Friday 11 September 2009

Nigeria: A case of undignified self-importance

Self-importance and rage

It was strange to pick up news of an egotistical megalomaniac politician who had apparently become a law onto himself and committed an assault for which he might not get charged.

The dishonourable Chinyere Igwe a representative of Rivers State in the volatile Nigerian Niger Delta region was asked for his identification when he tried to enter the National Assembly Complex by the Sergeant-at-Arms rather than show proof that he had authorised access, he felt affronted and proceeded to slap the official twice [1].

Mr. Chinelo Nwolo, the Sergeant-at-Arms was eventually rescued by bystanders before he suffered grievous bodily harm.

Checks not nods

Whilst, it would be nice for security staff at the National Assembly to recognise and identify on sight any and all members of the assembly, the purpose for issuing identity passes is to ensure that the person holding a pass is validated by inspection of the relevant access material.

In fact, there are some members of the National Assembly that can be nodded through for the fact that they are well known, but without trying to be pedantic, the job of security personnel is to identify by inspection of identification documents or material before allowing the visitor into the complex.

Where that is not done, the security personnel would be derelict of their duties. The man was only doing his job.

A case of puffed-up arrogance

The dishonourable member however exemplifies a state of affairs in Nigeria where those in power believe they are above the law and should not to subject to basic house rules. To be challenged by a somewhat security agent would be to attract wrath, uncontrolled temper and rage leading to assault by reason of their view that they can be police, judge and jury exacting justice and proper retribution for the affront to their distinguished status.

It ought not to be so, a politician representative should be conduct himself with all manner of courtesy, comportment and dignity whilst appreciating that he is there to do a job and the security personnel have a clearly defined function that interfaces with their when it comes to security, security of access and safety.

In one other report, the representative referred to the Sergeant-at-Arms as a boy, a very derogatory epithet coming from an ill-disciplined man who by ways probably does not know how to reflect and make amends for wrongs he might have done.

Just doing his job

The Sergeant-at-Arms is an official of the Federal Republic of Nigeria whose office is well recognised in the constitution and it carries responsibilities and authority to which people especially lawmakers should defer without rancour.

On a very basic level, the assault should be seen as criminal and be reported to the police that should then take steps to prosecute the representative, referring him to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Ethics and Privileges is all well and good but it is hardly due process.

It goes without saying that if a man authorised to perform a duty in the centre of our legislature cannot freely do so without harassment and threats of violent conduct from the legislature, what hope do Nigerians have in other places of work when leadership provides no examples?

The Serjeant-at-Arms deserves more than just an apology from the representative, the leadership of the legislature should do well to ensure that the representative is properly upbraided, sanctioned and disciplined if necessary.

Overhaul security

In the end, it brings the security arrangements at the National Assembly into sharp focus, rather than have hapless men at the risk of unwarranted menace, the security access system should require all staff produce their passes that can be read electronically by some automatic access system and human beings should only get involved when that access fails.

In a perfect world, brutes like Chinyere Igwe should be in a correction facility where they should be intensively rehabilitated to recognise basic civility and good manners without too much self-importance. I do hope he gets his just desserts, as for the Sergeant-at-Arms, Mr. Chinelo Nwolo, I am all sympathetic and sorry about the incident, it must never happen again.


[1] Rep slaps Sergeant-at-Arms | Daily Trust

Thursday 10 September 2009

Nigeria: Between regulatory sanction and redress

A clash of egos

I have quietly but studiously observed stock market and banking events in Nigeria over the past few months exercising considerable restraint, avoiding comment for as long as I can.

However, what I write about today requires commentary and should elicit serious concern within the business community in Nigeria and other commercial interests that do business in Nigeria.

There has been an enduring tussle [1] between business moguls Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola which resulted in a number of suits, allegations and investigations. One can view this as a clash of egos where the consequences would be grave on the bystanders.

Of proxies and manipulation

Aliko Dangote had allegedly employed a proxy Nova Finance & Securities Limited and its principal Eugene Anenih to manipulate illegally the shares of African Petroleum Plc of which Femi Otedola is the majority shareholder.

The allegation was reported to the Nigerian Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) that found against the proxy and exculpated Aliko Dangote.

In their findings and judgement, Nova Securities was barred for one year from capital market activities and fined; the principal was barred for five years, fined and referred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

This all seemed above board, but the alleged proxy took his case to the Investments and Securities Tribunal where the aggrieved as a result of SEC sanctions can seek redress.

Redress addresses and acquits

What is so worrisome as reported by Next Newspapers [2] is that the tribunal found completely in favour of the proxy plaintiff and it makes one wonder how the SEC could have gotten it so spectacularly wrong that all its sanctions might well be reversed and they might also have to pay a hefty compensation for the loss of business and besmirching of the name of the proxy.

The job of regulation is definitely not an easy one, it is almost forgivable if the SEC was caught napping on the job, but to have engaged and investigated a case and reached conclusions that found no support whatsoever in the redress process leaves much to be desired in many ways as well too many questions in the minds of the many who rely of such organisations to ensure markets operate fairly, honestly, reputably and efficiently without let or hindrance but useful oversight.

I do not know if Mr Anenih is the son of some bigwig in Nigerian politics, though that is beside the point in usually patronage-driven Ngeria; but I would proffer that he probably got caught up in a skirmish between titans and literally had his head bitten off.

The need for confidence

Interestingly, this matter has been resolved at the first rung of redress at the tribunal before it got to vegetate in the justice system where the winners are usually those with the best advocates and the means to retain them.

In all, one then wonders if the SEC is well awake to its responsibilities in being vigilant and is verifiably no respecter of persons in their investigations where the supposed proxy looks like the scapegoat. Further activity needs to be executed in determining if the share slide of African Petroleum between February and March 2009 was a result of routine market movements or the deliberate activities of a miscreant who has gotten away with a killing.

Nigeria cannot afford to have its banking and market activities in flux where regulation, investigation and sanction when subject to objective scrutiny is found to have no basis in due process and justice.

It would not remiss to require that all regulatory agencies work hard to build confidence in their activities such that the business community can boldly engage the markets and commerce for legitimate ends.


[1] Duel of the Oligarchs,Otedola Vs Dangote & the winner is….. - news

[2] AP shares: "you did no wrong" tribunal tells Nova securities |