Jonathan vs. Reps: Oteh must go, Reps insist

In apparent readiness for a duel with the Executive, the House of Representatives, Thursday, insisted that Arunma Oteh, the Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission, be removed from office.

Ms. Oteh, who was suspended by the board of the commission last month, was reinstated by President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday. The President, in a letter signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim, absolved the SEC boss of any financial impropriety; but cautioned her on “administrative lapses.”

The re-instatement of the SEC boss by the President happened 24 hours after a committee set up by the House submitted its report indicting Ms. Oteh of misconduct and fraud.

A general assembly of the House, Thursday, upheld the recommendation of its ad-hoc committee, urging Ms. Oteh’s removal on account of incompetence, and her investigation on allegations of fraudulent conduct.

The House, through a majority vote, affirmed the committee’s proposal, and directed that  its decision be served on the executive arm, and be implemented by the Federal Government.

Oteh’s appointment illegal

Apart from calling for her removal, lawmakers yesterday faulted the initial appointment of Ms. Oteh as SEC boss, describing it as illegal.

Her appointment, the lawmakers said, contravenes sections 3, 38, and 31 of the Investment and Security Act, 2007, which requires the head of the SEC to put in 15-years experience in the Nigerian capital market before appointment.

Though Ms. Oteh’s experience in capital market dates to 1992 with the African Development Bank, where she rose to become the Vice President for Corporate Management in 2006, she had almost no experience in the Nigerian market prior to her appointment as SEC boss.

The legislators said the deficit in experience showed in Ms. Oteh’s controversial management of the regulatory body in the past two years; as she estranged staff members, and enlisted the services of market actors; while indulging in alleged sharp practices.

“She has shown incompetence in the management of human and material resources at her disposal…; lack of transparency in managing project 50; regulatory failure in some of the recent mergers, acquisitions and approvals of transactions…; general inability to carry along her staff, board, and management in decision making; and questionable staff recruitment policies,” the lawmakers stated in the 19th recommendation approved by the House.

The House ordered that Ms. Oteh, who was also condemned alongside the Managing Director of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Mustafa Chike-Obi, for the loss of N8 billion from the Union Bank plc public offer, be investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Mixed reactions trail House report

Ahead of the consideration on Thursday, the committee’s report had drawn mixed reactions from industry players with some applauding the lawmakers’ position, while others dismissed the recommendations as a deviation from its purpose of finding the reasons for the near-collapse of the capital market.

Critics of the report have also argued that the bulk of the events leading to the market troubles, such as the Union Bank loss which occurred in 2005, happened before  Ms. Oteh assumed office in 2010.

Her predecessor, Musa Al Faki, who resigned in April 2009, amid criticism of the commission’s role in the African Petroleum share manipulation scandal, was not mentioned anywhere in the recommendations.

We can’t indict Sanusi, others yet

Despite the committee’s recommendation, the Lower House withheld approval for the recommendation seeking the investigation of Ms. Oteh and other public officials, including the Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi, over the nationalization of Afribank Plc, Bank PHB, and Spring Bank.

Other officials accused of irregularities in the nationalization include the Managing Director of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, Umaru Ibrahim; AMCON boss, Chike-Obi; and the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Bello Mahmud.

The committee said in its report that it found evidence of forgery, unethical practices, fraud, and abuse of office in the process of the nationalization of the banks.

But the speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, ruled that the proposal be delayed for further documentation.

Another proposal, calling for full investigation of the controversial acquisition of former Intercontinental Bank by Access bank, was also withheld for further documentation.

The House however resolved that it could not discuss the  allegation of financial impropriety against former Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Ndidi Okereke, as that would amount to subjudice

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