Appraising Mary Uduk’s two-year stewardship at SEC




Capital market stakeholders were expecting that Acting Director- General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms Mary Uduk would be confirmed as substantive Director General, but alas, it was not to be, BENJAMIN UMUTEME reports.

When the Senate President read the letter of President Muhmmadu Buhari asking that Lamido Yuguda be confirmed as substantive Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commissioner (SEC)’ not a few people were taken aback considering that acting Director- General Mary Uduk had since her appointment in 2018 been committed to driving the Commission to attain international standard.

For many industry watchers, Uduk have in the last two years pushed the Commission to its limit in terms of meeting the expectations of all stakeholders.

Uduk was appointed acting DG by then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, in 2018 following the suspension of  Gwarzo over allegations of financial impropriety.

Before her appointment to head the capital market regulatory body, Uduk had headed Operations Division in the Lagos Zonal Office, Internal Control, Investment Management, Financial Standards and Corporate Governance and Securities and Investment Services Departments, among others.

Therefore, when she assumed office, she went about her task with a one-track mind-developing SEC to the level it can compare to any capital market globally.

Steadfastness

And like the biblical ploughman, she did not look back as she was steadfast in her conviction that the Commission can be reckoned with globally like any other capital market.  Part of what she did was the Infusion of Capital Market Studies into Schools’ Curriculum: Further to milestones accomplished in 2017, the Commission, in collaboration with National Educational Research Development Council (NERDC), successfully hosted a series of Planning/Writing and Critique/Editorial workshops. This resulted in the development of the proposed stand-alone curriculum.

Leveraging technology

SEC inaugurated a market-wide Committee to develop a fintech road map for the Nigerian capital market. The committee was also to promote access to capital, financial inclusion and enable greater transparency and more efficient compliance in a fast digitalizing financial services sector.

Nigerian Commodity Ecosystem

Earlier in 2017, the Commission set up a market-wide technical committee to recommend ways of rejuvenating the Nigerian commodity ecosystem. The committee developed a practical framework, which necessitated the constitution of an implementation committee in 2018. Similarly, relevant adjustments were made internally within the Commission to enable the actualization of the commodities ecosystem road map.

Green Bond rules

Rules on green bonds were developed as part of efforts to promote the issuance of debt instruments for the purpose of financing or re-financing projects that have positive environmental impact. Sequel to the creation of the rules, the Commission recorded the registration of a shelf prospectus in this regard.

Institutional cooperation

In 2018, SEC became the first regulator to participate in a flagship Pan-African programme promoted by Financial Sector Deepening Africa (FSD Africa) and designed to strengthen the continent’s capital markets. Similarly, the Commission engaged in a capacity building collaboration with the Korean Development Initiative (KDI). A Memorandum of Understanding was executed with FSD Africa, which would see the organisation provide funding to strengthen the capacity of the Commission in critical regulatory areas, provide world-class technical assistance and conduct research to support the development of new policies and regulations.  In the same vein, KDI would also provide capacity building for the Commission and the market in the area of regulation of derivatives under its knowledge-sharing programme.

Even in 2019, her zeal to accomplish all of her objectives for the good of the nation’s capital market continued with launch of the Fintech Roadmap for the Nigerian Capital Market with the overarching objective of making Nigeria an attractive Fintech hub. The Roadmap was expected to open new frontiers for FinTech firms in the capital market, introduce innovative ways of capital raising for businesses and enhance information availability to assess and price risks.

Investor protection

The Commission clamped down on the activities of illegal market operators, including Dantata Success and Profitable Company, an illegal investment scheme operating in Kano and its environs. The Commission also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) in July to combat Ponzi schemes and fraud in the capital market. The collaboration was necessitated by the need for SEC and NFIU to close ranks in the face of insider dealings, re-awakening sensitization of Ponzi schemes, cybercrime and other fraudulent activities. According to Uduk, her desire is to develop and regulate a world class Capital Market that is free from any criminal activity,

Securitisation

In recognition of the huge potential of securitization in funding infrastructure, the Commission organized a special workshop for stakeholders, to highlight the benefits of securitization in financing the nation’s infrastructure needs across various sectors of the economy. The workshop had in attendance, participants from the public and private sectors.

Finance Bill

The Commission contributed to policy formulation through several engagements with the Office of the Vice President of Nigeria as well as the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning. The Commission participated in the consultations and engagements that culminated in the introduction of the Finance Bill and later the Act, amongst others.

Investor education

The Commission hosted two hundred and sixty-one (261) participants to an enlightenment programme tagged “A Day with Investors” for personnel of military, paramilitary, security and anti-graft agencies. In addition, the Commission participated in the interactive session on the topic:” Working the Market and Finding the Money: Smart Business and Investment Models that Work” at Zuma Film Festival 2019, organized by the Nigerian Film Corporation to enlighten the audience on the role of the capital market in providing veritable funding avenues for the Nigerian film industry.

On-going efforts

In addition to its traditional regulatory role and the implementation of on-going initiatives, the SEC is currently working on the following strategic initiatives such as: implementing the second circle of its Internal Corporate Strategy (2020-2024) which aims to strengthen the Commission to become Africa’s leading capital market regulator; introduction of Nigeria’s Crowdfunding Regulatory Framework; Implementing the Commodities Ecosystem Roadmap

Implementing capital market Fintech roadmap

The Fintech roadmap highlights the roles to be played by regulators as well as Fintech companies and other key stakeholders. The roadmap captures the role of the regulator in creating a regulatory environment that is supportive of innovation and the use of regulatory technology. It also emphasises the need for strong collaborations among relevant regulators in the financial industry and the need for a harmonized policy approach. The main areas of focus include; driving a harmonized regulatory agenda, developing a framework for regulating virtual financial assets and exchanges, accelerating investments in Fintechs, providing directory services, building capacity and engaging with Fintech companies. Timelines have been agreed and a working group has been tasked with implementation of the roadmap. SEC has already created a portal which hosts a Fintech assessment form for the purpose of engaging with Fintechs. An innovation office has also been set up within the SEC. The implementation of Fintech Roadmap will contribute to market deepening which is necessary for market development.

FG Working Group on Proposed National Savings Scheme

At the beginning of this year, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, constituted a broad based government working group made up of relevant stakeholders in both the private and public sectors.  The group is to advise the federal government on ways and means of mobilizing and channelling corporate and individual savings to accelerate domestic capital formation to support entrepreneurs and enterprise development in the urgent task of diversifying the economy and deepening the capital market. The working group has since commenced work on this very important assignment and despite the challenges posed by the COVID -19 pandemic, they are working remotely to conclude the task in earnest.

Proactive response

For capital market analysts, Akeem Oyetunde, the past two years SEC under the leadership of Uduk reflects a regulator that continues to respond proactively to emerging global trends following innovative strategies being adopted by those saddled with the responsibility of guiding the investment market towards desirable direction for sustainable growth.

And in a chat with Blueprint, Capital Market Professor at Nasarawa State University, Uche Uwaleke, said SEC management under the leadership of Mary Uduk has performed well in its effort to develop the market.

Uwaleke said under the leadership of Uduk the Commission undertook several investor protection measures including the clamp down on ponzi schemes and illegal investment companies that have strengthened investors’ confidence in the market.

“Worried by the volatility in the stock market, plans are afoot by the Commission to introduce equity derivatives going by information obtained from its website,” he said. 

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