1 December 2012

Nigeria: Ms. Onagoruwa - the Bell Tolls for Arunma Oteh

Ms. Bolanle Onagoruwa was last Tuesday added to the list of ex-bosses of the Bureau of Public Enterprises. Though no official explanation has been given, at least till now, for her sack as D-G, the immediate cause would be the shoddy handling of the $23.6 million Transmission Company of Nigeria contract to Canadian firm Manitoba Hydro International, which was cancelled and restored again by the Presidency.

Reinstating the Manitoba contract after it was initially cancelled would have been a tough one for President Jonathan as it may create fears in investors' minds in respect of the handling of the power privatization projects. But truth is Onagoruwa's reign at BPE had been turbulent, The National Council on Privatisation headed by Vice-President Namadi Sambo had not been comfortable with the handling of BPE affairs by Onagoruwa. There were some disagreements over bids for some power firms. The most virulent attack on Onagoruwa, however, came from the Senate.

The Senate had last year adopted the report of its ad hoc committee on privatisation and commercialisation, which called for Onagoruwa's sack for alleged gross incompetence in the management of the privatisation process. And the Senate had been strident in this demand. Once Onagoruwa came to defend her corporation's budget before the Senate committee and was sent back. So, if you ask me, the remote cause of Onagoruwa's sack would be the Senate's demand, which it would appear the President heeded at last. But is Onagoruwa's sack a foretaste of what may befall Ms. Arunma Oteh, the Director-General of the Security and Exchange Commission who has had an open disagreement with the Capital Market Committee of the House of Representatives and by extension, the House? I think so.

The House had also demanded Oteh's sack. Oteh may have had her problems at the SEC, particularly her perceived highhandedness, lack of prudence and all of that, however, she has succeeded in exposing the chicanery of the House committee under Hon. Herman Hembe. Yet the House insisted she must go. And methinks President Jonathan may also in the fullness of time cave in on the demand as a way of straightening the rough edges in his relationship with the House. Therefore, I think with the sacking of Onagoruwa, the bell tolls for Oteh.

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