Finally, Arunma Oteh sent on compulsory leave

by Stanley Azuakola

For a while, it seemed that the storm which brewed when the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms Arunma Oteh appeared before the Herman Hembe led House of Representatives Committee on Capital Markets, had managed to sweep away only the lawmaker, leaving the SEC DG unscathed. Hon Hembe was dropped as chairman of the committee, and was even charged to court subsequently by the EFCC, whereas nothing happened to Ms Oteh.

Apparently, that situation is about to change, as the board of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has decided to send Oteh on compulsory leave, pending the investigation into allegations about her stewardship.

In the interim, Ms Daisy Ekineh, the Executive Commissioner in charge of Operations, will act in her absence.

A presidency source confirmed this information to a national paper, saying that the decision to send Oteh on leave was taken by the board of the commission in order to carry out its investigation into some of the initiatives under Oteh’s stewardship.

One such initiative to be investigated, is the Project 50. Project 50 is a programme which was packaged by Oteh to celebrate 50 years of capital market regulation in Nigeria.

The issue of Project 50 caused quite a stir during the Hembe led public hearing when every single executive commissioner in SEC distanced themselves from the project. They insisted that Ms Oteh took the decision unilaterally and was fond of doing that. They also alleged that Project 50 had been outsourced to an external company which had collected funds from sponsors for the celebrations.

That level of disharmony displayed by Oteh and her commissioners, and the obvious loss of confidence which Oteh had earned by her administrative style, had worried the board.

Earlier this year, Oteh and Herman Hembe, the chairman of the House Committee on Capital Markets turned the public hearing of the committee into a mud-slinging contest, accusing each other of myriad issues ranging from wastefulness to bribery.

Their bitter exchange compelled Hembe to step down from the probe committee, while the House reconstituted an ad hoc committee headed by Hon. Ibrahim El-Sudi to conduct a fresh probe of the capital market. The ad hoc committee, which sat between April and early last month, revealed a whole host of new findings, chief of which was the rancour and disharmony between Oteh and her commissioners.

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