Barely three years after the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC) embarked on reforms alleging corporate governance breaches, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) seems to have been dogged by a wave of breaches that are currently threatening market recovery.
BusinessWorld gathered that Mr. Oscar Onyema, chief executive officer of the NSE appears to have little or no regard for good corporate governance principles considered as a necessity for the survival and growth of any corporate entity.
The worry of market observers stemmed from the alleged excesses of the top executives of the exchange which, if not checked, may impact negatively on the market, even as the unsuspecting investors and the Nigerian economy stand to lose.
A committee made up of the CEO of the exchange and heads of four divisions – business development, corporate services, legal and regulation as well as market operations and technology – is said to have vested enormous powers on themselves in the running of the exchange in brazen disregard for corporate governance codes.
Competent sources in the market told BusinessWorld that part of the alleged breaches is the engagement of certain top staff of the NSE without requisite experience and the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) discharge certificate.
The other breach is retention of services of a law firm as external lawyers of the exchange in spite of its connection with a newly appointed general manager at the exchange.
Our investigations indicate that this link explained the undue favour of the law firm such that it controls about 90 per cent of the briefs of the exchange for which it collects huge legal fees almost on weekly basis from the exchange.
The foregoing breaches, market analysts said, may jeopardise conscious efforts being made by the stakeholders of the capital market to restore the sagged investor confidence.
Though Mr. Dante Martins, the spokesman of NSE denied some of the allegations, he stated that the disengagement of the said law firm would be completed within a month to eliminate actual or perceived conflict of interest.
He claimed that upon employment of the general manager express instructions were given by the CEO for the disengagement of the law firm but this has yet to be completed more than 18 months after.
Mr. Martins also tried to defend the aberration in the composition of executive management committee of the exchange which does not carry along some of the senior members of the management.
Speaking to BusinessWorld on this issue, Mr. Muritala Olushekun, president/chairman of Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS), said the current unprofessional activities and breaches of corporate governance in the exchange would never last because of their negative impact on the nation’s economy.
Similarly, Mr. Boniface Okezie, president, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria (PSAN), also, bereted the current management of the exchange, saying that the bourse has not yet got the experienced people required to move the market out of the on-going bearish trend.
He advised that the management should focus more on local investors who have been driving the market instead of the foreign investors they are chasing all around. He, however, faulted the exchange’s alleged undue patronage of one of its many external solicitors, describing same as unfair and unpatriotic.