Brand, Nation and Truth: The Parable of the Apple

Good people, Great nation is the most generic description for a nation that anyone can imagine! It fails the crucial test of differentiation! It is the equivalent of what we refer to as communal properties. Every nation has a right to make that claim.

Continues here

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Nigerians are the most anxious people in the world

A.P. Ibironke

A.P. Ibironke

Apostle Prophet Israel Olufemi Ibironke is the General Overseer and presiding pastor of the Assembly of the Faithful Worldwide, in this interview with GOKE OLUWOLE and TAI SHOFELA, the Flight Operations Officer with the Nigerian Airways highlights the prospect of Nigerian transforming into an economic giant and the relationship between individual success in business and the ability to remain focused on a business venture

How would you describe your background?

I am by God’s grace the General Overseer of The Faithful Church Worldwide, born exactly 60 years ago, today, February 5, happened to be my birthday, February 5. I was born, bread, and raised in a good Christian home, my family church is the Apostolic Church, and my siblings are nine, eight boys and one girl. All the eight boys, today, are Pastors but I am the only one that administers a ministry outside the Apostolic Church. I am still part and parcel of the Apostolic Church till today, my calling is that of a prophetic apostolic.

In the early days of my life, I used to work with the Nigerian Airways as a Flight Operation Officer [a trained aviation expert for over 20years], I left to go into private business as a Cold Room –frozen food merchant, operating business then under the registered name of Hibbies Nigeria Limited, which was then my company’s name. My cold room then was popularly known as Big Fish Cold Room situated at Surulere, Itire and Ijeshatedo.

But I had to leave the business due to various spiritual attacks. I lost all my businesses in the course of finding solutions to my afflictions until I accepted him. While we were growing up we were all members of the Apostolic Church Choristers at the Inalende Assembly, Ibadan. But while working at the Airport, I decided to become a free thinker so I can do whatever I like and that was the beginning of my troubles, such that wherever I went I always saw the hands of God.

Between 1989 and 1990, I was afflicted with a very terrible sickness that defied all healings, I was bedridden for nine months, and for days, I couldn’t drink nor eat. In that state of health I would have dreams where I would find myself evangelizing, preaching and whenever I woke up the Doctors and the Nurses told me that I was always talking during my sleep. At times they will say I was smiling at some unseen guests.

After the ninth month, I got divine healing and a divine mandate to kick start my ministry I told God where and how, but I was directed to Anthony Village from my residence at Ketu, in Lagos State here. Precisely on 1 January, 1995 I moved to the Adekoya Community open field with myself and children where the lord fulfilled his promised that he will build a cathedral for us called the Cathedral of the Faithful on Ikorodu road.

What are the things that differentiate your ministry from the others?

Since the establishment of this church many transformational and revolutionary activities have been introduced by God through our instrumentality. I am not called for televangelism that is why most people always ask why I am not on air, this is not because of lack of money but it is our divine mandate not to go on air.

The most notable differentiation of our ministry is our annual Feast of the Nobles, celebrating the irrevocable call of God, we always celebrate it, but now it is celebrated according to Gods command Bi-annually with an Award ceremony for distinguished Nigerian who are doing wonderfully in their chosen professions and even those in governance that are doing marvelously well are honored as our own little way of identifying with them. At least, if your child did well, you’ll pat him on the back, so that he would be encouraged to do more and even better.

I am a positive thinker, I have a pact with God that during my time, Nigeria must be the greatest nation in this world. Many Americans, when they wake-up in the morning, before their morning devotion, say, “God Bless America,” why will such nation not be great? How many of us who are even religious leaders pray for our nation and our leaders. Despite the global financial Meltdown hitting the American economy, the people are still hopeful on President Barrack Obama.

But do we in Nigeria have leaders with Obama qualities? Apart from Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, tell me how many present and past leaders have the Obama’s pedigree. God has mandated us from this ministry to preach hope and prophesy about the great future of this nation, it is God desire to still make Nigeria the African capital of the world. Please beware of the evil preachers and prophet of doom within the churches who are always seeing evil. What God is showing us is very different, we see hope and a total rebirth and renewal in the land, some will prophesy death, evil, sorrow and they will pray towards it to come to fruition so that people can hail them that they are seeing visions. But why should any servant of God be seeing vision about death and blood in the land why can they silently pray to ward it off in the land?

Please tell us more about this your Bi-annual Feast of Nobles ?

Yes, the feast is for the nobles, when you feast with the Lord you become a Noble, all the disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ were called Nobles after they dined with Christ at the last supper. For us, our identified leaders too will become Noble men and women when they are feasted in the Cathedral of the Faithful. This event will hold inside the Faithful Cathedral, on Saturday, 28 February, 2009. A lot of Nigerian have been identified and screened by a panel of judges which include many men and women of integrity.

Since the Lord mandated us to start the feast none of the people we’ve honoured here had been indicted of any illegality or abuse of office or charged with corruption and embezzlement while in office. Our panel of Judges is led by one of Nigeria’s most respectable Jurist, Hon. .Justice G.O Kolawole, who is a justice of the Federal High Court, currently sitting on the case of the man with 86 wives. Hon. Justice Kolawole is by His grace a member of this Church and he is an ordained Deacon. The feast is celebrated in grandeur and spiritual ambience as directed by God, the Nobles we select are not necessarily big names but how we perceived their great achievements.

With the gathering of the ominous cloud of economic problems over Nigeria, what do you think is the way out?

The only way out is for us in this country to be patient. Little drops of water, little grains of sand make a mighty ocean. So all of us should join hands together with the government to salvage our economy, we need to learn how to be patient even a seed must have a sowing, grooming, and harvest time so is the situation in the country.

God himself is a God of orderliness, Nigerians are the most anxious people in the world, you see a lot of business men losing focus on their businesses, many marriages are failing and a lot of students are failing out of colleges and University just because they are not focused and patient in the race to success. Success is for the steady not the weary.

Some Christians have turned themselves into religious wanderer while some business men have also turned themselves into business wanderer in the course of looking for risky shortcuts. There is a popular Yoruba adage which I imbibed from my father that goes like “before the yam is transformed into pounded yam, it must be pounded in the mortar and that it is only when you keep looking at a spot that you see things well and deeper, it is also when you continue to urinate on a spot that your urine will foam“ all these form part of the Yoruba’s belief system and they underscore the principle of been focused and dedicated.

For Nigeria to be great, we must all learn that for a business to be regarded as not profitable it must have been operational for not less than three years, before we start to complain. These are part of the things that had led many to be preyed upon by scammers and financial predators in business circles. In advanced countries many of our people there work for hours and in those hours, no room is left for cavorting. Let’s follow the laid down rules of God rather than the laid down precepts of Men. Many failed in business because they build their business on shallow ideas, no feasibility studies,

We should also learn to appreciate government policies; we should try to understand that not all government actions are politically motivated, many are with good intentions like what Governor Fashola is trying to do in his attempt to transform Lagos State.

In our time, Nigeria will be good again, look at all these thieving governors and public office holders, go and look at those of them that had died; they were victims of one terminal ailment or the other. Some you will not have heard of before, so God has his own EFCC, because the other appellation of money is trouble, when you get to acquire too much money it will affect your psyche.

I remember the first day in this ministry when somebody paid a tithe offering of N350,000 then for one week I couldn’t sleep even I was afraid to put it in my room I kept it under the staircases and covered it with some rags and other abandoned items under the step so every morning I will have to check it and took some, and whenever there were any strange noise I will be scared whether somebody was coming to rob us of the money.

Among religious groupings in Nigeria there is this contentious issue over government’s intention to tax certain qualified income, what is your response?

Few years ago when the issue of divine healing and preaching prosperity on the pulpit was generating serious concerns among Christians, I was one of the selected pastors invited by NTA Lagos to come and discuss the issue and throw light on it. For me, my vision, calling and anointing is a mandate to lead a generation of righteous believers and as passionate advocator of divine mandate and apostolic prophetic utterance among church leaders I support the preaching on pulpit of divine healing and prosperity because my own God is God of the rich.

He had promised me that he will not call me to poverty but to prosper in my ministry but Christians must very vigilante so some lions in sheep skin among the Pastorate crowd will not use these things to cajole them into religious servitude to enslave their followers.

On the issue of the government intention to introduce tax, this, to my mind is a baseless rumor, but if it becomes a reality because out of every ten rumours in Nigeria six are always genuine, so if government of the day decided to forge ahead with the plan, good for them, if it is the only avenue that will aid the final transformation of Lagos Pastors must pray for divine wisdom before reacting. I, for one, will support such idea, after, all I am already a dedicated tax payer and a passionate advocate for the transformation of Lagos. We at the Faithfuls’ are ever ready to support any genuine and sincere move to liberate the people of Lagos from the stranglehold of backwardness and hardship.

I am proud to tell you our Church is a socially responsible organisation. If Governor Fashola calls me today, I will show him my tax certificate, this is the laminated plastic id card we are now using in Lagos, like my driving license expires today been my birthday first thing tomorrow I will go and renew it .I will implore other Pastors to pay their taxes as and when due and if tax is eventually imposed on our churches, we must pay, after all Our Lord Jesus’ disciples paid in the bible. What Pastors need to tap into is the divine provisions and the spiritual intervention of the disciples in paying their taxes.

Is it Helmet or Element?

2009-honda-element

I don’t want to sound sarcastic, but the attitude of most Nigerians to matters arising is either so interesting or repulsive, depending on how it appeals to your sense of judgment. Example is the recent motorbike safety rule which involved the compulsory use of helmet. We are always waiting for someone to call (or force) our attention to them, yet, these things have been in existence for as long as we know it. And immediately the pretended awareness is created, we literally overdo things either by obeying the law or circumventing it, or perhaps bad mouthing it. If not, how has it become that the word helmet now sounds like an abrasive element to the ears?

Anyway helmet is not synonymous with element, literarily, but one product that finds same range implication with the helmet is the 2009 Honda Element.

The expressiveness of the Honda 2009 Element is an affirmation of Honda’s experience and expertise in building vehicles rich in reliability and socially in tune. This is proudly displayed in the 2009 Element crossover. Some call it bread-in-box mobile, I call it the safety-in-the-box Honda!

The helmet-shaped carrier’s most noticeable action is up front as the boxy cutie displays Honda’s new corporate look. Sexy rounded fog lamps nicely flirting below a pair of cool head lamps flanking the six (2 vertical, 2 horizontal, 2 connecting the lower horizontal edge to the bottom of the vertical edges) sided opening. The front fenders have also been restyled and squared the wheel arches all the way round. This time, the Element exhibits a more mature look since the outgoing ones proved more popular with the older generation, contrary to Honda’s expectation. And out there in the rear is where some newly shaped tail lights find companion alongside a subtly revised back.

A vehicle like this isn’t about looks. It’s about function and practicality, which is one of the reasons it appeals to an older crowd. It offers just the right amount of space without being wasteful or unwieldy. And really, that’s what people buy it for; it’s super useful. Vehicles targeted towards the younger crowd have always done well with the older one. They have homes they can leverage to get financing. They are the ones with buying power (especially in this economy). And, most importantly, they want to feel young! They may not drive down to the beach with a bunch of friends, but they like the sentiment and that plays a big role in their purchase decision.

Even though, there seems no difference in the interior of the trim, I don’t see the need for one anyway. The 2009 Element retains its reconfigurable seats and garden-hose ready upholstery, updated with the latest gadgets, which include Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera for automatic transmission models, USB digital connectivity and Honda satellite-linked navigation system, which for now is optional for Nigerian factor.

The bas LX model comes with a four-speaker stereo with a CD player, while the EX and SC models gets a 270-watt, seven-speaker audio system that will read MP3 and WMA CDs, standard with XM Satellite Radio and steering wheel controls and features a 6.5-in. sub woofer located at the bottom-center of the dash.

Element SC models get an exclusive center console with a built-in auxiliary audio input jack, EX models get a new console with a built-in cooler, and LX models gets a basic console. Element EX and SC models also pick up a new overhead storage system, which is based on Honda’s Railport Vehicle Personalization System. The three-compartment storage area is modular and can be reconfigured based on individual customer needs. SC models also get exclusive Piano Black trim, copper-colored highlights, unique fabrics, and a floor covered with carpet rather than rubber.

It’s likely the Accord’s 170hp K24 be housed in the bonnet, which makes more sense. Accidents happen. But since the Honda is yet to make things official, the safety measures incorporated into the outgoing might still be retained, at least there is no much difference.

Although, the small SUV concept is well appreciated, but this one is not cheap and Honda is glaringly competing with the CRV, which is better in every way and doesn’t cost that much. I would prefer rather the much more useful and prettier RAV4. For me, the Helmet is ugly! What do you think?

Investor Beware! A Preview of the Nigerian Capital Market in 2009

Capital market drivers. The prosperity of the capital market depends on the prosperity of the economy. Thus the capacity of the market to successfully provide long-term funds and a good platform to trade in the accompanying securities will depend on the strength of macroeconomic productivity. A productive economy is invariably one in which economic agents create value and earn correspondingly meaningful income. Because economic agents generally subscribe to primary offers of either debt or equity or purchase stocks at the secondary market if they have income it is only consistent to argue that vibrant markets are ones where the economies create positive economic value added.

There are, however, other reasons investments can be made. These other factors are usually considered if the budget constraint has been satisfied. Thus no matter how appealing the market prospects of a security is, in the absence of income there will be no transaction overtures from the demand side. The reverse cannot be the case because even badly performing securities can be deliberately purchased once there are the funds depending on the kind of strategy that is being pursued by the investor largely because these strategies ultimately aim at making profits or returns.

So when an investor consciously transacts on the securities of an obviously dead company, such decisions though in the short-run, can be with a long-term focus of acquiring, restructuring and turning around the stock’s underlying business operations for better performance. A good example is the acquisition game between bank PHB and some Springbank investors.

Similarly some old persons, for instance, may forgo the fat capital gains of stocks of companies which are still at the early stages in industry life cycle and consistently go for the moderate returns of stocks of companies at matured stages in the industry growth cycle. Although in this case, returns are fundamental, risk perceptions are considered. This risk consideration is not strictly of the stocks but on the perceptions of the impact of the business environment on such firm’s prosperity.

Overall, three important considerations for flourishing capital market existence are the income levels of the investors; investor evaluation of current and potential performance of company as well as the risk perceptions of the investor. These forces cover the supply and demand sides of the market but not of the market umpires. What of the umpires: those who ensure that the rules of the game are complied with? The importance or unpopularity of market umpires have become more critical because from recent experiences their unwarranted interference with the market process created more problems than solutions. So a fourth factor can as well be added as the role of market umpires and regulators.

Behaviour of market drivers in 2009 In order to predict the performance of the capital market in 2009, we have to examine how these four forces are likely to fare during the year. While it is possible to make some informed guesses about the likely behaviours of the first three, it is difficult to predict how the regulators are likely to behave during same period. So for the umpires, we can at best advise on what they should or should not do in order to ensure that the market performs better.

We start with individual incomes. The incomes of individuals are tied to the prosperity of firms who in turn pay them wages in return for the services offered. Possible exceptions here are the government employees may continue to earn their wages irrespective of whether government’s finances are doing well or not.

Although it is equally possible for government to respond to macroeconomic conditions and reduce the number of persons in its payroll, oftentimes such decisions are mired in serious political considerations and are oftentimes wrongly targeted so that those who lose their jobs may not necessarily be the people who should. Historical experience in this country also has not supported wage cuts in the public sector. So we concentrate on the private firms who are more flexible in responding to changes in the environment of business.

The factors which therefore determine the profitable performance of firms in Nigeria are: infrastructure adequacy, monetary stability, fiscal equilibrium, efficient justice system and ease of taxes.

The presence of these factors ensure that firms face minimal macroeconomic uncertainty and also much more able to compete more efficiently. How are these determinants likely to fare in 2009? Infrastructure inadequacy has been unresolved and cannot be resolved in 12 calendar months. On average, partially substantial resolution of Nigeria’s infrastructure problems given its current state – should last longer than 18 months. Power supply has remained the most problematic of the entire infrastructure nightmare which was seemingly, but in futility, addressed over the eight year reign of the past administration.

What of monetary stability? It is going to be a scarce commodity in 2009. The scale of the budget deficit and the pressure on the naira exchange rate following the depressed earnings from crude oil are good pointers to what should be expected in these regards. Such huge deficits will be financed with equally huge expansions in money supply. At present, some of the areas that the budget had specified as its financing sources are being contested by some other stakeholders in the federation account particularly state governments.

With such sustained pressure, the Federal Government and the Central Bank, will come up with more ingenious ways of creating money out of nothing. This has started with the deliberate allowance of the naira exchange rate to fall from N116.00/US$1.00 to N138.00/US$1.00 in less than 60 days which enabled the transfer of naira earnings from actively struggling and value-creating economic agents to the government and its monetary authorities.

More straightforwardly, by deciding not to defend the naira as it statutorily claims with the community fund (foreign exchange reserves) and allowing the naira to fall at such scale with such speed,

(a) the CBN has saved and will continue to save as long as the naira value falls that portion of the foreign exchange reserves that will have been used for such interventions. These savings can be monetized for direct use by the government (depending on the understanding and arrangement) and; (b) all government’s proposed dollar earnings in 2009 would have become higher in naira terms which in a way may plug the holes to be created

(1) should the Federal Government lose the contested revenue sources and

(2) should it have to re-do the clearly unrealistic assumptions that underscored the revenue side of the budget proposal.

Government’s expenditure plans far outweigh its earnings prospects. In the past, the deleterious consequences of this historically traditional policy indiscretion have been cushioned by good oil prices. Government is not an investor and in a highly corrupt environment such as ours and particularly now that it appears that the fight against public sector economic and financial crimes are seriously waning, most of these proposed deficit spending will definitely find their ways straight into the pockets of some powerful predators.

So having lost the opportunity to successfully execute the projects for which the funds are meant, we shall in turn suffer the inflationary and other economic-price consequences of these actions. Who feels the brunt? The firms continue to suffer lack of competiveness in the face of the inclement operating environment where basic infrastructure remains inadequate, firms will equally not able to effectively plan over a longer time horizon because of the heavy degrees of uncertainty injected by policy-induced inflation, distortion of relative prices and inevitably rising interest rates. Firms will equally suffer demand losses because of the reduction in the real worth of incomes in the hands of households (private consumers).

Take for instance, the issue of naira devaluation. Who benefits? Who suffers? More than 70 per cent of all intermediate input into industrial production that take place in this country are imported: raw materials, machinery even technical expertise, etc. With massive naira devaluation, how competitive can these entrepreneurs be? Yet the Central Bank has pitched the reason for naira devaluation on mercantilist premise: to promote exports? Which exports? Unfortunately the export industry in this country has as well been destroyed by exactly the same reasons which we have provided above.

What has happened in the devaluation game in effect therefore is the deliberate sacrifice of the economic well-being of majority of Nigerians and Nigerian businesses in order to meet a pre-determined motivation of government’s short-term financial objectives: a consequence of many years of deliberately neglecting to put in place policies and processes that will make the economy prosper along a natural path with minimal fruitful interventions.

What of the other factors that equally contribute to the prosperity of the economy such as efficient justice system and ease of taxes. We are definitely far from these. This administration which started off with a great promise on the pursuit of the rule of law appears to be pursuing a contrary objective. In recent times we were witnesses to the executive threats meted out in the name of justice to clearly guilty government thieves. Some received N3.5 million as fine for practically wrecking their states.

Some of the accused’s files are already joining the archives of the forgotten documents without even being called up after baton change at the EFCC. For genuine vanguards of the campaign to rid the country of this mess, his reward is bouts of inglorious dishonour culminating in an ultimate sack from the service.

On the area of taxes, my suspicion is that mid-way into 2009, the government will likely invoke the dropped raise in the value-added tax rate. It is my sincere wish that this does not happen. But what can possibly prevent its occurrence is the rebound of good oil prices. The Federal Government has already recognized the massive effects that taxes from non-oil sources can play in its finances in 2009. Thus if oil prices do not stabilize at more than US$45 per barrel, the government are most likely to raise the rate of VAT as it earlier intended.

The current desperation which resulted in the sudden devaluation of the naira justifies this position. Unfortunately, VAT if well implemented and at a higher rate has even more devastating consequences on businesses. Whereas corporate profit taxes are imposed on businesses that have already made profit, there is no such discrimination with VAT and thus firms are forced to internalize in part or full – the additional costs imposed by VAT rather than allowing its transfer to the customer in order to remain competitive in a tough operating environment. In effect many firms may have to give way in 2009 and many more will proceed to the fringe of extinction.

In all these, government still intends to use the capital market to finance some of its deficits. Because the returns on government bonds are much more certain than those that can be expected from firms in a highly uncertain environment of business – as the one we expect in 2009, – entrepreneurial activities will be massively crowded out.

With many foreign investors already gone; with many investors badly hurt in 2008; with prospects for laundering of government funds in the capital market very bleak etc, the level of participation in the capital market will obviously decline. With declines in participation, the hitherto demand pressure that have led to rapid price appreciations will be absent. The crowding out effects of governments’ capital market bond participation will not only limit the capacity of businesses to access fresh funds but will equally raise bank interest rates. Can market makers change the prospects here?

Let us start with the primary market. Market makers cannot fundamentally alter the current trend in the primary market. There is a seeming cessation and poor outing in new issues segment primarily because of the overall lull in the capital market owing to

(a) recent previous massive losses,

(b) heightened market and macroeconomic uncertainty,

(c) massive investor withdrawals particularly foreign investors and short-term speculators.

Market makers, by restoring short-term demands for securities in the market place can trigger equally short-term speculations in the market. Barring any major shock in the market place, market makers can enable the market to coast albeit at a low level over a reasonably long period of time. In the absence of good company fundamentals and income which drive long term investment (following harsh macroeconomic environment of business), market making may have very limited impact on the market. If however, the market regulators over-use market making process and thus create herd reactions, the system will be temporarily ballooned and leave more participants much more hurt.

In summary, the outlook for the year 2009 is that of low productivity (and of course low income) and high macroeconomic uncertainty. These are not consistent with the forces that enable the market flourish which we enunciated at the beginning of this work.

Since the Nigerian economy is umbilically tied to crude oil, reduced earnings from it relative to governments spending plans equally means reduced spending of the Nigerian masses and businesses; majority of whose incomes are tied to such public consumption levels. The peculiarity of this year’s proposed spending is that the present administration must show strong and determined commitment to its promise on infrastructure for it to regain its fast crumbling reputation as non-performer.

If that is the case therefore, unless there is a deliberate policy to use Nigerian firms for the provision of these infrastructure with attendant high performance risks a good percentage of these expenditures will flow into the accounts of expatriate engineering firms. To quickly correct an impression, the high performance risk alluded to here does not refer to any perceived technical inferiority of Nigerians but the high levels of possible compromise due to corruption.

Let me quickly add that the Siemens case equally proves that such compromise is not limited to Nigerians alone. Our conclusion however is that; reduced government spending will affect private consumption levels with consequences for the demand for goods and services supplied by firms.

Similarly, there shall as already stated high uncertainty with implications for high inflation, interest rates and low naira value.

What should stakeholders brace up to? In rough seas, sailors can take a variety of options: abandon the ship altogether and escape on lowered boats, struggle to salvage the ship or do nothing. The present condition of the market approximates a rough sea situation and participants have variety of options which may approximate sailors’ actions in rough sea depending on their specific contexts. For instance, many investors have already abandoned the equities market following the relative shock levels that they experienced in 2008. On the other hand, many market operators together with the regulators are bent on salvaging the market. The question is: which options should various stakeholders take in approaching the capital market in 2009?

Investors as we know are in purposeful pursuit of profit. How much profit that satisfies an investor is subjective and depends on each individual investor. Consequently how much more risk an investor is prepared to take for more returns is equally subjective and depends on investor risk preferences. Thus investors with high return; high risk profiles who have a longer time operational dimension may find the capital market in 2009 worth it. But that is given the scenario that alternative opportunities/markets such as the markets for properties, currencies, solid minerals and other commodities do not offer better returns.

A proxy measure for the returns in the capital market is the expected yields on government bonds which many smart operators will aggressively leverage on to play on in the market place given the possible poor outing of the equities market. This area will be a tough battle ground in which only well funded and technically aware operators can achieve meaningful success. Few operators in the Nigerian capital market meet this desiderata.

Recall that government will be a major player in the 2009 market with the issuance of bonds to finance its huge deficits. If that is therefore the benchmark return expectation, it is my considered opinion that in the short-to-medium term speculating in many other alternative markets will offer better returns than the equities (or capital market) market which will make it clearly not very attractive for the short-term high risk-taking investors.

Another way to look at it is that those who were most hurt in the market last year were the high risk-taking cum short-term inclined investor groups. This is where most of us (over 90% of the investor-side participants in the stock market in the last two years) belong to. At the time it became obvious to many Nigerians that the equities market had become an ATM of some sort where you simply slot your card and draw money, millions threw caution to the wind concerning the associated market risks and ‘went for the money!’. Many more persons borrowed their lives and used it in the gamble. Consequently, when this supposed ATM machine got bad, they were the most badly hurt.

Now this category of short-term inclined and high-risk-taking groups are not going to gleefully run back to the equities market without serious meditation and sophisticated professional guidance. The reasons are many:

(a) their fingers have been burnt and they are yet to recover from it. The nasty experience is enough discouraging factor;

(b) they have lost their own past savings and are using their current incomes to pay the interest due on the margin facilities used to build the now decimated portfolios;

(c) even though they are high-risk taking, the global uncertainty and domestic macroeconomic outlook are very indicative of the need for serious caution;

(d) the outlook for the market is not consistent with the typical risk-return calculation. Thus the expected return by the end of the day, may not justify the attendant risk if they decide to take a chance once more. Perhaps, because this group constitutes the largest proportion of the investor-universe in Nigeria, their indisposition to the market is in fact the ‘market sentiments’.

Naturally, the short-term focused but risk averse investor groups have naturally retreated further into their shells.

The high pro-risk investors with long term focus may want to stay on and wait for a longer period of time to see if the market will rebound. Unfortunately this category of investors with strong waiting power constitutes not more than 2% of the entire investor-universe in Nigeria . Another side of that coin too is that if this category dominates the market, they scarcely engage in aggressive short-term price speculations – which create market ebullience. On the contrary they speculate with a focus on the long-term which equally implies that less of the tradeable instruments are brought to the market.

On the other hand, if many of the investors in the Nigerian market who are largely short-term inclined decide to move into alternative markets, the likely obstructions include poor development of these markets as well as limited technical expertise to profitably speculate in them. For instance the commodities and solid mineral markets may provide very good alternatives but these markets are not yet well developed in Nigeria and there are limited technical know-how as regards how to successfully operate such markets.

This therefore provides some kind of opportunity for the professionals and regulators of the capital market. The immediate development of the Nigerian commodities market has become indispensable as this can provide credible alternatives in situations such as this. The situation equally calls for increased attention to the bonds market. Since this has more guaranteed returns as well as generously involves government with high capacity to honour debt securities issued, many more investors that are relatively risk averse and many more high risk investors who want to diversify their portfolio holdings will find that outlet more reassuring.

It is evident from the market gloom that many operators in the Nigerian capital market will die within the next few months. At present, many of these firms are finding it difficult to pay the salaries of their members. This therefore calls for many likely initiatives. One of such is mergers and acquisitions as well as organizational refocusing and repositioning. For the former, the question is: what is there to acquire in many of these firms? Some of these firms are set up just to deliver dealing activities. And thus their expanse of skill availability ends with stock trading. Regrettably too, in most (up to 80% of all) instances, these firms are equally poorly capitalized.

Now with the recent calamity already wrought on proprietary portfolio of capital market operators such as in the described firm who are forced to repay margin facilities taken at about 33% while the portfolio value for which the facility is taken in the first instance is worth less than 40% of their cumulative purchase value because of rapidly dwindling prices, what strategic impact will the merger of firms in this category have? Very limited too! It could be a merger of liabilities! The funds are not there. The technical expertise that could enable the strategic navigation of these companies into alternative opportunities is equally lacking.

Inevitably therefore, many firms will be sold at much lower value to stay afloat while many lay-offs should be anticipated. Over the years the research and strategy capabilities of the firms in the market never exceeded the writing of reports and were not very much encouraged by the management. Today this works against many of the companies as they have to pay more dearly with non-existent funds in order to refocus and reposition.

Operators in the market who are well capitalized should begin a refocusing and broadening of their business areas outside of core capital market activities. Massive retraining of staff in what it takes to successfully operate in alternative markets is imperative. With a devalued naira for instance, the commodities export market will be a good option.

In Conclusion. The regulators have a critical role in the entire process as they can either aggravate or ameliorate the current crisis in the market. In an uncertain environment, the quality of monitoring and fine-tuning of the market rules and procedures shall go a long way in minimizing the risk exposure of majority of the participants.

I personally do not believe that market decisions based on the sole discretion of one man can produce such high quality. For instance, for quite a long time, the Nigerian equities market has been run at the discretion and whims of one person. Although there may be semblances of collective deliberation and output, closer examination of the decision making process reveals very much the contrary. Such monopoly needs to be broken.

Perhaps the establishment of more Exchanges may be an answer as it will engender necessary diversification and competition. It is equally very important that the market regulators cooperate among themselves so as to always minimize prejudiced decisions that usually fallout from their personality wrangling and disagreements. Whereas such disagreements are inevitable, it should at best be to further the cause of market development.

The regulators also need to generously seek as well as process the informed views and ideas of many stakeholders before arriving at their ultimate decisions. Patriotism should be the watchword here. For instance, decisions taken by the regulators should always be at the interest of the larger number of market participants and not to protect the sectional interest of few, which for instance may have rightly or otherwise been behind the initial decision of the NSE to put a wedge restricting downward movement of share prices by 1%.

To end this piece, what if things do not fall out as predicted? What if oil prices get back to about US$60 per barrel? That obviously is my prayer. Welcome to year 2009.

Martin Oluba, Ph.D., DBA, is the President/CEO of ValueFronteira Limited and an advisor to Proshare. He can be reached at martin@valuefronteira.com

Cancellation of uniform year-end saves banking sector …bank stocks now best buys – experts

As published in the Sept. 28, Iss. 33. Site Admin. ol’Victor Ojelabi

The idealism of Central Bank governor, Prof. Chukuma Soludo, did transform the nation’s banking industry. From a motley crew of pretender-financial institutions, Prof. Soludo presented to the nation on the first day 2006 a manageable community of 25 banks that have passed his test of the N25billion mark.

On the attainment of this feat, believed before 01-06-2006 to be an impossibility, the Nigerian banking public celebrated the Professor of Economics and, of course, got inebriated with the promise of greater things to come from the banking sector. Banking experts caught on to propelling excitements steaming from the office of the CBN governor, “with more money from consolidation, banks were going to drive the active sector” was the chorus.

The industry did make a jump to new levels of growth, Nigerian banks, have since 2006 been involved in financing billion plus naira projects in the hefty oil and telecommunications sectors, that was unheard of in the pre-consolidation era. Personally, I am enamoured with the gleam of glamour and high tech platforms on which Nigerian banks dispensed financial services to the public.

The banking consolidation certainly has an impact in galvanising a trendier banking culture and it shows in the lifestyles of bankers and their institutions that have become celebrities in the public place with each competing for media attention in a rather morbid claim to the nation’s number one ranking in the banking sector. So much that Nigerians were regaled with figures of banks that had crossed the one billion dollar shareholders’ fund, some other countered on their multi-trillion naira asset and all that. For the naïve watcher of the banking sector, the easy conclusion would be a sector that is vibrant on all measures of indices. The investing public was apparently taken in, for good reasons too, banks had become the main drivers of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, accounting for the biggest chunk of trading activities in the market in terms of volume and value.

All these together must have emboldened the CBN governor to push farther his idealistic template to ensure a banking industry that can compete with any other across the world on credibility of operations and status ranking in translating turnover to profit. Unfortunately, this altruistic illusion was the undoing of the CBN governor. Soon after he announced that the nation’s banks must all adopt the same December year-end, all manners of strange things started happening.

The same year-end implies that each bank would stand alone in presenting report of activities to investors. This would provide the basis for comparing the profile of banks against one another and of course, lend credit to claims by each bank.

Then a state of near stultification of the ordinary banking operations commenced. Banks started a desperate hunt for deposits to shore their vaults in the run up to the year-end deadline. To secure these deposits, banks were ready to obligate themselves to very high interest rate. There were clear signals that the economy was grinding to a halt as banks lending activities were thrown to the back offices in preference for deposits drive.

The inter bank rate, the rate at which banks lend themselves money sprinted beyond the year on year average, there were suspicion that banks needed to use this borrowed funds from other banks to make their books look good.

The signs of trouble were noted in the CBN Quarterly report but not many gave much thought to it. The report notes that “With tight liquidity conditions in the money market, following the upward review of the MPR from 9.0 to 9.5 per cent in December, 2007, deposit money banks (DMBs) accessed the CBN lending facility more frequently to square up short-term positions. Consequently, a cumulative sum of =N=8,658.91 billion was granted to DMBs on overnight basis in the review period, compared with =N=523.91 billion in the preceding quarter.”

The report further asserts that “available data indicated mixed developments in banks’ deposit and lending rates in the first quarter of 2008. With the exception of the average savings deposits and seven-day savings rates which, fell by 0.26 and 0.16 percentage points to 2.97 and 5.38 per cent, respectively, all other rates on deposits of various maturities rose from a range of 7.75 9.90 per cent in the preceding quarter to 9.48 10.71 per cent. On the other hand, the average prime and maximum lending rates fell by 0.44 and 0.07 percentage points to 16.05 and 18.17 per cent, respectively. Consequently, the spread between the weighted average deposit and maximum lending rates widened from 15.01 percentage points in the preceding quarter to 15.20 percentage points. On the other hand, the margin between the average savings deposit and maximum lending rates narrowed from 10.77 percentage points in the preceding quarter to 10.31 percentage points. The increase in interest rates during the review quarter was attributed to the upward review of the MPR in December, 2007. At the inter-bank call segment, the weighted average rate, which was 8.25 in the preceding quarter, rose to 10.30 per cent, reflecting the liquidity squeeze in the inter-bank funds market.”

The CBN was rather being merely academic with its reasons for the lending rates’ differentials and liquidity squeeze, by the time the reports for subsequent quarters are made public the spiking of credit relationship between banks on one hand and with the CBN on the hand, would tell of the tension that would have run the banking sector aground if the CBN had gone ahead with same year-end policy.

The unusual tempo of activities in the sector eventually got the CBN scared of the dire consequences if it insisted on going ahead with the same year-end policy. It was obviously a beaten Prof Soludo that informed the nation of the CBN’s decision to cancel the same year-end policy as a result of what the apex bank described as observed unhealthy trend/development in the industry whereby some banks were mobilizing deposits at very high interest rates that were inconsistent with economic fundamentals which was becoming a threat to market stability.

The CBN confirmed in the public announcement that it was compelled to cancel the same year-end policy “in the light of the developments in the economy and the misplaced perception that the interest rate trends are linked to the requirement of a common year end and therefore decided that the year end will no longer be a requirement. Consequently, each bank and discount house is at liberty to adopt its own accounting year end as it deems appropriate and can inform the CBN accordingly.”

The announcement has certainly calmed the brewing storm in the sector, so it is back to business as usual. Banks will continue to declare enormous profit, banks would continue to inundate the investors with sparkling financial positions and because banks drive the national economy in an awkward inverse relation to the active sector that should, in the ordinary sense of economics, drive the national economy, banks would continue to make more money than any other sector of the economy. This is why any investor wishing to make the fast break in the stock market should now start hunting for banks’ stocks. With the exception of Unity Bank and Wema Bank that are currently on suspension, all consolidated banking stocks listed hold great prospects, principally because bankers know how to play the Nigerian economy better than any other sector player. This is a lesson in fundamental consideration in investment decision making.

WE ARE VINDICATED

Since mid-2007, we had stridently made calls for reformation of the Nigerian stock market, we had published stories of infractions that threaten the integrity of the market, we had revealed manipulative antics of some operators and their collaborators, and had asked for more pro-active monitoring and supervision of the market, especially in transactions involving moribund companies. Some had hailed our courage for revealing the truth, some had vilified us, and some did not even pay any attention to our positions. But a five-month bearish run in the market has justified our position calling on all market players to play by the rules. The roll-out of emergency measures to put in abeyance the unwholesome domination of the capital market by the bears, have justified our principled position.

Yet, the surveillance continues.

The ‘I Before You’ Syndrome

A System can be defined as units or parts (sub-systems) that interact with each part or unit to function as a whole. The units or parts are designed in a manner that makes its operations optimal with less grid-lock and distractions or un-necessary overlapping that will create bottle necks or tardiness to function effectively so much so that all the units that make a whole will almost automatically fit into place to give one big system.

A well managed system institutionalized becomes so functional that every body will on entry into the system know what to do and how to do it without relying on brain wave or native intelligence or worst still rely on the ‘thoughts’ of the man on the spot to carry out official functions as was the case with our military detractors, extended by our ‘Mr. know all’ General OBJ even when we claim to be operating a democratic system of government.

Some of the features of a functional system lies in its ability to be self regulatory, detects deviations from set standards which it allows for setting with ease in the first place and setting of further standards, makes planning easy and effective and gives enough room for appraisal of operations and above all brings about efficiency and professionalism because of its effectiveness. A good functional system even allow for accurate projections to be made in all the areas of society’s needs with precision.

System is so central to human activities that no plan no matter how good it may look like can function in a dysfunctional system though a functional system is a result of good planning. So total is a system that it is easy to discern a functional society viding the system in place thus allowing things to done in a particular way with character as the common denominator.

Whether in governance or business or even in our private lives, its none application gives room for dislocations through faulty assumptions that sometimes are very costly and fatal resulting to instability and social vices. A good example is our inability to have a budget on time. Inter and intra governmental conflict in the country is also another sore point of the confused situation we are into.

For a very long while now you see and hear Nigerians lamenting either through write-ups in the newspapers or comments on TV station(s) the break down of system in Nigeria or lack of it claiming that that is why nothing functions here. Often comparison is drawn between Nigeria and Europe and United States of America, places where in their reckoning things work. They are absolutely right except that no one so far has posited why theirs is working and ours is not.

What we have not been able to do like others we often refer to is that we have allowed institutions that should be nurtured and grown into functional systems to be revolved around individuals who are holders of those offices at any point in time. Rather than allow institutions to make persons we allow persons to make the institutions, a direct opposite of what obtains in the places we see and refer to as better than ours.

Bastardization of institutions started with IBB regime when the civil service was dismantled all because one man wants to remain in power at all cost and the rules will not fast track it hence total demolition of all the structures built over time that has given a semblance of system to our governance. Ask Gen. Gowon the usefulness of the civil service and see what a good system it was before IBB and all the rapacious regimes that followed later including Obasanjos’.

Now we today are celebrating the judiciary as the last hope of the common man with some even suggesting rightly too as the only institution or arm of government functioning. The fact is that is about the only institution spared by all the military regimes that has ruled this country even though it is for selfish reasons. The judiciary managed to resist or escape the over-bearing tendencies of the military for reason known to them.

Painfully though is the fact that Nigerians in more than so many ways contributed immensely to the destruction of our institutions through direct collaboration and or complacency. The attitude we exhibited in enthroning ‘me’ instead of ‘we’ that has seen individuals more powerful or relevant than the institution they head is what we are all witnessing in the case of Nuhu Ribadu and the EFCC and the police as institution.

The role of the media on this saga, who was supposed to educate on issues of this nature, is to say the least, is appalling. There is the suggestion going by the write-ups in the media that Ribadu is being given some bad treatment thus insinuating he is bigger than EFCC or that without him there will be no EFCC. And it is a shame that the watch dog role the media is supposed to play in ensuring public office holders account for their stewardship which Nuhu Ribadu has failed to do so far is being questioned shamelessly. We did it during the regimes of IBB, Sani Abacha, even Obasanjo. But they all have left office and Nigeria remains. Some sanity please.

It is my opinion that Ribadu should go and answer to questions being raised over his stewardship at EFCC. He should also realize that he is a police man first before being Chairman of EFCC and most importantly him as a lawyer ought to know and he should know that the police are an institution with its rules and regulation. The police have its own system still functioning. If for any reason he finds it difficult to operate within that system he should honourably bow out. The people urging him on knows this and will deny him soon, very soon.

By the way where is DSP Ogugbuaja?

DEMAND FOR NEW CARS HITS THE HIGH…INTENDING CAR OWNERS NOW ON WAITING LIST

Nigerians now seem to prefer new cars to used ones a FORTUNE&CLASS Weekly survey has shown. A snap survey conducted by the magazine’s correspondents across new cars dealers shows that there is a strong demand for new cars, especially, the Japanese and Korean brands.

Most intending buyers are now placed on waiting list. FORTUNE&CLASS correspondents explained that demand is now high that customers can’t just walk into a dealers shop to pay and drive off with a car. “It takes an average one month or more to get a car after a commitment to buy is made to the dealers.” One of our correspondents that conducted the survey said.

Three brand names are reported to be in high demand; Toyota, Kia and Hyundai. Giving reason for the demand pile up for these brands, a marketing manager with a popular Toyota sales outlet said the desire by Nigerians to acquire new vehicle may not be unconnected with the long term financing provided by banks.

“The five years vehicle repayment plan on a 10 per cent down payment being spearheaded by First Bank Plc has created a new demand push for new cars.” An official of a car dealership said.

The emerging preference for new cars is in sharp contrast to the choices of Nigerian car owners until three years ago when most intending vehicle buyers would rather buy second hand vehicles, this, in fact, gave impetus to the thriving ports in Benin Republic, Nigeria’s neighbouring country, from where the second hand cars known as Tokunbo are smuggled into Nigeria through bush paths and unmanned border points.