Capital market stakeholders want SEC DG, Oteh to step down

More than a month after the voluntary resignation of members of the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market over bribery allegations, stakeholders in the capital market have called on the Director General, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Arunma Oteh, to equally step down from her position to allow for unfettered and credible probe.

Constitutional lawyer and activist, Fred Agbaje, said Ms Oteh does not come across to him as one with the quality and character of a worthy public officer capable of heading a public institution as sensitive as the SEC, which demands that she demonstrates ability to withstand pressures and hard questions from members of the public without betraying emotions.

“Based on this premise alone, I think that she should have done the most honourable thing by tendering her resignation and going back to African Development Bank (AfDB), where she came from, if they will still accept her,” Mr. Agbaje said. “Anything short of that will see the stock market going down in perpetuity.”

Mr. Agbaje is an investor and legal adviser to some investors as well as commentator on capital market issues relating to exchange rules and regulation

According to the lawyer, the apex regulatory body, the SEC, should be headed by men and women of high integrity, who possess working knowledge and experience of the country’s local bourse and the laws that regulate the market.

“A situation where the DG of SEC sees nothing wrong in employing the staff of Access Bank, a quoted company under its regulation, especially at a time when a crucial and very important transaction — the take-over and/or acquisition of Intercontinental Bank — was at its peak, speaks volumes,” he noted.

Mr. Agbaje pointed out that the Exchange Commission has always had an attitude of disregard for the age-long doctrine of conflict of interest, or the likelihood of conflict of interest, since the current Chairman of the SEC, Udo Udoma, saw nothing wrong in keeping two jobs with potentials of interest to conflict.

It would be recalled that in 2010, the Senate Committee on Capital Market, led by Ganiyu Solomon, had asked Mr. Udoma to step down as Chairman of the SEC or resign his roles in any public quoted company he was occupying, following his appointment as the Chairman for UAC Nigeria Plc, a public quoted company.

Apart from presiding over UACN’s board, the Senator is also the Vice Chairman of Linkage Assurance and a board member of Unilever, both public quoted companies, which harbour possibilities of conflict of interest if they have a case before the Commission for resolution.

The Committee went ahead to petition the then Minister of State for Finance, Remi Babalola, over the issue, but nothing came out of it, as Mr. Udoma claimed his roles in those companies would not affect his sense of judgement as their regulator, a submission market analysts found outrageous.
Mr. Agbaje however warned that if the issue of integrity in the nation’s capital market is not frontally tackled by the new House committee on the capital market, then the country should be ready to witness ‘Occupy Customs and Broad Streets,’ just like the recent ‘Occupy Wall Street’ in the United States of America.

The National Chairman of the Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria (PSAN), Boniface Okezie, who presented a speech at the on-going probe of the capital market last week, told Premium Times that his association would continue to champion the cause that Ms. Oteh steps aside from her position as DG of the SEC, just as the House Committee she accused of bribery did.

“She can’t seat there to preside over that Commission with all the unlawful spendings credited to her,” Mr. Okezie said, adding that “if she continues in that position, then there will be no confidence in the market at all. The earlier she stepped aside the better for the market.”

However, an economist and chief executive officer of Biodun Adedipe and Associates Limited, Biodun Adedipe, disagreed with the call for Ms. Oteh to step down, saying the committee should see the SEC and the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) as agencies that have to collaborate in order to bring the market back to where it was before the crisis.

 “Until such a step is taken, the committee might come up with recommendations such as to let the SEC DG go and get somebody else in there, but that won’t add value to the system, because the issue at hand is not about an individual, but a system,” the head of the financial management consultancy firm, said.


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