The decision by the Board of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to ask its Director General, Arnma Oteh, to go on compulsory leave has been declared illegal, as they have no official mandate to enforce such a resolution.
The Investment & Securities Act 2007 vests the authority to either appoint or remove the Director General of SEC on the president, on the recommendation of the Minister of Finance, though the Board is empowered to oversee the management and operation of the Commission.
The Communications Adviser to the suspended SEC DG, Obi Adindu, who spoke with our reporter, said Ms Oteh’s current travails go beyond allegations of misappropriation levelled against her. He says it is more of a conspiracy by some persons who are uncomfortable with the way with she handled the internal control since she came into office. Mr Adindu held that her grip on the internal control prevented people from continuing to do the things they were used to doing –taking monies without accountability.
“Some people have said it is misappropriation. There is absolutely no misappropriation anywhere. But, it is interesting that the same board whose life span ought to expire this week on Friday June 15 is angling for an illegal tenure extension through the back door on the basis of the so-called special circumstance,” he said.
Describing the decision as “the latest manifestation of the conspiracy against Oteh,” Mr Adindu said that due process was clearly violated since “it is not the responsibility of the Board to appoint anybody to take over in any capacity, whether acting or substantive.”
“That is the responsibility of the Minister of Finance to recommend for Presidential ratification. If they genuinely want to ascertain the veracity of her (Oteh’s) claims, it is important that they do what they want to do, and due process has to be respected, because a Board cannot wake up to say it is asking somebody to act,” he said.
Last March, the board had directed its audit and finance committee to investigate all issues raised during the last Public Hearing by the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market, which sought to unravel the near collapse of the country’s capital market in 2008.
The committee, which was mandated to investigate the sources and uses of funds for the Project 50 event, had recommended an independent audit of Project 50. The key actors in the management of the funds were asked to step aside to allow for an unhindered investigation.
After deliberating on the recommendations of the committee, the Board resolved to institute an independent investigation of the Project 50 programme by a reputable independent audit firm to be appointed soon.
Meanwhile, the Board has given the Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) notice to immediately commence the process to disengage after successfully bringing stability to the country’s capital market.
In the wake of the sack of the former Ndi Okereke-Onyuike-led Council two years ago, an Interim President was appointed to help stabilize the Exchange and restore normalcy.
On Monday, the Board after reviewing the achievements of the interim administration at the Council and convinced that it successfully stabilised the market, directed the council to immediately commence the process to disengage.
“After due consideration, the Board approved this request, but directed that it should be effected in an orderly manner”, Secretary to the Commission, Edosa Aigbekaen, said on Tuesday in a statement in Abuja.
According to Mr. Aigbekaen, the Board, which also directed the Council to take steps to ensure that all legal issues affecting its effective functioning are addressed, asked the management of the Commission to work out the modalities for the Council’s disengagement.
The directive was one of the decisions at the board’s 66th meeting. The board also resolved to ask the Director General, Aruma Oteh, to proceed on immediate compulsory leave to allow for an unfettered investigation into the allegation of misappropriation of about N3billion said to have been spent on the controversial Project 50 programme organised by the Commission in 2011.
But, Mr. Adindu told PREMIUM TIMES that contrary to allegations that the Project 50 programme gulped between N2 and N3billion, the Commission did not spend more than N150million.
“A lot of misinformation sponsored in the public domain and in the floor of the recent public hearing by the House of Representatives has been that the programme cost N2 to N3billion,” Mr. Adindu said. “This was sensational, fictional, and absolutely dubious.
“Having been at the heart of the Project 50 programme, the DG had responded to the inquiries of the Audit and Finance Committee and gave all the facts on Project 50, including the fact that the Project cost was N150million only, which is less than 10 per cent of the low end of the sensational figures being bandied about.