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Tough Times Await Promoters of Unregistered Investment Schemes

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unregistered investment schemes

By Dipo Olowookere

Promoters of Ponzi schemes and unregistered investment schemes in Nigeria may soon be in big trouble if the law being proposed by the National Assembly is passed into law and signed by the President.

On Thursday, a bill to amend the Investment and Securities Act 2007, sponsored by Mr Babangida Ibrahim, representing MalumFashi/Kafur Federal Constituency in Katsina State at the House of Representatives, scaled the second reading.

The amendment is titled A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Investments and Securities Act, 2007 and Enact the Investments and Securities Bill to Establish Securities and Exchange Commission as the Apex Regulatory Authority for the Nigerian Capital Market as well as Regulation of the Market to ensure Capital Formation, the Protection of the Market to ensure Capital Formation, the Protection of Investors, Maintain Fair, Efficient and Transparent Market and Reduction of Systematic Risk; and for Related Matters.

The bill intends to combat the menace of Ponzi schemes and ensure that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is well equipped to stem the tide.

According to Mr Ibrahim, there has been a lot of complaints by Nigerians on the activities of these schemes that promise unreasonably high returns and at the end of the day, they fleece Nigerians of their hard-earned money hence the need for more regulations to monitor them.

Under the proposed law, ‘A bill to repeal the Investment and Securities Act 2007 and to enact the Investments and Securities Act, 2021’ which passed the second reading at the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday, SEC will be empowered to address the challenges of Ponzi schemes.

Section 195 (1) of the Bill empowers SEC thus: “The Commission shall have the power to enter and seal up all prohibited schemes and shall obtain an Order of court to freeze and forfeit all assets of such schemes to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“(2) The cost and expenses incurred under subsection (1) above shall be a first charge from the funds and properties of the illegal scheme including assets of its owners, promoters and or managers, whether acquired legitimately or otherwise.

“(3) For the purposes of this Bill, “prohibited scheme” including those commonly known as a Ponzi or Pyramid scheme means: (a)  Any investment scheme that pays existing contributors with funds collected from new contributors to the scheme promising high returns with little or no risk: i) Whether or not the scheme limits the number of persons who may participate therein, either expressly or by the application of conditions affecting the eligibility of a person to enter into, or receive compensation under the scheme; or ii) Whether the scheme is operated at a physical address or through the internet or other electronic means. (b) Any scheme where participants attempt to make money by recruiting new participants usually where: (i) the promoter promises a high return in a short period of time, and (ii) no genuine product or service is actually sold; or (iii) the primary emphasis is on recruiting new participants

“(4) The promoter(s) and operator(s) of any entity engaged in a prohibited scheme commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of ten (10) years or a fine of N5,000,000 or both”.

According to Mr Ibrahim, “The current ISA 2007 is old and we all know a lot has happened between that time and now like technological advancements. The capital market has to be dynamic in today’s world in a bid to contribute its quota to national development and that is one of the reasons why we are pushing this.”

“A lot of things have happened between that time and now hence the need for an amendment. When that law came into existence we did not have derivatives and commodities markets as we do now, these are some of the issues that are necessitating this amendment.

“The plan is to make this Bill a little bit flexible so some national government can be able to approach the capital market to source for fund either for developmental projects,” he added.

Another part of the amendment is to increase the period within which a claim for compensation could be made for the Investor Protection Fund to six years from the date of occurrence of the defalcation, revocation, cancellation, insolvency or bankruptcy of the dealing firm. The period in the current Act is six months.

The objectives of an Investor Protection Fund is to compensate investors who suffer pecuniary loss arising from the insolvency, bankruptcy or negligence of a dealing member firm of a securities exchange; defalcation committed by a dealing member firm or any of its directors, officers, employees or representatives in relation to securities, money or any property entrusted to, or received or deemed received by the dealing member firm in the course of its business as a capital market operator; and revocation or cancellation of the registration of a dealing member firm.

According to the proposed amendment, two new subsections have been introduced to complement the existing provisions on the manner in which a claim to the investor protection fund can be made.

This is a departure from Section 213 (2) of the 2007 Act, which requires a claim for compensation to be made in the first instance to the securities exchange.

In addition, subsection (4) of the Act has been modified to take care of such preconditions for compensation as may have been prescribed by the Board of Trustees.

Specifically, it added that a verified claim must be paid by the investor protection fund to an investor within 14 days of such verification by the securities exchange.

It said, “A claim for compensation under this part of the Bill shall be made in writing to the board of trustees within 6 years from the date of occurrence of the defalcation, revocation or cancellation of the registration of the dealing member firm and insolvency or bankruptcy of the dealing member firm, and any claim which is not so made shall be barred unless the Commission otherwise determines.

“No action for damages shall lie against a securities exchange or against any member or employee of a securities exchange or of a board of trustees or management sub-committee by reason of any notice published in good faith and without malice for the purposes of this section.”

Mr Ibrahim expressed the optimism that when the Bill is passed into law, it would empower the SEC with the necessary backing to effectively regulate the capital market and emphasize the independence of the agency in line with the requirements of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Economy

Academy Press, NGX Group Emerge Week’s Worst-Performing Stocks

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Academy Press

By Dipo Olowookere

Investors offloaded shares of Academy Press, Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Group and others last week as precautionary measures, especially for the NGX Group.

Information went round that the parent company of the nation’s main stock exchange violated the same offence it punished several organisations for.

This triggered mixed reactions, and the board had to issue a statement to calm nerves, stressing that it was committed to upholding “the highest corporate governance standards, as it has historically done.”

“We are extremely mindful of due process, our records are verifiable, and we are on course with our long-term strategy execution,” a part of the statement issued last week further said.

In the week, Academy Press lost 22.73 per cent to trade at N1.70, NGX Group fell by 13.92 per cent to N17.00, Cadbury Nigeria dropped 13.82 per cent to close at N11.85, BUA Cement declined by 10.39 per cent, while CWG went down by 10.00 per cent.

The disruption in investors’ confidence in the market caused the share prices of 42 firms to shrink in the five-day trading week, compared with 39 recorded in the previous week.

Business Post reports that 17 equities gained points last week, higher than the 13 appreciated a week earlier.

Vitafoam gained 12.25 per cent to close at N22.45, Fidelity Bank grew by 10.85 per cent to N3.78, Unity Bank appreciated by 10.00 per cent to 44 Kobo, eTranzact rose by 9.97 per cent to N3.20, while RT Briscoe jumped by 9.37 per cent to 35 Kobo.

Data from the bourse showed that the All-Share Index (ASI) and the market capitalisation depreciated by 0.91 per cent to 49,026.62 points and N26.445 trillion, respectively.

Similarly, all other indices finished lower except for the NGX premium, banking, pension, NGX AFR Bank Value and NGX MERI Value, which appreciated by 0.13 per cent, 2.27 per cent, 0.05 per cent, 0.08 per cent and 1.84 per cent, respectively, while the ASeM, growth and NGX SOVBND indices closed flat.

The activity chart revealed that investors traded 562.856 million shares worth N9.438 billion in 16,013 deals during the week, in contrast to the 719.398 million shares valued at N8.004 billion transacted in 17,444 deals in the preceding week.

The financial services sector led the chart with 381.958 million shares valued at N4.551 billion traded in 8,627 deals, contributing 67.86 per cent and 48.21 per cent to the total trading volume and value, respectively.

The ICT industry followed with 59.345 million shares worth N2.480 billion in 1,272 deals, while the third place was the services space with 32.212 million shares worth N95.807 million in 607 deals.

Zenith Bank, NGX Group and GTCO were the busiest stocks in the week, with a cumulative sale of 183.929 million units worth N3.499 billion in 3,628 deals, contributing 32.68 per cent and 37.07 per cent to the total trading volume and value, respectively.

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Economy

Investors, Others Anticipate Outcome of CBN’s MPC Meeting

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MPC Meeting CBN

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The much-awaited Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) commenced today, Monday, September 26, 2022.

It is the last, but one meeting of the monetary team saddled with the responsibility of determining the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) for the country.

The meeting is for two days. The first leg of the gathering started at 10 am today at the MPC Meeting Room on the 11th Floor of the headquarters of the CBN in Abuja.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 27, 2022, the second part of the gathering will take place at the same venue by 8 am.

After about five hours or more, the Governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, will inform the public, through the media, of the outcome of the MPC meeting.

He will address journalists on the team’s decision after deliberations, especially after carefully looking at the economic parameters, including the inflation rate, the gross domestic product (GDP), and the money in circulation, among others.

At the last gathering, which occurred precisely in July, the anchor interest rate was increased by 100 basis points to 14.0 per cent from 13.0 per cent. This action was taken mainly to control the rising inflation.

About two weeks ago, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced that the inflation rate in Nigeria jumped to 20.52 per cent in August 2022 from 19.64 per cent in July 2022.

Last week, the major central banks across the globe further hiked interest rates to tackle inflation, and it is expected that Nigeria will follow suit.

Inflation in Nigeria has been triggered by the rising cost of food items as a result of insecurity in the northern part of the country, where most of the food crops are planted.

This year’s problem has majorly been caused by flooding and the inability of farmers to go to their farms as a result of bandits and terrorists, who collect taxes from them before crops can be planted.

Efforts by the government to protect the farmers have not yielded the expected results.

Members of the MPC will look at these issues and give their expert view on whether the rate should be lowered, raised or left intact. But observers believe that the interest rate would be further increased to reduce money in the financial system and then hope that the prices of goods and services will decrease to attract more consumers.

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Economy

Vendease Raises $30m to Aid Food Supply Chain

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Vendease

By Adedapo Adesanya

Vendease, a digital platform which allows African restaurants to buy supplies, access financial services and power their business operations, has raised $30 million in an equity and debt funding round.

The series A equity round of $20 million was co-led by TLcom and Partech in a rare joint investment by two of the biggest Africa-focused funds. Following their investments, Mr Andreata Muforo (Partner at TLcom) and Mr Cyril Collon (General Partner at Partech) will join Vendease’s board as new directors.

The equity round also included VentureSouq, Hustle fund, Hack VC, GFR Fund, Kube VC, Magic Fund and Kairos Angels, who re-invested after participating in the previous round.

Vendease also raised the $10 million debt round from the local finance market.

Commenting on the funding, Mr Tunde Kara, CEO and co-founder of Vendease, said the company would use the proceeds to consolidate its growth and operations in Nigeria and Ghana and to support its expansion across the continent.

“Our mission is to enable the efficient flow of food across Africa, from the point of production to consumption. We want to transform how the entire sector works and remove the bottlenecks that stunt the growth of restaurants and food businesses,” he added.

Launched in January 2020, Vendease’s digital procurement engine makes it easier for restaurants in 8 cities across Nigeria and Ghana to buy food supplies at considerably cheaper rates than open market prices, with guaranteed 12-hour delivery. Over the last 12 months, the company has moved more than 400,000 metric tonnes of food through its platform, helping its users save more than $2,000,000 in procurement costs and more than 10,000 man-hours. Its data has also helped them reduce wastage from overstocking by an additional $485,000.

The company said it has seen triple growth in the number of users on its platform and 5x in revenue over the last 12 months.

“Users have also accessed more than $12 million worth of inventory via its embedded finance product,” the company added.

For restaurant owners, they simply need to download the app, complete the registration process in a few clicks, and they will be able to access all the benefits of Vendease’s platform. They can also access working capital through Vendease’s Buy-Now-Pay-Later offering to maximise their growth opportunities.

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