14 June 2012

Nigeria: Presidency's Aware of Board's Action On Oteh

Photo: Leadership
Arunma Oteh in blue.

The Presidency is fully in support of the decision of the Board of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to send the Director-General of the commission, Ms. Arunma Oteh, on compulsory leave, to enable the Board investigate allegations that she mismanaged funds for Project 50, competent sources told THISDAY Wednesday

The Board had last Monday asked Oteh to proceed on compulsory leave, a decision, she was said to have protested through a petition to the Presidency.

Although no official confirmation whether or not she sent a petition to the Presidency, sources said such petition might not save her because the Presidency was aware of the report of the Board Audit and Financial Committee that led to her suspension.

"The only thing can save her is if it turns out that all the allegations of funds mismanagement in respect of Project 50 and violation of Investment and Securities Act (ISA) of 2007 are false. If you know how government works, you will understand that the Board would not have suspended its CEO without the knowledge and approval of a higher authority," a source said.

THISDAY checks revealed that Audit and Financial Committee of the Board, chaired by Mr. Christopher Chukwu, who represents the Central Bank of Nigeria on the Board of SEC and had other non-executive commissioners as members, recommended that key actors in the management of the Project 50 funds should be suspended in order to ensure an unhindered investigation.

"Oteh admitted to the Committee that she was the only key actor from SEC who was in charge of the management of the funds and other resources of the Project 50. Besides, her action contravenes the provision of Section 19 of ISA.

"This Section stipulates that Commission shall maintain an account into which funds provided to the Commission by the Federal Government; penalties, fees, charges and administrative cost of proceedings; and monetary gifts, contributions and other funds that may be received by the Commission must be paid into. But the provision of this section was not followed in the case of Project 50," the source added.

Reacting to Oteh's suspension, stockbrokers and other capital market operators welcomed the board's decision, saying they were not surprised given the weight of the allegations that emerged during the probe of the capital market by an ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives.

For instance, the President of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS), Mr. Mike Itegboje, said: "It was expected when you consider the events in the past several months. We just hope that the investigation (by SEC) will make things better and not worse.

"The market is still bleeding and nothing has been done to stop it. Nothing has been done to remove non-members SEC injected into the NSE council illegally," he added.

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