By PETER EGWUATU & MICHAEL EBOH
LAGOS — Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Tuesday, petitioned the Presidency and other relevant authorities over her suspension from office by the Board of the Commission.
According to a source close to Oteh, she has already sent a letter to the Presidency, Minister of Finance and other relevant agencies, with the hope that she will be given fair hearing on the issue.
The source, however, said pending the response of the Presidency, Oteh would not interfere and would allow the Board to carry out their investigation, adding: “She has agreed to take her suspension from office in good faith, saying that she will abide by due process, until the Presidency wades into the matter.”
The source further stated that Oteh, who attended the meeting of the National Economic Management Team, in Abuja, yesterday, was committed to ensuring that due process takes its course and that the investigation was carried out without undue interference and delay.
This is even as the Board of SEC ordered that the nominees of SEC on the Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) be disengaged immediately, after having carried out the stabilisation of the stock exchange.
SEC withdraws nominees from NSE Council
The nominees withdrawn from the NSE Council are: Interim National President of the NSE, Mallam Ballama Manu; Mr. Emmanuel Ikazoboh, Mrs. Yemisi Ayeni, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, Mr. Abimbola Ogunbanjo, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, Mrs. Dorothy Ufot and Mr. Hassan Usman.
The Board, after ordering the withdrawal of its nominees on the NSE Council, directed the NSE to take steps to ensure that all legal issues affecting the functioning of the council be addressed.
A statement yesterday, and signed by the commission’s secretary, Edosa Kennedy Aigbekaen, said: “The Board of SEC at its 66th meeting held on June 11, 2012, has directed the Director-General, Ms. Arunma Oteh, to proceed on compulsory leave to enable an independent investigation to be undertaken in respect of the Project 50 programme which was carried out by the Commission in 2011. The Executive Commissioner (Operations), Ms. Daisy Ekineh will act in her absence.”
The Secretary explained that the decision of the Board was arrived at after consideration of the report of its Audit and Finance Committee which had been directed to investigate the sources and uses of funds for the Project 50 event. Among its conclusions, the Committee recommended an independent audit of Project 50 and that the key actors in the management of the funds should be asked to step aside to allow an unhindered investigation.
According to the statement, “the Board also considered issues regarding the Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and particularly the request of the Interim President of the Council that having stabilised the Exchange, they should be allowed to begin the process of disengagement.”
Removal politically motivated, lacks due process
Another source close to the Board, told Vanguard that Oteh’s removal was politically motivated and did not follow due process.
The source said the action of the Board was part of a ploy to ridicule Oteh, install Ekineh as DG and illegally extend Ekineh’s tenure, along with the tenure of other Commissioners, through the back door.
He stated that the removal had nothing to do with disharmony in SEC or misappropriation of funds for project 50, but was a plan by certain members of the Board to pursue their sinister objectives.
Ekineh is due for retirement, June 15
“The only thing about all these is that it is lacking in due process and I will tell you why. You are aware that Ekineh is the acting DG, that is the same Ekineh, who along with other Executive commissioners whose tenures are due to expire this June 15, just a couple of days aways.
What they are now doing is to get tenure extension through the back door.
“From this, there is a clear case of conflict of interest. There is nothing they want to investigate in Project 50 that would warrant this action. They have the list of donors and their phone numbers. We have given all available materials. There is nothing they would want to do on Project 50 that would warrant their extending their tenures through the back door.
Mixed reactions trail suspension
Mr. Opeyemi Agbaje, Chief Executive Officer, Resources and Trust Company Limited, said Oteh’s suspension was a welcome relief for stakeholders, especially as it shows that checks and balances still exist in SEC.
He said: “I agree that the suspension of Arunma Oteh as SEC DG is justified. Indeed, I had argued that her position (as well as that of Herman Hembe) was no longer tenable. She had made several errors of judgment.
Mr. Emeka Madubuike, Chairman, Association of Stockbroking Houses of Nigeria, said the move would correct the impression of disharmony in the Board.
Madubuike said: “The capital market and SEC would come out stronger at the end of the exercise, adding that the action would rekindle investors’ confidence in the market.
In his own view, Mr. David Adonri, Chief Executive Officer, Lambeth Trust and Investment Limited, said: “The suspension of SEC DG is not surprising, considering the weighty issue about her administration that were revealed during the public hearing.
Oteh’s removal is ill-timed – Stockbroker
Also commenting, Mazi Okecukwu Unegbu, former President, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and Managing Director, Maxifunds Securities and Investment Limited, said the timing of her removal was wrong, noting that the Board should have waited for the outcome of the report of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee that probed the near collapse of the capital market.
Oteh is innocent until proven otherwise – Shareholder
Dr. Farouk Umar, Chairman, Advancement for the Rights of Nigerian Shareholders said: “I don’t want to preempt the outcome of the committee set up to investigate the Project 50. The committee should investigate the issue thoroughly and come up with its findings, until then she cannot be said to be guilty of any allegation. But, to be candid and fair to her, she has done well in her attempt to reposition the capital market.