THE SHADY PRIVATIZATION DEAL AND ASCE PLC.

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The Abuja Securities & Commodities Exchange is (besides the Nigerian Stock Exchange) one of two principal stock exchanges in Nigeria. It is located in Abuja, the country’s capital, and it was founded in August, 2006.

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The ASCE is primarily involved with the trading of commodities such as Agricultural produce like maize, sorghum, soya beans, sesame seeds, groundnut and millet as opposed to trading in securities such as bonds and company stock. Also, cash crops like gum Arabic, cocoa and palm produce. There’s also the prospect of expansion beyond Agricultural products as a result of partnership with the Ministry of Mines & Steel Development for the development of the solid minerals sector. Hence, trading in precious stones like gold, tantalite etcetera. This will make many people go into commercial mining of these products and therefore generate employment. Enough of the jargons! What it translates into includes increasing employment opportunities and sector contribution to the nation’s GDP.

What does one imagine, however, when that same nation decides to ‘privatize’ the ASCE? Will it become a victim or a beneficiary of such a move? Maybe both or neither!

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By privatization, what the people in government (FG, that is. Maybe you prefer ‘Private Pockets in the Federal Government’) mean is (in my own terms) “Invitation of experts from Ethiopia Commodities Exchange and the World Bank to assist in the restructuring of Abuja Securities and Commodities Exchange and expressly hand-over the latter to the ‘Private Pockets in the FG’.

 

It has happened before, it keeps happening and it will still happen. And whenever it does happen, the few young people, who are employed (not so gainfully, I suppose) and as such pride themselves in being the more privileged than millions (rather uncountable) of their contemporaries (not so much as peers) who have throughout their lives (may be an exaggeration though) have only known unemployment and the pangs of hunger, also get to lose their so-called jobs and join the multitude of other young ‘uns, whose hopes roam, searching a comfortable place to dock.

 

Those are somewhat my words. But the following are not-my-words and are the words of the ‘Private Pockets in the FG’:

 

The Minister (nay Archbishop) of the Ministry of Trade and Investment, ‘Archbishop’ ‘Lusegun Aganga said ‘the revitalisation of ASCE will help local farmers to make more income from their farm produces’. ‘In order to achieve this, the Ministry brought in experts from the Ethiopia Commodities Exchange and also sought the support of the World Bank. They came in and looked at what we have, and then made proposals for which the Ministry had set up a committee known as the Technical Working Group comprising executives of the Commodities Brokers Association of Nigeria (CBAN).”

 

The Managing Director (nay Bishop), Abuja Securities and Commodities Exchange, ‘Bishop’ Yusuf Abdulraman, stated that “the revitalisation project (nay privatisation) of ASCE must go on…” “So, Nigeria will soon have a Commodities exchange which is predominantly financed by the private sector.”

 

Fellow Nigerians and friends of Nigeria, please call to mind that wise old saying, “He who pays the piper dictates the tune.” As soon as these ‘Private Pockets’ begin to pay the piper of ASCE, the first ‘business-as-usual’ to do is to ask the young, struggling Nigerians working there to bow out and fill the created vacancies with friends and family members. Hence, the further widening of the gap between ‘them’ and ‘us’.

 

Please, also remember that just last Wednesday, 27th of February, 2013, the Nigeria House of Representatives rejected a Bill, which sought to make provisions for monetary incentives for the unemployed graduates in the country. Just goes to say those in position to make decisions for the greater good, in this country and elsewhere, almost always choose to make decisions against the greater good.

 

The summary of it all is that “They hope to privatize ASCE, lay the workers off and make them join the lot of other unemployed Nigerians, whom their leaders have deliberately chosen to ignore or even to act against.”

 

In conclusion, let’s ask ourselves rhetorically “For how long will these unemployed (or the unemployed-to-be) continue to act like they do not care?” I doubt if it’s for long…as the following constitutes the transcript of the interview responses of a respondent:

 

 

Abuja Securities & Commodity Exchange Plc started operation as a Stock Exchange in 1999 and it was later revived and rechristened Abuja Securities & Commodity Exchange by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration in 2006 to revolutionise agricultural sector and diversify the economy into the non-oil sector.  Since then, the agency has not been able to live up to the originally conceived dream for which it was reactivated. Activities at the exchange has since then been at a lull because no meaningful progress have been recorded in terms of revolutionising agricultural production in Nigeria. The major pre-conceived beneficiaries for which the agency was set up have benefitted little or nothing from this agency since inception. Only very few local farmers are aware of the existence of this agency.

Again, despite government funding since inception, no meaningful and radical transformation has taken place in this agency.   However, it is a standing fact that the government has not really placed a high premium on this agency by providing adequate funding that will make the agency a world-class exchange that every meaningful Nigerian, commodity merchant and farmer dream of.

However, the proposed planned privatization of the agency is at this crucial time uncalled for and should be aborted. The reason being that the whole process of the privatization is shady, unprofessional and is meant only to benefit few influential persons that have contributed to the woes and redundancy of this Exchange.

 

THE YOUTHS POSITION:

1)      That the agency must be subjected to proper probity and accountability by setting up panels to audit the operations and accounts of the agency since inception.

2)      That the M.D/C.E.O. of 14 years should be personally probed and should not be involved in the process of privatization as he is likely to have vested interests in the process of privatisation.

3)      That the staffing policy, recruitment policy, promotion structure of the Exchange should  also be audited because there are many staffs that have spent many years with the exchange  without promotion and subsequent salary increment.

4)      That the actual salaries of staff should be made known through the National Salaries and Wages Commission.

5)      That the National Assembly both the lower and upper chambers should wade into this issue through the Honourable Chairman on Trades & Investments in the upper and lower chamber respectively to protect the interests of the staffs who are well-meaning Nigerians.

6)      That the National Assembly should set up a ‘Special Panel of Enquiry’ to probe the activities of the exchange since inception and stop the planned privatization of the agency going on which is meant only to benefit the few initiators.

7)      That the exchange should be re-engineered, re-structured and re-organised  to better position the agency to deliver on its mandates.

8)      That if after the expiration of the enquiry, the panel deems it fit to privatize the agency, the M.D. of the agency, Honourable Minister of Trades & Investments and National Economic team members should not be involved in the real process of privatization either actively or passively but should be entirely overseen by members of the panel of enquiry.

9)      That the reports of the enquiry should be made public to Nigerians.

10)   That the National Assembly should give room for accelerated hearing on ‘Warehouse Receipt Financing(WHRF) bill’ as the quick passage of this bill is very crucial to the effective functionality of the exchange.

 

Thank you and God Bless Nigeria, God Bless the National Assembly as we repose our utmost confidence and trust in the Hallowed Chambers of the National Assembly as the true representative of the interests of the Nigerian populace on issues of national concerns.”

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