By Victor Onyebuchi
The Acting Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the last two years, Ms Mary Uduk, has made unassailable achievements and total commitment to transparency, innovativeness and standardization of the nation’s capital market in her short but eventful tenure as the regulator of the market.
To many observers of the political landscape in its increasingly slippery turf in the past few years, Ms Uduk’s failure to get confirmed despite her much speculated endorsement by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, could not have been surprising to them, especially when analysed from the past political antecedents in the land.
As it has been over the years and not necessarily peculiar to the President Buhari’s administration, experiences have shown that many hard working, reform-driven and qualified professionals are usually ‘dumped’ for political expediency fix those who ‘really qualified’ to take over the affairs of many MDAs.
Ms Uduk did her best in the face of all odds and it is most certain that when the names of those who selflessly worked to make the Nigeria’s investment space more investor-friendly will be written in the capital market’s future ‘Hall of Fame’, the amiable and futuristic ‘Mary Uduk’ will not be missing.
A cursory assessment of her contributions to the development of the nation’s capital market in the last two years shows that the outgoing investment expert scored excellently in key assessment parameters, some of which will be touched briefly here for record purposes, even as Ms Uduk will now be penning down her handover notes for the incoming Director General.
An analysis of her actions in the brief but epochal tenure showed that over the two years she held sway as the Acting Director General, Ms Uduk, together with the SEC management, anchored the commission’s programmes and projects’ implementation on the 10-Year Capital Market Master Plan which was launched by SEC in 2014 for the purpose of positioning the market as a key catalyst for sustainable development of the national economy.
Designed and anchored on four strategic themes and with over 100 initiatives, the implementation of the Plan and other policy initiatives by the Ms Uduk-led management team has broadly transformed the capital market and buoy its contribution to national development, particularly at a time the volatility of the global investments climate remains tumultuous for regulators, operators and investors.
In broad terms, Ms Uduk, despite the challenges in the commission on her assumption of office, was able, through openness and collective approach in leadership and active support of top officials and employees of the commission, to restore investor confidence in the capital market and attracted global analysts’ commendations on corporate governance and ethical practice standards.
In specific terms, the past two years her tenure have also led to the consummation of the dematerialization, e-Dividend payment, e-circulation of companies’ annual reports and Direct Cash Settlement projects such that today, investors in the market are the beneficiaries of such innovative, technology-driven and fraud-proof processes.
Similarly, Ms Uduk’s team was able to initiate and currently championing with relentless vigour and determination other projects and programmes such as the Commodities Exchange, for the purposes of creating a vibrant commodity ecosystem; financial derivatives market growth initiative; release of Rules on Sukuk bonds; the release of the Rules on Green Bonds; the introduction of Capital Market Studies into curriculum of basic and senior secondary schools in Nigeria; setting up of a Committee on National Saving Scheme and the launching of the Fintech Roadmap for the Nigerian Capital Market, amongst others.
To further demonstrate her penchant for innovativeness and purposeful leadership, the outgoing Director General’s team established a Division dedicated to Fintech and Innovation to facilitate the engagement and guidance of Fintech start-ups that seek to operate in the Nigeria capital market as well as encourage capital market operators to embrace Fintech to upscale their operations and processes.
Also looking at the operation side of the market in the past few years, the SEC has also catalysed the Nigerian capital market growth through the creation of exchanges such as FMDQ, NASD, AFEX and the Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange (LCFE) and today, many of them are listing and trading new and innovative products.
Similarly, Ms Uduk, who may be described as an ‘impact player’, also initiated sundry reforms as part of the commission’s strategic efforts to strengthen the market, improve its transparency and accountability as well as assure improved returns for investors and benefits to the economy. Some of these include the Dematerialization, National Investor Protection Fund (NIPF), Liquidity enhancement, E-Dividend, New Complaints Management Framework, Direct Cash Settlement, Electronic Initial Public Offerings (e-IPO) system, Non-Interest Capital Market, Anti-Ponzi scheme and Development of derivatives market.
Yes, Ms Uduk may have met some of these projects, programmes and exchange platforms on assumption of office as the Acting DG, what has come out clear is that in her short but very eventful tenure she has with all professional dexterity and apolitical managerial skills ‘breathed life’ into the various initiatives such that none of them is just existing on paper. Today, the initiatives are being vigorously implemented with the attendant positive implications for government’s efforts to deepen the capital market capitalization and attract long term foreign investments into the economy.
Indeed, it is difficult to fully chronicle all that Ms Uduk did to reposition the nation’s capital market in a single opinion article like this. But one thing that is clear is that the amiable and visionary regulator has done her best and is leaving the stage unblemished with outstanding achievements that will certainly provide the in-coming Director General the operational leverage to move the capital market forward.e
Nothing could better attest to Ms Uduk’s dedication to service to her fatherland better than the recent international recognition of the SEC as one of the fastest growing and innovative capital market regulatory institutions globally than her recently election into the Board of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).
She is also representing the Africa/Middle-East Regional Committee (AMERC) on the IOSCO Board for a period of two years. Expectedly, this will strengthen the region’s voice and contributions at the global securities space and promote the image of Nigerian capital market in the world.
Does this all suggest that there are no tasks ahead? No. Indeed, the incoming Director General will have to brace the odds of market under-capitalization, slowing rate of foreign investment inflows, retail investors’ dwindling savings/investment constraints and some ‘bad’ fiscal policies discouraging investors to stake more funds in the market to improve the capital market contributions to the nation’s GDP in the years ahead.
Onyebuchi wrote from Lagos