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MRA Names NSE into its ‘FOI Hall of Shame’

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Nigerian stock market - Investors King
  • MRA Names NSE into its ‘FOI Hall of Shame’

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) monday accused the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) of showing complete nonchalance towards the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 as it inducted the institution into its “FOI Hall of Shame”.

MRA’s Legal Officer, Ms Chioma Nwaodike, announced the institution as this week’s inductee into the Hall of Shame, noting that the NSE has defaulted in complying with its duties and responsibilities under the FOI Act and by this action challenged the essence of the Act.

The NSE was established in 1960, originally as the Lagos Stock Exchange, and subsequently renamed the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1977. The NSE is licensed under the Investments and Securities Act (ISA) and regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and serves as the most significant source for companies to raise funds and business capital.

Nwaodike said: “Given its mission, the NSE should operate and project itself in a manner that will uphold integrity, transparency and protect the investors, thereby creating confidence in the institution. One way of doing this effectively is to observe all the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, which will enable it to be transparent and project an image of integrity.”

According to her, although the NSE has on its website names of members of its corporate governance team, detailed summaries of securities traded each week, notice to dealing members, company-specific financials, corporate actions and some market information, it has, however, failed to comply with its other obligations under section 2 of the FOI Act, which mandates it to proactively disclose certain categories of information and update them regularly.

Nwaodike observed that there is no reference to or mention of the FOI Act on the NSE’s website as the institution has treated the Law with complete disdain based, perhaps, on its initial mistaken belief that the Law was not applicable to it.

The NSE expressed the view that it is not subject to the FOI Act when Dr. Owei Ayibatonye and his four children, who had lost substantial amounts of money following an investment in an unregistered investment product, referred to as the Partnership Securities Deposit Account (PSDA) promoted by the Partnership Investment Company Limited (PICO) and Partnership Securities Limited, applied to the NSE pursuant to the FOI Act, for information and documents, relating to the Partnership Entity.

In refusing to disclose the information, the NSE claimed that it is not subject to the FOI Act and therefore not under any obligation to honour their request for information.

In the ensuing litigation at the Federal High Court in Lagos, the Court noted that the NSE exists to serve the interest of the public, which is a public function, as it was established to carry out its activities in the interest of investors and the public. Justice Ayokunle Faji accordingly ruled that “on a literal interpretation of Section 2(7) Freedom of information Act therefore, it seems to me and I hold that the Defendant (NSE) is a public institution and therefore subject to the Freedom of Information Act.”

Nwaodike noted that even in the aftermath of the Court’s decision, the NSE has not taken steps to bring itself into compliance with the FOI Act and has continued to insist that the Act does not apply to it.

She observed that in the last seven years since the commencement of the FOI Act, the NSE has failed to submit its annual reports on its implementation of the Act to the Attorney-General of the Federation as directed by section 29 of Act, adding that “its failure to comply with this mandatory requirement obviously amounts to a violation of the Law.”

Nwaodike said in addition to this dereliction, the NSE was also guilty of non-compliance with Section 2(3)(f) of the Act as it has failed to designate as well as publish the title and address of an appropriate official of the institution to whom applications for information under the Act should be sent by members of the public.

According to her, there is little doubt that the failure to designate such an official and publish his or her contact details has had negative implications for the rights of members of the public to access to information from the NSE as those interested in obtaining information from it would obviously not know where to direct their requests for information.

In any event, Ms Nwaodike said, despite its best efforts in tracking requests for information made by members of the public and the responses to such requests by the relevant public institutions, MRA is not aware of any request for information that the NSE has granted over the last seven years.

Nwaodike noted that despite the express provisions of the Law, there is also no indication that the NSE has provided appropriate training for its officials on the public right of access to information at any time in the last seven years, as it is required to do under Section 13 of the FOI Act.

Launched by MRA in July 2017, the “FOI Hall of Shame” highlights public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances, and decisions.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Computer Village Traders Demand Refunds as Lagos State Cancels Katangowa Project

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Traders at the renowned Computer Village in Lagos find themselves in a state of uncertainty following the abrupt termination of the multibillion-naira Katangowa project by the Lagos State Government.

The project, which was aimed at relocating the bustling tech market from its current site in Ikeja to the Agbado/Oke-Odo area of the state, has left traders in a state of limbo.

Despite the cancellation of the project reportedly occurring two years ago, traders claim they were not informed by either the government or the developers, Bridgeways Limited.

This lack of communication has left them in a precarious position, particularly concerning the substantial upfront payments made by some traders to the developers.

Chairman of the Computer Village Market Board, Chief Adebowale Soyebo, expressed dismay at the lack of communication from the authorities regarding the project’s termination.

He explained that neither the government nor the contractors had officially informed them of the decision, leaving traders in the dark about the fate of their investments.

Traders who had made payments to Bridgeways Limited now seek clarity on the refund process. The absence of official communication has compounded their concerns, with many uncertain about the fate of their investments.

While acknowledging the payments made by traders, Lagos State Governor’s Adviser on e-GIS and Urban Development, Dr. Olajide Babatunde, assured that the government would facilitate refunds.

He, however, said there is a need for proper identification and verification to ensure that affected traders receive their refunds accordingly.

The termination of the Katangowa project has reignited debates about the relocation of Computer Village.

Traders assert that the issue of relocation should not be raised until the new site is at least 70% completed, as per their agreement with the government.

The cancellation of the Katangowa project underscores the challenges associated with large-scale urban development projects and the importance of transparent communication between stakeholders to avoid such situations in the future.

As traders await further directives from the government, they remain hopeful for a resolution that safeguards their interests and ensures the continuity of one of Nigeria’s most prominent tech markets.

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Government Begins Disbursement of N200bn Support Fund to Manufacturers and Businesses

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The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has initiated the disbursement of the long-awaited N200 billion Presidential Conditional Grant Scheme.

This is the beginning of a vital phase in the government’s strategy to provide financial assistance to manufacturers and businesses across Nigeria.

The scheme, which is being administered through the Bank of Industry (BOI), has been divided into three categories of funding, totaling N200 billion.

The disbursement process comes after an exhaustive selection process and verification of applicants to ensure transparency and accountability in the allocation of funds.

Doris Aniete, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, announced the progress in a statement posted on the trade minister’s official X (formerly Twitter) handle.

Aniete highlighted that verified beneficiaries have already started receiving their grants, signaling the beginning of the phased disbursement strategy.

“We are pleased to inform you that the disbursement process for the Presidential Conditional Grant Programme has officially commenced. Some beneficiaries have already received their grants, marking the beginning of our phased disbursement strategy,” stated Aniete.

She further disclosed that by Friday, April 19, a substantial number of verified applicants are set to receive significant disbursements.

However, Aniete emphasized that disbursements are ongoing, and not all applicants will receive their grants immediately, assuring that all verified applicants will eventually receive their grants in subsequent phases.

The initiation of the disbursement process comes after more than eight months since President Bola Tinubu announced the grant for manufacturers and small businesses.

The scheme aims to mitigate the adverse effects of recent economic reforms and foster sustainable economic growth by empowering businesses with financial support.

President Tinubu had outlined the government’s commitment to strengthening the manufacturing sector and creating job opportunities through the disbursement of N200 billion over a specified period.

The funding is intended to provide credit to 75 enterprises, each able to access up to N1 billion at a low-interest rate of 9% per annum.

However, the implementation of the programme has faced challenges, including delays and criticisms regarding the registration process.

Femi Egbesola, President of the Association of Small Business Owners, expressed concerns over the slow pace of data collation and suggested that genuine businesses were being discouraged from accessing the loans.

Despite the hurdles, the commencement of the disbursement process signifies a significant step forward in the government’s efforts to provide vital support to manufacturers and businesses, potentially revitalizing economic activities and driving growth across various sectors.

As beneficiaries begin to receive their grants, the impact of this initiative on the nation’s economic landscape is eagerly anticipated.

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MicroStrategy Rally Crushes Short Sellers, Wiping Out $1.92 Billion

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Short sellers betting against MicroStrategy found themselves facing significant losses as the company’s rally wiped out $1.92 billion since March.

This development comes amidst a rally that has seen MicroStrategy’s stock outperform bitcoin, causing a considerable hit to those who had taken a bearish stance on the tech firm.

According to data from S3 Partners, short sellers have been on the losing end since March, as MicroStrategy’s stock surged, highlighting the impact of the rally on those betting against the company’s success.

This loss underscores the challenges faced by short sellers in a market where certain stocks experience rapid and unexpected price increases.

The rally in MicroStrategy’s stock is attributed to several factors, including the approval of several spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier in the year.

This move by the SEC brought bitcoin, a once-nascent asset class, closer to the mainstream and fueled investor interest in companies like MicroStrategy, known for their significant holdings of the cryptocurrency.

MicroStrategy, which held nearly 190,000 bitcoin on its balance sheet as of the end of 2023, has indicated its intention to continue increasing its exposure to the digital currency.

The company’s decision to sell convertible debt to raise money for additional bitcoin purchases further bolstered investor confidence and contributed to the stock’s rally.

Analysts at BTIG noted that the premium for MicroStrategy’s stock reflects investors’ desire to gain exposure to bitcoin indirectly, especially those who may not have the means to invest directly in the cryptocurrency or ETFs.

The company’s ability to raise capital for bitcoin purchases is seen as a positive sign for shareholders, adding to the optimism surrounding its stock.

However, despite the recent rally and optimism surrounding MicroStrategy, the crypto industry as a whole continues to be heavily shorted.

Short interest in nine of the most-watched companies in the crypto space remains high, standing at 16.73% of the total number of outstanding shares, more than three times the average in the United States.

Moreover, concerns persist regarding the SEC’s stance on cryptocurrencies, with some experts suggesting that the approval of spot bitcoin ETFs may not necessarily indicate a broader acceptance of other similar products, such as spot ethereum ETFs.

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