Financial Institutions In The US And Nigeria

Financial Institutions In The US And Nigeria

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 11:50 am

Professor Emmanuel Enmeyonu, an Imo State indigene and immediate past chairman of the Department of Accounting, Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut in the United States, was in Nigeria recently and spoke with ABIODUN ONAFUYE on local and foreign financial and sundry issues

Can you compare the way financial institutions and bodies are being operating in Nigeria with what is obtainable in the USA?

There are many facets to accounting profession, whether here or there. You have, apart from the disciplinary facet like auditing and fax, financial accounting, fraud and forensic accounting. Now we have information accounting, which is the interface between accounting on one hand and Information Technology. Some of those are local in nature. For instance, when we talk about taxation, tax accounting is also driven by tax law, which tends to be localised, so we have a lot of differences between the practices of taxation in the country. For instance, we have the Chartered Institute of Taxation in Nigeria, CITN, trying to position itself as the regulator of tax practice in Nigeria. In other words, before you can practice in Nigeria, you have to belong to CITN. In the United States, there is really no such thing; by that, I mean you don’t have a professional institute like that whose job it is to regulate tax practice and all, but you have what I called Group Agents. They are equivalent to Federal Inland Revenue Service here in Nigeria.

Prof. Emmanuel Enmeyonu

Prof. Emmanuel Enmeyonu

Now, when you are talking about financial accounting, Nigeria has adopted International Financial Reporting Standards, IFRS, even though I have my criticism of how that process came about. It was hurried, it was rushed and companies and institutions not given more time to prepare. I also have issue against the idea of adopting IFRS, because those standards are not prepared with our best national interest at heart. The board that issued IFRS, International Financial Reporting Standards Board, does not have even one Nigerian represented on that board; the only African in recent time we have had on that board is a White South African who lives in the United Kingdom. So, accounting standards have economics consequences; they impact how values are determined and impact how economic resources are allocated. If you have to have standard to which you intend to hold Nigerian companies, Nigeria should have input in that. To have a standard rating body that is almost completely dominated by America, United Kingdom and Europe, making standards which are then imposed on Nigerian companies without taking into consideration the operating environment of Nigeria companies and economy is regrettable and the fact that our lawmakers and companies allowed themselves to be stampeded into that is really regrettable. That is my view on that and I have written on it in the Financial Times of London, International Journal of Accounting, so it is not an issue which I’m not sympathetic to, but we have to do it well. As an illustration of what I am saying, America has not adopted IFRS and might never adopt it, notwithstanding the fact that the body that issues this standard is an American corporation. If they have refused to adopt it, why are we in such a hurry to adopt IFRS? Things like reporting fraud and so on would not be stopped just because a company adopts IFRS accounting standard in two main facets. We have what we call measurement, i.e. accounting measurement dealing with things like, how do you depreciate an asset, which depreciation method do you use, how do you determine the number of years over which you depreciate an asset. Then you have what is known as disclosure; what should you let the public know regarding the accounting policies, regarding how you ended up having your numbers with regards to measurement? It is important you look at the environment within which a country operates before you come up with what would be the appropriate measurement method to use; and when it comes to disclosing the same thing to the public.

How would you describe the political system in the country and do you intend going into politics?

I have been outside Nigeria since 1989. I went to school in the United Kingdom and I went to the United States of America in 1994 and have been teaching there ever since. My first teaching position was with Howard University in January 1995, but I do come home, like I’m here now. I have been at home since June, so I cannot follow closely what is going on. I am not a politician yet, but based on what I have observed, I think people who have something to contribute need to join politics. I am of the opinion that decent people should forget about their personal comfort…You hear criticism of people like Dr. Christopher Kolade; why did he accept to serve on SURE P. and so on? I have a contrary view. I personally advised him to accept that position in January 2012. When he was contacted, I was privileged to visit him in his house in the United States and he was contemplating on the offer. I encouraged him to accept the offer because there are few Nigerians that have the level of integrity that the man has. And if we want things to be done right, more and more people like that need to get involved. You can’t just stay away and leave everything and then just end up complaining and complaining. It is also possible to find people who want to make a difference and as many of those people should be encouraged to get involved in national issues and I think the time has come for us to begin to ask how and what can we do individually and collectively to turn things around. It would take human beings to fix things which are broken. Nigerians need men and women who cannot be bought, who will close their eyes to bribe, who will insist on doing things right. We have spent over 50 years in independence, yet, we are still wandering in the wilderness.

What is your view concerning the deadly Ebola virus? Did you have any fear of contracting it when coming into the country?

The Ebola Virus Disease is indeed a deadly disease. It is a biological terminology; some will call it epidemic, which has been thrust upon us to a certain degree, and somebody can say that the health authorities are doing their best. Yes, I was scared before, but later I summoned courage and decided to take to all the precautionary statements given by the experts and since I arrived the country, it has not been as we used to hear when I was over there; it was a different thing entirely. First of all, when you are writing this, I will like you to express my heartfelt condolences to those that the disease has taken away from us, especially the doctors that have been giving their lives to save others. To me, they are national heroes and they need to be honoured as such posthumously and recognised and really honoured, because they laid their lives in doing their jobs.

In the next four months the country will be going to the poll; what is your assessment of the country’s preparedness?

With regards to the election, I would say that the recent events, like the election in Ekiti State, the way Doctor Fayemi congratulated his opponent, even though he lost as an incumbent, I think that was commendable and I hope that we will evolve as a society. To the level where, after the elections if you lose, you lose gallantly and congratulate your opponent and offer to work with them. That will reduce a lot of tensions, it will reduce the wasting of innocent lives – the supporters of these people who get killed unnecessarily. The recent election in Osun State, where the ruling party at the national level lost out in spite of the complained military presence and so on and so forth.

This is encouraging. I must say that since the Late President Ya’adua era, there has been progressive improvement in the conduct of elections and it appears that people’s vote counts more now. I am not saying that we have gotten to the promise land yet, but there seems to be improvement in the general conduct of elections. If that continues, hopefully the 2015 election will not witness the kind of orgy of violence we witnessed after the 2011 election – the loss of lives, the Youth Corpers that were innocently killed and maimed and so on and so forth. I hope and pray that 2015 general elections would be more peaceful and people’s vote would count and will get to a time when Nigerian citizens will truly be an empowered citizenry and people’s votes count and their right to determine and chose who their leaders are is not subverted by godfatherism and criminals.

Those who pervert the will of the people, either by ballot stuffing or election manipulations, should not be allowed to rule us again in this country. I am hoping that next year’s elections will be more peaceful, the people’s will would be respected and politicians that lose would take it in good faith; not inciting people to be burning down things. God bless Nigeria and we should continue to pray for our leaders as a nation is being developed by both the government and the governed. Let us all join hands to play our active roles to enable this country to regain its lost glory among the comity of the nations.

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