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Thursday, December 19, 2013


…and tips to guide current and prospecting investors in the market

    My first encounter with Mrs. Ndidi Okereke Onyiuke (the former President of the Nigeria Stock Exchange) was on Monday 27th October, 2003 at MUSON centre Onikan Lagos during the awards presentation ceremony of the Nigerian Stock Exchange Annual national essay competition (2003) which I was one of those to be presented with awards in the university category. That was not the first time I knew of the woman and the power he was wielding as the President of the NSE, but it was the first time that I would sat very close to her and even shake hand with her. It is now ten years but my memory of her is still fresh as an iron lady of the exchange who many men fear and respect; built with huge body frame like many other powerful women of Africa and among the few women holding important public position as at that period in Nigeria. Her tenure at helm of affairs in Nigerian stock exchange started smoothly but later clouded by intrigues and controversies that were to characterize her final years as the head of the exchange. It was said of her that he was a power-hungry lady who control not only the Nigerian stock exchange but what was supposed to be the supervising agency of the exchange, the security and exchange commission (SEC) whose head Al Faki was rumored to be appointed to the chair at the instance of Mrs. Ndi Okereke. 

     One of the controversies that would later sink the career of Mrs. Ndi was the controversial raising of money for the election campaign of a PDP presidential candidate. Many Nigerian (at that time) accused her of delving into issue that was not her business at the expense of her official assignments in order to get favours from the Presidency. In the process of the fund raising, she used her influence on the exchange to ask for contributions from major companies and actors in the Nigerian private sector. Her fund raising jamborees took place on about two different occasions, before general elections to support the candidates of the ruling party, as well as fund raising activities for the election campaign of US President Barack Obama whose campaign office later denounced ever asking Mrs. Ndi to do so on their behalf. Unlike people holding similar position in other countries (take for example the US) who eschew from politics, Mrs. Ndi want to hold political relevance (at any cost) by dragging the exchange and her self into Nigeria’s murky political waters. At the end he had to pay the price of her naked desire for power and visibility, he was sacked out of her office by another lady who was in control of the Security and exchange commission. He was later to be accused of falsifying documents related to her education in the US and her claims of working at the New York stock exchange. Like many other Nigerian elites Ndi was busy chasing all kind of awards and honorary titles during those period, he was bestowed with professorship of entrepreneurship by University of Nigeria Nsukka, and traditional titles from traditional institutions.
   Ndi Okereke started working with the Nigerian stock exchange back in January 1983 during the civilian regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and some 27 yeas later she rose in rank to become the chief executive officer of the exchange during another civilian regime this time around of Olusegun Obasanjo. At the time she was appointed the head of the exchange she was fifty years old, an age that one could say she was at her prime and full of energy and experience to spear headed the needed reforms in the exchange. The controversies that followed the issue of lying about her academic qualifications and work in the US would later damage her reputation and image in the country. As condemnation came from all quarters and people asked the authorities concern to make sure they made a through investigation on any individual before appointing him to the highest position in the exchange. Another controversial issue that Mrs. Ndi was involved with was that of the Transcorp shares (a conglomerate created at the instance of the former President Obasanjo who wanted to create South Korea type Chaebol Companies in Nigeria) that acquired 75% of the shares of former National Telecom company NITEL. She was quizzed by EFCC because of the $750 million accusation of NITEL by Transcorp where she was the chairwoman. EFCC also quizzed her on the controversial raising of N100 million for Obama campaign; and when it was time for her to response to the arm load of criticism against her, she quipped “I want to make it clear that I am a Nigerian and I have the right to do anything I want with my time and my money”.

    Under her management the exchange reached the highest peak in its history and not long after sink to it lowest point. The spectacular rise in the fortune of the exchange was associated with the growth in the economy (partly contributed by the increased in price of crude oil in the international market), reforms introduced during her period and activities of speculators who were allowed to have their field day. Among the many reforms introduced by the big Madam of the exchange were computerizations of the activities of the exchange, strengthening of the all shares index, as well as her efforts at initiating the authorize clerkship examinations program for those working in the capital market. After the financial crisis of 2008/9 issues like that of poor corporate governance in the market and inadequate regulatory framework became prominent. The amount of portfolio investment that came from outside the country during her period was unprecedented in the history of the exchange making it one of the fastest growing in the world. All these help to boost the ego of Mrs. Ndi Okereke making her to acquire more powers and wrongly think she can do as she like. May be because of her large body frame some people (wrongly) mistake her for current finance minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is more clever in not showing (outward) her desire for power, which Mrs. Ndi cannot found way to cleverly hide away from public eyes.

   Unlike Mrs. Ndi, the US career record of Mr. Oscar is not much in doubt as he rose in his career in the US to level of senior Vice President and chief administration officer at American Stock Exchange (AMEX); with about 20 years working in the US financial markets and Nigerian IT industry. The process that led to the appointment of Mr. Oscar was very rigorous involving globally recognized bodies such as Accenture, Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), and Council members of the NSE. He received his university education in both Nigeria and US. Now more than two and half years since he assumed office as head of the exchange Mr. Oscar has surely done well as the exchange has gotten back to its pre 2009 peak this year, thereby setting another record. But, before that was made possible he has to battle with some major challenges that were at the heart of the collapse of the market in 2008. The left over issue of margin loan is still not over, as the bad loans that resulted from that altercation is not cleared despite the intervention of Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON). Recently, the performance of the exchange has gone down which some analysts blame on the activities of speculators. Issues that border on unethical practices of some major actors in the market are still part of the problems that Oscar has to work harder to solve.
       It is too early at this moment to compare him with Ndi who spent 10 years in that post and who also was a bit of an insider on the exchange, as she spent most of her working career there. While Ndi was in her early 50s when she assumed that position Oscar was in his early 40s. Both of them spent more than a decade living in the US, either studying or working. But, their approaches are a bit different, so far Oscar has keep to himself not showing off in front of the cameras or looking for too much publicity which was the hallmark of Ndi tenure at the exchange. As part of the ongoing reforms in the exchange listing rules were revised, introduction of Islamic share index as part of measures to diversified the exchange and attract more investments, market makers introduced, demutualization, as well as segmentation of the market. The fact that foreign investors (who own about 60% of the quoted companies on the exchange today) would come back quickly not long after they had left in hurry during the last crisis period that led to the crash of the market is testimony of the level of confidence these investors have on the current management of the exchange. This year alone the market has gone up 41% thanks to the activities of these foreign investors.
      Many analysts view the current position of the market as overvalued due (mostly) to the speculative actions of foreign portfolio investors; thus, putting words of caution here and there for new investors in the market. Unlike Mrs. Ndi who was distracted by loads of controversies outside her official engagement, Mr. Oscar seems to be focused on his job for now. The lost of confidence by the investment public on the leadership of Ndi Okereke did much damage to the performance of the exchange, and the same confidence they seem to show on the leadership of Oscar is affecting the exchange positively. The sober manner of Oscar which contrasts with ego boosting habits of Mrs. Ndi is good for the management of the exchange - which is very sensitive to not only external happenings but what is taken place internally. Thus, the need to put people who are very careful and watchful of their own actions and its effect on the performance of the market. Looking at the number of reforms currently being undertaken by the management of the market with view to improve performance and efficiency one feel optimistic about the future. But, caution should always be exercise to avoid unexpected surprises.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


     Regular followers of this blog will be wondering why shall I be advocating for second tenureship of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS) after his current tenure expired at the end of May 2014? Adding more weight to their argument by citing my past write ups on this blog, where I criticized the man and some of his policies. But, a lot has changed since then, and looking at the longer view and the uncertainty of appointing a new person with its impact on investors’ confidence on the economy, the man Sanusi deserves a second tenure. Beside, as the saying goes, ‘the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know’. The outgoing US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke was allowed to finish his complete two terms as reward for the good jobs he executed in managing the US economy at a period of a serious global economic catastrophe. Thus, the same apply to the case of SLS who has done what Ben Bernanke did to US economy to our Nigerian economy. Though, SLS himself has continuously said he was not interested in second return at the CBN, I will here suggest that he reconsider his stand in the interest of the Nigerian nation and its economy who needs him the most at this period of transition. Below are ten reasons why I see it advisable for the Nigerian authorities to consider given SLS second chance:
One, control of inflation; in almost a decade our inflation rate has never come down this low, this is possible thanks to good management from the apex bank. In a period of global inflation this is no small achievement; especially now that the apex bank has promised a far lower rate as time moves on. Hence, the more reason why SLS should be return in order to continue with the good work he started in the fight against inflation.
Two, stabilization of the banking industry; at the eve of the appointment of SLS into the apex bank’s top job, a sizeable number of Nigerian banks where at a point of collapse, at the same time millions of Nigerian depositors were afraid of what would happen to their deposits in these banks. Thanks to SLS that was not allowed to happen, the rest is history as no single individual depositor was allowed to lose his money. Nigerians banks, as they are today, are more stable and sound than when SLS found them when he was appointed in 2009.  
Three, relative stability in the value of naira: Though Naira has never gone back to its pre-crisis value against the Dollar, SLS has managed (in midst of many challenges) to restrict the gyration in the value of Naira against the US Dollar within some narrow ranges. This is commendable because a volatile and unpredictable Naira would be bad for the economy of this nation, and especially for foreign investment coming to the country.
Four, rebounding of growth in credit to business and Agriculture: credit to agriculture has increased from N3 billion in 2012 to N20 billion this year. This was made possible by CBN guaranteeing of the risks involve in dashing out credit to farmers by commercial banks; today many farmers are accessing these loans. Overall there is growth (though slowly) in credit given to the private sector by the banks. But, a major obstacle that remains to date is banks obsession with given out most of their credits to the public sector, thereby crowding out the private sector. SLS should do more to improve on this when he gets a second tenure.
Five, increase awareness on the functions and activities of the apex bank: the level of transparency in the activities of CBN in the country has increased, thanks to the level of openness with which SLS carried out his functions in the apex bank. Many Nigerians are now very much aware of what CBN is doing or is going to do, unlike in the past when a number of CBN activities are shrouded in secrecy. Around the world transparency is one of the key elements embodied in the philosophy of the most successful Central Banks around the world. With transparency comes democracy, many staffs of the apex bank have testified to the democratic way SLS is running the institution unlike what happen before his appointment.
Six, boosting of investors confidence in the economy as can be seen from the performance of the Nigerian stock exchange. The total portfolio investment that come into the country this year through Nigeria stock exchange was put by CBN at $6.7 billion making up the higher percentage of all foreign investment coming into the country. Total foreign investment coming into the country has increased from $4.5 Billion in the second quarter of 2012 to $7.79 Billion in the second quarter of this year.
Seven, restructuring of the banking industry: after the global economic crisis of 2008, the world wide obsession with universal banking by the financial industry was brought into scrutiny, looking at the devastation the banking crisis has brought to the world economy. Questions where asked about the suitability of universal banking in the midst of new classes of risks that were arising every day; that explain SLS decision to substitute the universal banking he inherited from Soludo with the diversify holding structure that would later reduce the concentration of certain types of risky exposure in the banking industry. Other models of banking were also introduced by SLS, most prominent in this regard was the introduction of non-interest Islamic banking into the economy, which was before that period seen as controversial but now more people are seeing the wisdoms behind the novel banking model.
Eight, control of interest rate and other charges by banks on their clients: though, there are still some charges that Nigerian banks unnecessarily impose on their customers, CBN under SLS has managed to reduce them. The introduction of cashless policy by the CBN is geared towards reducing the cost of transactions in the industry, thereby transmitting the same to the banks customers. The continuing hike in the interest rate charged by Nigerian banks has been controlled as CBN now monitor the interest rates at which banks issue out loans to the public.
Nine, improvements in corporate governance of the banking industry and fight against corruption: the shenanigans discovered in 2009 in the banking sector by SLS alerted the world on the rots in the Nigerian banking industry that were continued (as at then) to be shielded from the public eyes by the CBN before 2009. The rots and level of corruption was of monumental proportion, and SLS determination to expose it and all those behind it was applauded worldwide as unprecedented in the history of the apex bank. Corporate governance in the industry was strengthen by such measures as limiting of the number of years a CEO can serve as the head of a bank to ten years, who should serve as non executive director of a bank, and restrictions in credit exposure by banks to certain class of risk.
Ten, overall growth in the economy; since the inception of governorship of SLS in 2009 Nigerian economy has grown at around 5-7% despite the global economic crisis that devastated the economy in 2008/9. According to global economic watchdogs Nigeria is expected to surpass South Africa as Africa’s largest economy with GDP above $500 billion. Today, Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote is ranked among the top 25 richest people in the world, with most of his wealth generated from investments in the Nigerian economy.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


        The health of Nigerian economy was again the focus during the last week investors’ forum in London, which has President Jonathan in attendance and numerous other business individuals with eyes on the country. All the key actors in the management of the Nigerian economy were in attendance with the exception of few prominent faces. Just like during last week first Bank annual Conference in Lagos were speakers such as Finance minister Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Investment Minister Olusegun Aganga announced to the world that Nigeria is on verge of achieving double digit growth, the London ‘get together’ echoed the same optimism on the Nigerian economy, deliberately de-emphasizing the risks ahead. Looking at nationwide economic barometers such as the Nigerian stock exchange index, GDP growth rate, and growth in assets of notable Nigerian business people like Aliko Dangote a lot many business savvy individuals will agree that Nigerian economy is doing well; thus giving it a pass mark, but deep down there are many questions that are begging for answers.

       But before looking at some of these issues, the positive parts of the Nigerian economy need to be re-echoed here; Nigerian stock exchange is currently the second largest on the continent after that of South Africa and remains among the most buoyant of the emerging market stock exchanges around the world. The all share index currently stand at its highest  peak a spectacular increase when one compared it to the bottom it sink during the financial crisis of 2008/9; achieving annual average growth rate at  increasing dimension from the crisis period to this year. The Nigerian banking landscape has stabilized over the same period of time from the near disaster level it was in 2009 to current period of growth albeit at slow phase. Credit to private sector has started a slow movement up from the flat position it was in the past. Inflation has been brought down to a single digit the lowest in the last five years. The nation’s GDP growth rate currently hovers around 6% with a lot of contribution to achieving the rate coming from the growth been experienced over the years in the non oil sectors. Domestic investors such as Dangote, Elumelu, and Abdussamad Rabiu etc. have at various times in the recent past made announcements of investments worth billions of Dollars in the Nigerian economy. Forecasts by some few world renowned institutions such as Goldman Sachs put the growth in the Nigerian economy as being on course to make the country the biggest economy on the continent ahead of South Africa in few years time.

     Coming to the risky side, two classes of risk stand out as most prominent of all the risks facing Nigerian economy: security and political risks ahead of 2015 election. Since the resumption of office of the current regime of President Goodluck Jonathan after 2011 general elections, it has been battling with different types of security challenges for its own survival. Most prominent of these challenges being Boko Haram security treats that originated from the North Eastern part of the country. Recently, when many Nigerians were happy that the hydra headed Boko Haram group has been brought to it knees, the group made surprising comeback with its leader Shekau coming out on the net to deny the claim by some sections of the Nigerian security apparatus that he has been killed as a result of an encounter in Sambisa forest of Borno state. While it is to the credit of this regime that the Boko Haram activities have been restricted to one corner of the country, it is still a real threat to the economy of the country. In the oil rich Niger Delta, Ijaw Militants operations still remain a threat, though at a more subdue level compared to what obtained before this regime, which also came from the same Niger Delta. Of recent, a number of foreign expatriates have been kidnapped in the region, with demands for ransom of millions of Dollars coming immediately after the kidnappings. Arm robbery and kidnapping for money still remains a major challenge in other sections of the country, especially the South East and South West. 

    As we approach 2015 general elections, the intensity and probability of incidences of heighten political risk has been increasing, rising the level of tension in the relatively calm political atmosphere of the last two years into another height; and if care is not taken putting it (political risk) at par with the security risk the country is currently battling with. Two major changes help brought about this heighten atmosphere: the formation of the mega party All Progress Congress (APC) with strength to march the ruling People Democratic Party (PDP), and the current crisis that is threatening to develop into a bigger explosion within the ruling party. Transition from one election period to another in Nigeria is not assuring and stable as is the case in other countries such as the US or South Africa here on the continent, where there are some relative certainties. Elections in Nigeria are full of controversies, the most intense of which is allegations of massive riggings in the elections conducted so far; that have continued to develop into crisis, killing of lives and destructions of properties. For the first time in the history of democratic transition in the country it now looks increasingly possible for the opposition to grab power from the ruling PDP come 2015. That in itself is a big risk as nobody knows which type policy the next regime after Jonathan and PDP will pursue. And if Jonathan were to win the 2015 election with the usual rigging, as the opposition alleges, there is possibility of  some kind of upheavals like we have seen after 2011 election or something more serious than that.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


First, micro finance in Nigeria, if not of recent years, is an area that Nigerian authorities have never given much serious consideration to; the focus of Nigerian authorities have always been on the major commercial banks who churns out bulk of their credit to government cronies and powerful business individuals. Apart from government agencies such as Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who turn their focus away from microfinancing (as at that period), Nigerian media itself is guilty of neglect and failure to turn their cameras on the industry thereby drawing the attention of the authorities to the need to develop the sector. Instead Nigerian media houses were busy with their long romantic relationship, that exist between them and big commercial banks who after all patronized these media outfit by given them billions of Naira worth of advertisement, not to mention the cheap credit they issued to them in order to keep their mouth shut from reporting negative stories about them. While the general public on their part are ignorant of the working and importance of microfinance to the socioeconomic development of the majority of Nigerian population who are poor and unbanked; it was under this condition that Nigeria’s microfinance industry come to be what it is today. 

     The efforts by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida to spread the adaptation of community banking failed due to the insincerity of the regime, faulty foundation, neglect and absence of regulatory mechanism to control the community banks. What is today formal microfinance sector in the larger Nigerian financial landscape came into being in 2005 with the formulation of national microfinance policy by CBN in line with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); thus Nigerian authorities were forced by external pressure particularly from such bodies as the United Nations to seriously consider taken microfinancing a bit further as part of what is needed to achieved MDGs of the United Nations. Unlike in the case of Bangladesh where the authorities and other non governmental organisations saw the need to spread the novel scheme all over the country as a way of solving the country’s developmental challenges. This explain the pioneering role played by the Nobel prize winning Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus in establishing Grameen Bank and revolutionizing the concept of microcredit not only in Bangladesh but worldwide.
   During his last visit to Nigeria in 2011 on invitation from First bank of Nigeria on occasion of its ‘Impact conference series’, Muhammad Yunus criticized CBN for not understanding what it is regulating as far as microfinancing is concerned. He faulted the Nigerian microfinance sector as not for the poor but for traders and suppliers,   that they are only found in cities and towns not villages and other rural communities, they lend base on collateral and not for starting business, they are not for women, charged exorbitant interest rate more than what is charged by commercial banks, and that Nigerian microfinance banks are owned by the rich instead of being own by the poor who are its main customers. In short what obtained in Nigeria as microfinance institutions are nothing but ‘micro-commercial banks’. All these are contrary to what obtain in the microfinance industry of Bangladesh where in addition to other good qualities banks go to the door step of the poor to provide their services instead of the poor coming to them. Yunus advocated the changing of the whole framework from the current profit oriented microfinance banks to that of a social business aim at reducing poverty that is everywhere in the land. 

       Because of the pioneering contributions of people such as Yunus, Bangladesh is no longer seen as ‘Basket case’ by the development community worldwide; live expectancy of an average Bangladeshi has increased from what it was in the 1970s, and poverty has been reduced drastically. It is up to Nigeria to do the same considering the percentage of people living below poverty line in the country, despite the enormous amount of wealth that has been cornered by the minority who are rich and the political class in the country. CBN, NDIC, SEC and all other stakeholders in the Nigerian microfinance industry must realized that not much change will be realized within the current state the industry is in, to move the Nigerian poor out of poverty microfinance should not be only about profit. Federal and state governments must provide large amount of capital to help provide cheap loan to the poor as well as bring more non governmental bodies to participate in the industry. Nobody is condemning profit motive in businesses such as microfinancing, but government has to put an eye on how the industry is run, with the view to prevent unethical practice by market participants.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


What Dangote, Shoprite, and Chinese civil engineering giants have in common…

   In recent time the only main story coming from the north is that of Boko Haram obliterating all other sources of potential positive news. This is not surprising looking at the preoccupation of the media industry the world over, that feeds on bad news such as war and natural disasters. Thus, both local and international media has been concerned with only Boko Haram as no any other thing coming from the North is worth reporting. Though, there is some element of true that (world wide) where there is war and other civil disturbances positive activities in other spheres of live slow down or cease to continue. That notwithstanding there are some positives things going on in the north, after all who says Boko Haram activities have not been reduced in the last one year which is a credit to the regime in power. Apart from that is this insecurity problem not restricted to a particular corner of the vast region that constitute more than two-third of the land area of Nigeria? 

                                                        Obajana cement plant, Kogi state
   Before I start to mention these investments opportunities I will start with the giant investment strides Alhaji Aliko Dangote is making in the region (who is currently one of the richest people in the world) that runs into billions of Dollars. In Sokoto and Kebbi state alone he plan to invest money worth 871.3 million Euros in building four sugar plants over an area of 120,000 hectares. Another sugar plant is to be built in Kwara state another northern state. Already Dangote own Savanna sugar factory in Numan Adamawa state after purchasing it from the federal government. His plan is to replicate what he did in the cement industry in sugar business, making the area one of his major sources of wealth. Other states in the North that are hoping for the billionaire to come and invest in their sugar industry include Jigawa, Yobe and Bauchi states. Dangote plan to turn Nigeria into a big sugar exporter worldwide in the next coming years with these investments in the north.
   Agriculture is one vast area that any substantial investment in it is bound to generate a good turnover. Already state such as Kwara and Taraba have invited foreign investors who have put their money in the area. The fact that billionaires such as Dangote, Abdus Samad Rabiu and Mutallab have put their money into the sector is a positive indicator of the potential of the sector. According to estimates from the Central Bank of Nigeria, agriculture (despite the underinvestment in the sector) contributed nearly half of the GDP of Nigeria. In the retail business already South African companies such as Shoprite have been rushing to open shops in Northern states with two in Kwara and Kano and more states coming up. With the vast population of the region and growing rank of middle class modern retailing is an area worth investing in in the North. For a start an investor should consider retail business in these state capitals, Kano, Kaduna, Ilorin, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Minna, Jos, Yola, and Bauchi; the reasons for chosen these places are size of middle class, level of infrastructures, and their socioeconomic compositions.
   Real estate is an area that is suffering from growing lack of investment and any investor that is wise enough to notice this opportunity and creatively utilize it will reap the benefit of good returns on his money. Unlike Lagos in the South where there is growing investment in the real estate sector, in the north the only state that commercial real estate business is rapidly growing up is Kano followed by Kaduna. Chinese have so far discovered the opportunities in the Civil engineering business in the North, a lot of road constructions, building and other civil engineering works in the north are now been awarded to these Chinese companies. Because of the growing demands for modern infrastructures in the region the market for civil engineering in the region is bound to continue growing in double digit for a long time to come. 

    States such as Zamfara, Gombe, and Niger have been keen on inviting foreign investors to invest in the vast mineral deposit that nature endowed them with. Already Chinese investors have invested substantial amount of money in gold processing in Zamfara. There is still large untapped deposit of limestone (use in making cement) in many parts of the region just like Dangote found out with his investment in Kogi state. Islamic finance is an area worth investing; northern region has the most concentration of Muslim faithful of any region of West Africa. This, naturally, mean a vast market for Islamic finance particularly Islamic Banking products; currently there is only one financial institution that serve this large market, any investor wise enough to see this potential and make arrangements for tapping it will benefit from its untapped wealth. Kano alone needs such products as Musharakah, Mudarabah, Ijarah, etc, to finance the businesses of it inhabitants who make their living out of trade for hundreds of years.