Ms. Mary Uduk is the Acting Director General, Securities and Exchange Commission. In this interview with ABIOLA ODUTOLA, she outlines efforts of the new management to curb infractions and companies’ delisting, among others, in the Nigerian capital market. Excerpts:
To further boost local participation in the Nigerian capital market, some critics have called for the ‘catch them young’ initiative. What is your take on this and what is SEC doing about it?
In our first quarter 2018 Capital Market Committee meeting, we discussed the Commission’s efforts in collaboration with the National Educational Research and Development Council to institute a stand-alone capital market curriculum for basic and senior secondary education in the country. To this end, trade groups made commitments at the meeting to support the initiative.
We have given them a mandate to come up with recommendations so that if we need to amend our rules to attract more listing, we will look at international best practices and do that. If we have to talk to other government agencies and stakeholders, we will equally do so
The commission asked a technical committee to work on innovations towards developing a vibrant commodities market for Nigeria some months back. What is the update on the development?
The committee presented its report at the meeting and we agreed that the report would be exposed to the public to elicit comments and inputs from all stakeholders. At that meeting, the Commission also updated the market on the status of its database registration exercise for Capital Market Operators.
There are allegations that some CMOs operate illegally without certificates. What is SEC doing to prevent investors from being swindled by the fake CMOs?
SEC’s website now has a list of all CMOs and their functions. Stakeholders were also informed that the Commission has issued a new set of registration certificates to operators without expiry dates and these are available at our head-office and Lagos zonal office. Also, increase in delisting by public companies was highlighted; this poses a threat to the growth and development of the capital market, in view of the fact that quite a number of them are highly capitalised companies.
With the recent delisting rush move by some companies, what are the regulators doing to ensure this does not erode investors’ confidence in the market?
We are expecting the Committee on Listings to come up with strategies to attract new listings.
SEC issued a directive that public liability companies that are not listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange should find their way to the over-the-counter market (NASD OTC Plc,) but up till now, some companies, even the ones that have delisted from the Exchange, are not listed on any exchange at all. What is the SEC doing about this?
Inasmuch as the capital market will like to attract as many companies as possible, the decision to be listed rests with the individual companies. All we do is to encourage companies and let them see the benefits of being listed. However, all public companies, whether listed or not, are expected to register their securities with the Commission’s approved platforms. We also have rules stipulating that shares of public companies can only be transferred on SEC approved trading platforms/exchanges.
What are the terms of reference of the Committee on Listing?
The mandate of the Committee is to drive advocacy and other activities towards increasing the number of listed companies on our exchanges. Their broad terms of reference are to propose strategies to attract listings from target sectors, undertake relevant advocacy as well as other activities that may be relevant to the achievement of this mandate.
Do you know why most of them delist?
We gave the committee the mandate to find out why a number of companies are delisting. Are there regulatory issues? Is it that they are having issues with compliance with our regulations? We have given them a mandate to come up with recommendations so that if we need to amend our rules to attract more listing, we will look at international best practices and do that. If we have to talk to other government agencies and stakeholders, we will equally do so.
What will your administration do to boost investor confidence?
Members of the new management team have worked in the Commission for many years, with experiences in different departments of the Commission and aspects of the capital market. We have always been part of the Commission’s efforts at improving investor confidence and implementing the Capital Market Master Plan.
Are you saying the plan continues?
The Master Plan will continue to be our working document and we shall continue to implement initiatives that will promote investor confidence such as e-dividend registration, Direct Cash Settlement, dematerialisation, Complaint Management Framework, financial literacy and Investors’ Protection Fund, among others.
Why was the free e-dividend closed and what are the effects of the development?
Before the deadline, the Commission was bearing the cost of registration, but the new direction now is that banks and the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System, along with registrars, will charge a token sum of N150 per mandate. We are still soliciting for co-operation from the public to key into electronic dividend payment as this is what will address the fundamental issue of unclaimed
What is the update on handling investors with multiple accounts and forbearance?
Registrars have acknowledged the fact that investors have started coming forward but there are still some challenges in the process, which will soon be addressed.