Friday, July 14, 2017 07.15 PM /Proshare WebTV
AFEX Nigeria is the first licensed private commodities exchange, that is focused on boosting agro-business and trade in the country, which has a massive Agriculture sector.
It has through its exchange, built a robust marketplace that trades across a broad range of agricultural products including maize, beans, cassava (dried chips), millet, among others, as well as export crops like ginger, sesame seed, cashew nuts, chilli pepper, cocoa, etc.
Understanding the fact that Agriculture is a key driving sector in the Nigerian economy, AFEX has expanded its support and infrastructure in the country, with warehouses in the North-West and North-Eastern parts of the country.
On Saturday July 8th, 2017 AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited had a shocking experience, when officers of the Nigerian Police Force besieged one of its warehouses in Zaria, Kaduna State.
The police officers arrested and manhandled AFEX security staff and had about 5,571 bags of maize confiscated, which is valued at about N85ml. This is aside valuable properties that were damaged in the warehouse.
This operation was carried out by dozens of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad Unit (SARS), with the approval of Katsina State Commissioner of Police, with the clearance of his Kaduna colleague.
According to the Inspector that led the SARS operations, the officers obtained a warrant against a certain “Diversified Consulting Limited”, from the Katsina Area Command (Funtua Police Station) which AFEX has no relationship or connection with.
It is alleged that traders sold grains to Diversified Consulting Company, but the company failed to pay for the services rendered. This led to a Magistrate court in Katsina, ruling that the principal officers of the company be remanded and the grains bought seized.
Concerns Expressed by AFEX Nigeria and Other Stakeholders
The MD/CEO of AFEX, Mr, Deji Balogun spoke to Proshare WebTV on the development; wondering why and how AFEX – a regulated company under the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria; could be at the end of such an action without cause. In view of what happened; the company has filed a motion to the Kaduna, Kano and Katsina high courts to restrain the Magistrate court from its initial ruling.
Speaking further Mr. Deji Balogun disclosed that from reports available to the company, the seized grains are in a private warehouse in Funtua and not under police custody as represented to the public.
Mr. Balogun stressed further that up till now, the Police has not invited AFEX to make a statement in defence of its product, considering the fact that it had no dealings or connections with “Diverted Consulting Company”.
Given the top priority given by the government to the business of agriculture and its positioning as a driver of economic recovery and growth, the incident between AFEX and the Police is a “poor signal” to investors, exporters and businesses in general. The more apparent damage is what it does to our “Doing Business in Nigeria” efforts by the presidency as entities who otherwise continue to give the country a benefit of doubt may have to take a pause to see how the “rule of law” plays out.
This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (@afdb_group) and former Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Federal Republic of Nigeria in a tweet, viz:
Other reactions indicate that the matter is of significance to institutional processes. We share two here:
It is trite to add therefore that this incident must be resolved not only to improve its “Ease of Doing Business” but to enhance, encourage and attract investments for a sector whose value and potential is beyond doubt.
In the meantime, AFEX has sent a petition to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Acting President through the Minister of Agriculture.
We understand that the State House has since forwarded the company’s petition to the Police Complaint Rapid Response Unit.
This story is of great interest to Nigerians and all stakeholders in the economy, and in the second part we will get further updates from AFEX, the Police, Presidency, Ministry of Agriculture and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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