SEC's top management disown Oteh, say she

Arunma Oteh, the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), who has emerged the most contentious figure at two House investigations of the capital market stirring and defending criticisms, is to blame for the failings of the regulatory body, top officials of the commission told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Executive Commissioners of SEC, who appeared alongside Ms. Oteh before the House capital market committee, said Ms. Oteh has instituted a highhanded administrative stance since joining the commission, discounting staff’s advice, isolating subordinates and fueling discontent that resulted in severe dysfunction that nearly paralyzed the agency’s regulatory functions.

The officials said they were not informed of key decisions that required their consent, and that long-serving staff were brushed aside. The top management staff also claimed that communication broke down between the DG and her executive team and many official decisions were taken through mere E-mail and text messages.

“We seem to have a regulatory comatose,” Charles Udora, the Commissioner in charge of Legal and Enforcement, told the Ibrahim El-Sudi-led committee.

The allegations came at the climax of a lingering House hearing that has featured accusations and counter-accusations between Ms. Oteh, the lawmakers and past officials of the capital market.

While Ms. Oteh blamed the failure of the capital market on abuses at the Nigerian Stock Exchange under former Director General, Ndidi Okereke-Onyuike, the latter in response on Tuesday blamed the near-collapse of the market on supervisory failings of SEC and the Central Bank.

Lawmakers had earlier spoken of the possibility of a troubled exchange commission under Ms. Oteh, after a scandalous bribery allegation that sacked the former House capital committee opened the doors to a flurry of the commission’s sensitive documents being illegally made public.

Testimonies from the Commissioners before the committee on Wednesday shed light on an institution that has long struggled with serious internal divisions, that gradually wore on its oversight duties in the capital market within three years of Ms. Oteh’s leadership.

Lawmakers asked the Commissioners in charge of Legal and Enforcement, Operations, Finance and Administration, the Secretary of the Commission, if they were informed about repeated recruitment of new staff done by the agency; all the officials denied.

The commissioners denied being members of the a special committee for the celebration of the 50 years of capital market regulation, called Project 50, for which lawmakers had alleged the commission received donations from operators and institutions over which the SEC has oversight functions.

Ms. Oteh had told the lawmakers the committee was composed of management staff, while she was the head. The commissioners publicly refuted the claim, and informed the lawmakers they were only aware on Wednesday that they were part of the committee.

“What is going on right now is lack of trust,” Mr. Udora told the lawmakers. Mr. Udora, joined the commission in 1993 and retired as a director 2008 before taking his present position.

The staff also denied knowledge of a policy document called the Road map to World Class Capital Market, which Ms. Oteh has harped on as the developmental guide for the commission. Each commissioner took turns to deny knowledge of the document or contributing to it.

Another commissioner, Daisy Ekine, in charge of Operation, who has spent 30 years at the commission, said the commission under Ms. Oteh, operated without communication, and lacked team spirit.

“The way forward is that we should meet more face to face rather than doing email and text messages. The head should be respected and the head should respect others,” she said.

“In the past, I’m really sorry to say this; we worked very much as a team. The trust is no more there.”

The commissioners said the DG operates a small band of loyalists and cares nothing about staff who have given in several years of service to the commission.

They also claim that because of the disharmony, regulatory functions of the agency were breached and decisions that were never deliberated by the management team were adopted by the commission, further fuelling the collapse of the nearly comatose market.

Ms. Oteh said she has tried to work as a team, and has tried to improve the working condition of staff. She pledged to put in more effort in this regard.




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