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For NSE reforms down-to-earth Onyema deserves an Oscar

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OSCAR Onyema is of a royal blood, a prince if he decides to wear that appellation but  in profession and practice he is a corporate titan. The stock market is his domain. The unassuming Onyema is the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and Chairman of the Central Securities Clearing System – the clearinghouse for the Nigerian capital market.

He is one of the youngest persons to head a stock exchange in Africa. His calm disposition may cast him aloof but behind that mien is a composed technocrat that makes the Nigerian Stock Exchange soar.

Every organisation is driven by the capability of her leadership, as the driving force behind the Nigerian stock exchange. Onyema vision goes beyond securities listing, buying, and selling of shares.

A man that believes in his vocation, Onyema is on a mission at Nigerian Stock Exchange, he wants to make the NSE the most sought after capital market in Africa – becoming Africa’s most important financial centre. He argues that Nigeria has everything it takes to become the financial hub of Africa, far beyond wealth management and the quasi status as Africa largest economy.

Onyema’s humility endears him to people. His elitist personality notwithstanding nobody encounters him and leaves with grimy impression of him. The NSE helmsman appreciates God’s goodness for keeping him thus far.

He was one block away from the tragic attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11, 2001. For providence, he was trapped for about four hours before the rescue teams arrived. Before the rescue arrived, he saw people around him write their wills because they couldn’t communicate via their mobile phones.

Onyema’s meteoric rise to the highest level of his profession began with sound educational footing. A scion of His Royal Majesty Igwe V. C. Onyema III, traditional ruler of Ogwu-Ikpele in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State. Aristocratic Onyema is a Computer Engineering graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

He holds an MBA in Finance and Investments from Baruch College, New York City. For more knowledge, he attended Harvard Business School’s six-week Advanced Management Program. Onyema holds Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Series 7, 24, and 63 licenses.

Before returning home to serve the country,  Onyema served for over 16 years in the United States financial markets, managing market structure initiatives, products and securities exchange businesses.

The former lecturer at the Economics Department of Pace University, New York joined the American Stock Exchange (Amex) in 2001, served as a primary liaison among various Amex operating divisions.

He was instrumental in integrating Amex equity business into NYSE Euronext after its acquisition of Amex in 2008. He then managed NYSE Amex equity trading business, which he helped position as a premier market for small and mid-cap securities.

The Anambra State born stock merchandise regulator rose to become the Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Amex. He became the first person of colour to hold that position, and was instrumental in integrating the Amex equity business into the NYSE Euronext equity business after their acquisition of Amex in 2008.

At New York Mercantile Exchange where he held various positions, he managed futures market structure initiatives, and Data Processing Maintenance and Services Ltd, among others.

He assumed the top post of Nigerian Stock Exchange on 4th April, 2011. Onyema who survived the terrorist attack on World Trade Centre, had major security concern when he relocated to Nigeria. When his office was burgled, he began to question his decision of returning home but made up his mind to stay.

“In 2011 to be precise, I made the choice to return home to Nigeria and join the NSE after over 16 years of working with leading exchanges abroad.

It was by no means an easy decision to make. As my first few weeks here passed, the unease that comes with uncertainty lingered. But in the months that followed, it became extraordinarily clear to me that I had followed my purpose.”

On the stock exchange effort to improve the investment climate in the country, Onyema thinks Nigeria is not where it needs to be concerning its attractiveness to investors. “We are doing a great deal to improve our ranking, however.

We have engaged the government to help work on the ease of doing business, including the ease of registering companies, raising capital, entry of goods and services, entry of people, and so on. We can do more in these areas and are working closely with the government,” he said.

Through the NSE, Onyema works to support small, and medium-size enterprises to raise capital and adopt the governance standards required for business expansion, enabling Nigerians to create durable wealth, “the NSE is a facilitator of inclusive economic growth, and is striving to become a more significant driver of socio-economic growth in Nigeria.”

The NSE boss owns the Oscar N. Onyema (ONO) Foundation, which primarily focuses on supporting effort to expand access to formal education in Nigeria, especially amongst indigent children and youths, raise the bar in academic achievements, and encourage positivity and hope to the less privileged families and communities and provide sustainable high impact programmes that would positively affect the society.

He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS) of Nigeria, the first CEO of the Exchange to be inducted as an Associate Member. In 2017, he was elevated to a Fellow of the Institute of Directors, Nigeria.

He received the Special Recognition Award For Transformational Leadership in the Nigerian Capital Markets at Business Day Top 25 CEOs Awards 2018.

In recognition of his contribution to economic development, the transformation of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Nigerian capital markets, the Nigerian government honoured him with the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in 2014. In 2015, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry awarded him the most Innovative CEO of the year 2014, in recognition of his tremendous role in the development of the Nigerian capital market.

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