised that Sanusi and Mustapha Chike-Obi were treated in the report  like hostile witnesses. I chuckled when I read Femi Otedola’s submission to the Committee.

Perhaps ,if he appeared before the Committee after his saga with Farouk Lawan, it was predictable what reception he would have got, given that another House Committee chairman had called him “stupid”. So, nobody expected that Ms. Arunma Oteh, the embattled Director General of the Security and Exchange Commission, would be recommended for a National Award after her encounter with Hembe!

Well, we don’t have to teach the Committee its job! But a few things were very puzzling in the report. One was the ease with which the Committee deprecated institutions and individuals in obvious de-marketing terms without sparing a thought to the possible consequences to the future of the very institution it set out to save!

The report gave weight to what it called the CBN Governor, Sanusi’s “contradictory regulatory policies”, “the overbearing posture of the CBN”, “injection of unearned cash into the economy by the CBN”, AMCON’s bonds based on “dubious valuations of NPLs” and “the roles of NDIC, CBN, AMCON, CAC,” as the reasons for the crash of the Capital Market.

The report described the nationalization of Afribank, Bank PHB and Spring Bank as “contrived in misrepresentations of monumental proportions” and “built on forgeries, with presentations and appearances of fraud and corruption”! My God! It appears no institution connected with the financial sector in the country has any credibility! Why would any foreigner not de-invest?

Some of the reasons adduced by the report for the crash of the Capital Market were correct, in fact pretty obvious. But we cannot ignore the role of a general and persisting uncertainty in the political and economic environment in capital flight. Moreover, high incidence of corruption, especially among the highest institutions in the land is one of the greatest catalysts for capital flight.

Differentiating Sanusi and Chike-Obi

Honestly, reading through the report one gets the impression that the Committee hurriedly ended its assignment. Going through the list of documents demanded from the CBN and AMCON, the conclusion would be that had the Committee received all of them, it would still be purring through them by now.

If those documents were as vital to the probe as it made us believe, then it should not have wound up sitting leaving the report with such a huge gap. The frustration of not getting the documents led the Committee to lash out at AMCON and CBN to the extent of not differentiating Sanusi and Chike-Obi from the institutions they head.

One did not expect the report of a serious and highly controversial probe to resort to mere conjectures and speculations or to draw conclusions from taking some expressions literally. For example, we all know that Sanusi shoots from the hips and sometimes rustles feathers.

But when he likened the capital market to a gambling casino known as ‘kalokalo’ and Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, former Governor of CBN likened it to a game with snake, they were merely saying that “investors are ultimate risk takers”. Is there any investment that is without risk, or that is not a gamble? Prof. Soludo said that Stock Market crashes are never permanently prevented.

The Committee has the powers to reject that, depending on its belief or not in the nature of boom and burst. But it was an absolutely embarrassing imputation for the Committee to say that Soludo’s was implying that “once he (Soludo) is not the one in charge that no one else knows what to do!”

In another conjecture the Committee said: “The CBN had not done anything within itself. This, perhaps, could be reason why the former Governor of the CBN felt that the capital market crash would continue to occur in Nigeria”.

Another conjecture: “Since the CBN does not account to anybody, but to itself, one could only infer at best, that the CBN has a lot to hide regarding its contribution to the fall in the financial assets’ prices”. A speculation: “Since SEC gains from increased trading volumes, it may relax regulatory actions that have the potency of reducing trading volumes”.

There were a few contradictions in the report. In one breath the Committee said that “AMCON remains an institution that is under no effective regulation as it accounts to no one”. In another breath, it admits that “yet it is regulated by the CBN”. There seems to be a mix up about the roles of the CBN and AMCON and who among them is a regulator of what!

The Committee lamented that “The CBN also made it impossible for the Committee to verify allegations that the various capital verification exercises conducted by it were based on allocation of figures that do not represent actual capital levels of the (intervened) banks…” In other words, CBN used cooked evidence to intervene in the banks in 2009. But in paragraph 13 “the Committee findings revealed” some of the same reasons for which CBN sacked the management of Afribank, Finbank and others.

When the Committee observed that “The apex security body SEC looked the other way” while the banks in Nigeria were going to the capital market frequently, one is compelled to ask under whose watch in SEC and NSE did that happen?

It is curious that throughout the report, Musa Al Faki was mentioned only once; in connection with alleged wrongful termination of some staff of SEC! After her voluptuous appearance and high voltage presentation, the report only mentioned Prof. Ndi Okereke Onyiuke in parenthesis in a line and half pleading that allegations against her are subjudice!

One good thing is that the report is still to be debated by the House. The House should thoroughly look into it and give it a facelift. Reading the report is like eating a plate of rice with a lot of stones!



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