“Contempt of parliament” – Okonjo-Iweala and Lamido Sanusi shun House of Reps hearing

by Lekan Olanrewaju

The Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, on Tuesday shunned an investigative hearing by the House of Representatives.

The hearing was to be conducted by the House Committee on Capital Market and other Institutions headed by Mr. Herman Hembe.

Both were slated to listed to make lead presentations before the panel, which was summoned on the near collapse of the Nigerian capital market, but were noticeably absent from the proceedings.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Mr. Oscar Onyema, who was also absent from the hearing, wrote the panel claiming that he was not accountable to the National Assembly.

The panel, in a reaction to the letter, summoned Onyema to appear “unfailingly” before it on Wednesday.

“Let him come tomorrow with his university degrees and evidence that he did his National Youth Service,” the Chairman of the panel said. “We invited the NSE and gave them ample opportunity to attend the hearing but the DG wrote us to say that we have no powers to oversight the NSE. Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) empowers the House to investigate any matter that it has powers to legislate on.”

The Chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Mr. Muraina Ajibola, described the absence of The NSE CEO as an act of “contempt of parliament”.

“I have the letter here with me and he wrote that NSE is ‘not an agency or parastatal of the government,” he said. “People like this man must be punished to serve as a deterrent to others who are still living in the ignorance of being above the parliament”.

The DG of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ms Arunma Oteh, reviewed the factors that led to the crisis in the market, admitting that “regulatory gaps” in the past contributed to the development.

“We agree that we need to improve and we have been working on it since I came on board in January 2010,” she said.

She however that a combination of factors, including weaknesses in the global economy, the Euro-Zone debt crisis and the recent Arab Spring affected the market.

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