Wednesday, September 05, 2018 21.56PM / Interview by Ottoabasi ABASIEKONG, WebTV News
There have been recent interesting developments in Nigeria which reinforces the need for stakeholders to uphold global best practices in corporate governance as a key component of attracting and retaining investments in Nigeria.
In this interview, we engaged Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi, CEO of Proshare at the Pearl Awards Board of Governance inauguration held yesterday; on recent developments in the corporate governance space in Nigeria.
Que: Congratulations Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi on your membership of the governing board for the Pearl Awards Board inaugurated today. What is it about the Pearl Awards and why did you accept to be a part of the Governing board?
Ans: I believe the Pearl Awards has over the decades served as a reference point and platform for acknowledging market excellence in Nigeria. That said, I believe that the board is desirous to move away from an era that has since passed on to one that looks beyond numbers only to qualify/quantify best practices in corporate excellence.
Que: Last week, the Institute of Directors (IoDNigeria) inaugurated both the policy and management committees for 2018/19 and you were one of those with privileged multiple memberships. Can you give us a sense and indeed your perspective on the general state of corporate governance in Nigeria, and the ability of Directors to maintain ethos at such a tough economic period?
Ans: This is a trick question and I hope I am quoted properly. Factually speaking; we have made a quantum leap from where we were before to where we are now; situated at a point where the adoption of best practices is no longer a fad but a minimum for firms seeking to genuinely position/grow their business and offer themselves as an example of what is possible.
While we still have cases of entities/companies that believe they can do otherwise, it is now the norm that guidelines set by the exchange is being adopted even by non-listed firms as a minimum guide. The challenge however remains with the evolution from a control-mindset to a market-led regulatory environment.
Que: You recently wrote a widely read article “Memo to the Market: The NSE, Oscar Onyema Foundation and Governance” which led to reactions in the market. Kindly shed some light on this and the current status plus reactions to date.
Ans: This is a matter I personally felt convinced about at the time and my comments as expressed in the memo speak to the issues directly. That said, one of the more important outcomes since then has been the response from a variety of persons, the commonality of purpose and agreement on corporate governance principles and the response thereto.
Que: How do you mean?
Ans: First was the reception to the article which showed a continued interest in the capital market. Second was the speed of response from the council of the exchange and indeed the ONO foundation; which immediately moved to suspend/dissolve the foundation.
This move was not only historical in nature given our recent past, but it did two things - one it affirmed the principle of a feedback loop that fact-based advocacy delivers and secondly, it enabled the practical manifestation of an NSE Council’s response on corporate governance simultaneously.
This was novel. The decision to put the foundation to rest on August 24, 2018 was commendable, instructive, courageous and a standard-setting exposition for stakeholders who might have exercised doubt.
Que: Was this a surprise to you and if so why? We recall the posers in the memo and wonder what you have seen that would make you accept this as a honest mistake?
Ans: The action was easily understood given the assumptions laid out in the memo that premised the substance around a honest mistake; and the swiftness of the action taken only validates the response.
I must admit that the invitation I received from the NSE Council to meet on Monday was unanticipated and a new development in engagement ethos in the market. The little I can say about the meeting was that I was availed with the general thoughts of the council’s thinking around the issue[s] and steps taken to date. The mere fact that the council was this responsive is not lost on me and it should matter.
While the transparency of the NSE council was novel, the more important point the incident and process revealed was the level of contrition on display with the full awareness of the potential risks and concerns that may arise. By so doing, the council’s role to advice, govern and mandate pre-emptive and corrective steps promptly was brought to fore.
This is key and has helped in no small way to ameliorate concerns raised. To sustain this narrative, I and indeed the firm I represent will continue to maintain a watching brief on developments on what must be one of the finer moments in governance resolutions.
Que: Well, that is something coming from you. Are you saying this approach signifies an adoption of higher standards from the NSE and that companies would be expected to act in similar fashion going forward?
Ans: That is not for me to say. Regarding the issues highlighted in the memo to which the actions taken thus far, and to my knowledge, have reflected more on the ability of the institution to self-correct just as the article envisaged. It is incumbent on stakeholders to recognise that in rising to the challenge, the NSE Council is better off from the reporting and response that occurred.
That this turned out positively the way it did; should encourage all that the NSE will sustain the positive example set here to continue its quest to build a market founded on trust, integrity and reliability.
Que: On this positive note, I say thank you for your time.
Ans: This is a good optic for our market and hope we can build on this episode. Thanks!