Sweet and Sour

October 30, 2015

A nefarious calumny!

A nefarious calumny!

MEETING—From left: Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Ambassador Godknows Igali; Technical Committee Chairman, National Council on Privatisation, Mr. Atedo Peterside; Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises, Benjamin Dikki and Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President, Mr Umar Sani, during a briefing after meeting on National Council on Privatisation at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Friday.

Stanbic IBTC Holdings came under attack this week from the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, FRCN, which has made several inaccurate and unfair allegations against a respected organisation that was founded by Mr Atedo Peterside, a corporate titan and Nigerian of note who has earned an unimpeachable reputation.

The FRCN has suspended Mr Peterside (the Chairman), its Managing Director, Sola David-Borha, and others…because of “accounting irregularities and improper disclosures in the bank’s 2013 and 2014 financial statements.”

The matter is in court at the moment, but Stanbic IBTC regards it as necessary to respond to certain aspects of the FRCN’s damning report for the benefit  of its  stakeholders  and the general public.

I, meanwhile, am outraged by FRCN’s attempts to sully the good name of Mr Peterside. I have known him for many years and am defending free of charge and will not seek or accept any financial reward for doing so…because I see no reason why an organisation that he and his trusted lieutenants have painstakingly established over a period of several years should be dragged into the gutter.

With this in mind, let me quote a few excerpts from a press release that was issued earlier on this week by Sola David-Borha and Chidi Okezie, the Company Secretary of Stanbic IBTC. I am deliberately excluding complex details that might not be understood by Vanguard readers who are not financial sector experts:

“… Stanbic IBTC does not agree that its accounts are defective or require rectification. Moreover, Regulation 27 makes clear that where a reporting entity does not accept FRCN’s position, FRCN ‘shall institute a legal action against the entity.’ FRCN has ignored this laid down process in preference for self-help and media publicity.

The matters that FRCN alleges to be wrong are not wrong in any material respect and many are in any event not matters of financial reporting at all, but matters of business decision and judgment for Stanbic IBTC and its board of directors….

“…Stanbic IBTC is  a very responsible organisation and fully complies with all extant laws and regulations in Nigeria and international best practices applicable to the conduct of its business. It is the only Nigerian bank that is AAA rated by Fitch. It has met the disclosure requirements of Nigerian law and international financial reporting standards applicable in Nigeria. 

Financial reporting standards

 Contrary to the media reports, the books of Stanbic IBTC have been fully disclosed and provide a true and fair view of its assets and liabilities, profits and losses, and its overall financial position.

“Contrary to the media reports, the Directors of Stanbic IBTC have NOT been ousted. The directors, who are from Nigeria and elsewhere, are reputable individuals  who uphold the best corporate governance practices  and  whose  credibility, integrity and  proven  track record are impeccable. 

“Stanbic IBTC  would like to reiterate that it will  continue to conduct its business in compliance with extant Nigerian law and  international  best  practices.”

Interestingly, the law firm of Kenna & Associates, which is headed by Managing Partner, Fabian Ajogwu SAN, has quit representing the FRC on the Stanbic IBTC case, as a matter of principle, due to concerns about FRC’s position.


Another stain on Nigeria’s image

Last week, I told you that CNN, the American TV station, had done a passenger perceptions survey and concluded that Port Harcourt International Airport is the worst airport in the entire world.

Now, this week, more bad news: The World Bank has just ranked Nigeria 169 out of 189 countries in its latest report on the ease of doing business globally.

According to the World Bank’s Head of Communications in Nigeria, Mr. Obadiah Tohomdet, the report takes into consideration the ease of obtaining construction permits, getting electricity, enforcing contracts, registering property and trading across borders, among other parameters.

Tohomdet went on to say that “Mauritius ranks best in the sub-Saharan Africa region, with a global ranking of 32, performing particularly well in the areas of paying taxes and enforcing contracts…In Mauritius, it takes only 152 hours for entrepreneurs to pay taxes, compared to 261 hours globally.”

The report gave Rwanda the next best ranking in the region, with a global ranking of 62. Ten years ago, an entrepreneur in Rwanda took 370 days to transfer property. Now, it takes 32 days which is less than in Germany.

Meanwhile, Botswana was ranked 72th, South Africa 73rd, the Seychelles 95th, Kenya 108th and Uganda 122nd.

Bottom segment

Considering that we are supposed to be The Giant Of Africa – and that we have more human and natural resources than the above nations, it is highly embarrassing that we are pathetically languishing in the bottom segment of the World Bank list.

Bluntly put, it is laziness, corruption and incompetence that put us in this lowly position and we have no business being less business-friendly than countries that have fewer advantages!

Clearly, there is plenty of room for improvement. And I pray that when President Buhari’s ministerial and parastatal teams are in place, they will regard it as a crucial duty and matter of national pride to drastically improve our ranking.

Civil servants, judges, regulatory bodies, legislators, local government officials, Governors and their Commissioners also have key roles to play within this context.

There is no point constantly harping on about the need for more foreign investment if you are not ready to roll up your sleeves and do everything in your power to attract serious foreigners who can help us beef up our ailing economy.