DG of SEC, Ms. Arunma Oteh
By Goddy Egene
The suspended Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms. Arunma Oteh, will know her fate within the next three weeks when the independent committee set up to investigate the allegations levelled against her over the mismanagement of funds for Project 50 is expected to complete its assignment.
The SEC board last Monday directed Oteh to proceed on compulsory leave following the recommendation of its Audit and Finance Committee which was directed to investigate the sources and utilisation of funds for Project 50.
Project 50 is a year-long programme organised by SEC to mark 50 years of capital market regulation in Nigeria.
According to the board, Oteh’s suspension was necessary to carry out an independent investigation on the allegations against her in line with good corporate governance practice, as remaining in her position as DG could have impeded the investigation.
Sources close to the commission said yesterday that the committee carrying out the investigation had been given three weeks to complete its assignment and put its report together.
However, it was learnt that considering the fact that the members of the board, whose tenure would have expired, will step down before the report is ready, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, will be responsible for considering the report and for deciding Oteh’s fate.
THISDAY further learnt that the presidency was fully aware of the decision by the SEC board to suspend Oteh.
She was said to have protested her suspension through a petition to the presidency, where she alleged that she was being persecuted for political reasons.
But sources said such a petition might not help her because the presidency was aware of the report of the Audit and Financial Committee that had recommended her suspension.
“The only thing that can save her is if it turns out that the allegations pertaining to the misapplication of funds in respect of Project 50 are false. If you know how government works, you will understand that the board could not have suspended its CEO without the knowledge and approval of a higher authority,” a source said.
It was gathered that the Audit and Financial Committee, chaired by Mr. Christopher Chukwu, who is a representative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the SEC board, had recommended that key actors in the management of Project 50 funds be suspended for unimpeded investigation into how they managed the cash.
“Oteh admitted to the committee that she was the only key actor from SEC who was in charge of the management of the funds and other resources of the Project 50.
“Besides, her action contravenes Section 19 of the Investment and Securities Act, which stipulates that the commission shall maintain an account into which funds accruing from the Federal Government, penalties, fees, charges and administrative cost of proceedings, monetary gifts and contributions from other sources must be paid into.
“But the provision of this section was not followed in the case of Project 50,” the source explained.