Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Workers Protest Oteh's Recall to SEC

Photo: This Day
Arunmeh Oteh.

Staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday blocked entrances to the commission's offices to prevent the return of Ms Arunma Oteh who was recalled from suspension as SEC director general by the Federal Government.

Oteh was asked to proceed on leave by the SEC board last month to enable its external auditors investigate transactions covering the controversial 'Project 50.'

The board also directed its audit and financial committee to investigate all issues raised at the House of Representatives probe of the "near collapse of capital market" in which Oteh was accused of fraud and mismanagement.

But a letter by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation Anyim Pius Anyim, circulated yesterday, said SEC's auditors cleared Oteh of the allegations against her and so she was recalled to her office.

"Please refer to the decision of the Board of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to send you on compulsory leave in order to enable SEC's external auditors - the Price Water Coopers Limited (PWC), to examine the records of the Commission's transactions covering SEC project 50 which you supervised," said Anyim's letter, dated July 17.

"I am to note that Government has studied the report submitted by the external auditors and you are neither indicted for fraud nor criminal breach in any form. However, some administrative lapses were reported, particularly, in cases where administrative procedures were not thoroughly observed.

"The purpose of this letter is to recall you from your leave and to caution that you must henceforth endeavour to diligently observe all extant rules and administrative procedures in the conduct of all official transactions. Please accept the assurances of best wishes."

To facilitate Oteh's return to her office yesterday, heavily armed security personnel including riot police and men of the State Security Services took positions in and around the SEC Towers but staff of the commission said they would never allow her back.

Carrying placards with the inscription "No to Oteh," the workers said she breached many capital market regulations and that her coming back would cause more havoc in the market.

Secretary General of SEC Staff Union, John Briggs, said the staff "don't want her back until due process is followed."

He said Anyim is not the right person to recall her because he is not the supervisory minister.

"That letter ought to have been given to her by (Finance Minister Ngozi) Okonjo-Iweala. Why is he acting on behalf of Okonjo-Iweala? Staff are not happy and they are saying due process was not followed," he added.

Reps to debate capital market probe report

The recall of Oteh came a day after the House of Representatives capital market probe committee submitted its report, in which it asked for the prosecution of the SEC DG over allegations of fraud.

Debate on the report is scheduled to start today, sources told Daily Trust yesterday.

Committee chair Rep. Ibrahim Tukur El-Sudi (PDP, Taraba) on Tuesday presented the report to the House in plenary session and copies were circulated to the members yesterday ahead of the debate.

The report is asking for outright sack of Oteh over allegations of misconduct, incompetence and fraud, of which the Federal Government is now saying she has been cleared.

Oteh is accused of contravening the monetisation policy of the Federal Government by collecting N62 million for a 5-bedroom apartment and at the same time staying at Transcorp Hotel Abuja beyond the period she was entitled to.

She is also alleged to have improperly solicited for and obtained donations from companies that SEC regulates for the 'Project 50'.

Other allegations against her are: "Purchase of three Hilux vehicles at the cost of N32 million without due processes, withdrawal of N200 million from the commission's fund without approval from the board" and running SEC "without input from other commissioners and management."

The House report said, "Ms. Oteh flies first class when traveling abroad contrary to government directives that government appointees to fly business class when traveling on official assignment."

It also found that Oteh embarked on illegal recruitment of ad hoc and support staff including hiring of two staff of Access Bank as advisers on technological issues. "Findings revealed that contrary to Ms. Oteh's submission, the Access Bank staff were involved in manipulating the merger and acquisition of failed banks to favour Access Bank, a case of Intercontinental Bank which was acquired by Access Bank is a pointer in this arrangement," the report said.

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