This Day (Lagos)

15 June 2012

Nigeria: SEC - PWC Appointed to Audit Project 50

Determined to unravel the sources and application of funds collected by a private consulting firm on behalf of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for Project 50, a pet initiative spearheaded by its suspended Director General, Ms. Arunma Oteh, to celebrate 50 years of capital market regulation, the board of the commission has appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to audit the programme.

This is just as the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday named Mr. Ibrahim Bolaji Bello, Director of Finance and Administration, as the acting Director-General of SEC following the retirement of Ms. Daisy Ekineh, who has been acting in that capacity since Tuesday. Bello will take over next Monday.

Ekineh, who is the Executive Commissioner, Operations, was appointed to act following Oteh's suspension last Monday by the SEC board over allegations of mismanagement of funds and resources for Project 50.

However, Ekineh's tenure at the commission along with other board members expires today, hence the appointment of Bello, who is the most senior director to oversee SEC, pending the reconstitution of the board by the Federal Government.

Speaking at a media briefing in Abuja, Okonjo-Iweala foreclosed any extension of the tenure of the three executive commissioners - Ekineh, Charles Udora and Alhaji Sanni Stores - as well as the chairman, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma.

According to her, the external auditor, PWC, would scrutinise the books of the commission on the Project 50 programmes, which will take three weeks to complete, following which government would decide on the appointment of a new DG for SEC.

She said: "Nobody is attempting to extend their (executive commissioners') tenure and there should be no fear or danger of that.

"From Monday next week, with the concurrence of Mr. President, one of the senior directors will be designated on a temporary basis as acting DG to carry on with his director's job, but at the same time will be acting DG.

"His name is Bolaji Ibrahim Bello. He is presently the Director in charge of Finance and Administration and he will be acting from Monday."

Bello, who became a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers in 1997, qualified as a stockbroker in 1981. He worked as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Empire Securities Limited before joining SEC in 2001.

Prior to being made the director of administration, he was in charge of the Lagos zonal office of the commission.

He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Lagos and an MBA from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

PWC was appointed to conduct an independent audit on the sources of funds for Project 50 and how they were utilised.

Oteh was asked to proceed on compulsory leave last Monday, following the recommendation of the board's Audit and Finance Committee which was directed to investigate Project 50.

According to the board, Oteh's suspension was necessary to carry out an independent investigation into the allegations against her in line with good corporate governance practice, as remaining in her position as DG would have impeded the investigation.

THISDAY learnt that the Audit and Financial Committee, chaired by Mr. Christopher Chukwu, who is a representative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the SEC board, had recommended that key actors in the management of Project 50 funds be suspended for unimpeded investigation into how they managed the money.

"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 Section 19 of the Investment and Securities Act, which stipulates that the commission shall maintain an account into which funds accruing from the Federal Government, penalties, fees, charges and administrative cost of proceedings, monetary gifts and contributions from other sources must be paid into.

"But the provision of this section was not followed in the case of Project 50," a SEC source explained.

While the amount contributed to the Project 50 has not been ascertained, SEC sources suspect that quoted companies and market operators made financial contributions to the fund.

It was further gathered that Quo Vadis Limited, a company owned by the Ogun State Commissioner for Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, acted as a consultant to Project 50.

Strangely, Oteh last Tuesday defied her suspension to attend the National Economic Management Team meeting chaired by President Goodluck Jonthan.

Sources said it was surprising that the president and finance minister allowed Oteh to attend the meeting despite being aware of her suspension as the chief executive of SEC.

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