President Muhammadu Buhari was seemingly dealt a bad deck in his first term, with the economy sliding into recession. This in turn triggered a foreign exchange crisis, which led to a sharp devaluation, after several demand management measures failed.
Many listed firms on the exchange suffered a double whammy: difficulty in accessing foreign exchange, and hampered consumer spending.
This time, things are much better, though the market has done poorly this year due to the first elections held in the first quarter, and global trade tensions.
The President will today be sworn in for his second and final term at the Eagle Square, Abuja. The election was a keenly contested one (with his main opponent Atiku Abubakar challenging the results in court).
As is typical, business activities slowed down in the first quarter of the year, with several parties adopting a wait and look posture. One hopes, that from today, it’s back to business.
Here are four key points, that may boost activities in the capital market, if implemented by the Buhari administration.
Appoint a board for the Securities and Exchange Commission
It is shameful that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been without a board for the last four years. Key decisions required to move the market forward have thus been kept in abeyance. Beyond merely using board appointments as “rewards for the boys and girls,” the President must go further by placing round pegs in round holes.
Fast forward the privatization programme
The privatization programme has largely slowed in President Buhari’s first term. The snail pace is even more surprising considering the private sector antecedents of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
In their second term, the Buhari administration needs to fast forward the privatization of state owned enterprises and have them listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). Only one of such firms (Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) was listed sometime this year.
Listing FG’s share of Joint Venture Oil Assets
In what seems to be a largely ceremonial activity, the Federal Government has once more mandated the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to sell down its stake in joint venture oil assets to 40% this year.
NNPC owns a 55 percent stake in its joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell, and 60 percent stakes in others.
While one hopes, that the corporation will for once walk the talk, the government can use this as an opportunity to deepen the stock market by listing on the NSE.
The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) is in dire need of big ticket listings. MTN Nigeria and Dangote Cement account for roughly 30% of the market capitalization.
A clearer macro environment
Above all, the government must articulate a clearer macroeconomic policy. Reforms must be driven at a faster pace and institutionalized.
Despite the seeming lethargy, there have been a few positive moves. President Muhammadu Buhari signed the requisite laws enabling the demutualization of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
Demutualization is the process by which an exchange is converted from a company owned by members or brokers, to one in which members of the public can buy shares.
Having led the country for four years as a civilian, President Buhari must hit the ground running. It would be a shame if the President has to wait for several months to appoint members of his cabinet.
GDP numbers for the first quarter of 2019, came in at 2.01%. While a slight improvement on a year on year basis, (2018 Q1 GDP growth was 1.89%), on a quarterly basis, they show a slow down compared to the 2.38% growth recorded in Q4 2018. If the Buhari administration does not get its acts faster this time, growth may slow even further.