Sack Oteh, Prosecute Sanusi, Reps Tell Jonathan

Arunma Oteh The House of Representatives on Thursday asked the Federal Government to remove from office the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ms Arunma Oteh.

The lawmakers said this in their adoption of report of the House ad hoc committee which probed the near-collapse of the capital market.

The report was debated and adopted on Thursday, barely 24 hours after the Federal Government recalled Oteh from the suspension slammed on her on June 12 by the Board of the SEC which indicted her for mishandling the Project 50 of the commission.

The report, which also faulted Oteh’s appointment as DG on grounds of qualification, said that she lacked the competence to manage human and material resources.

Oteh was also found to have lied on oath before the panel on the ownership of nationalised banks as well as “regulatory failure in some of the recent mergers, acquisitions and approvals of transactions by SEC.”

The report in fact recommended her removal and prosecution.

But the government in a letter recalling her said Oteh was not indicted of fraud.

Some of the legislators had on Wednesday accused President Goodluck Jonathan of “shielding corruption” with the recall of Oteh while she was being investigated. They alleged that the action of the government was to pre-empt the House decision.

Spokesman for the House, Zakari Mohammed, had also said that the lawmakers would take a decision on the SEC DG, notwithstanding the government’s action.

Workers of SEC had also on Wednesday protested the recall of Oteh, arguing that her recall would erode confidence in the capital market.

But the Presidency said on Thursday that the government’s decision to bring back Oteh was independent of the House decision and that due process was followed in her recall.

Jonathan’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, told one of our correspondents in Abuja that the accusation that his boss was shielding corruption with the recall of Oteh lacked merit.

Abati said, “If you look at the content of that letter issued by the office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation, government indicated that under her (Oteh’s) watch, there were a number of lapses in terms of how procedures were managed. The letter strongly advises her to pay more attention to the management of procedures.

“Due process has therefore been followed; fair hearing has been allowed. And on the basis of the recommendation and findings of independent auditors, government has taken this decision. The allegation of shielding corruption cannot stand in this matter.”

He added, “What government has done has nothing to do with the report of the House of Representatives. They are two separate things.

“When the House was carrying out its probe, there was no communication with the Executive.

“If the House concluded its work on the probe and forwarded its recommendation to the Executive, it would be treated on its merit.”

The report of the House ad hoc committee, led by Mr. Ibrahim El-Sudi, specifically stated that the embattled DG’s appointment violated “Section 3(2) a and 4ection 38 (1)(b), 2 and 3; Section 315 of the Investment and Security Act, 2007 in that she did not have 15 years experience in the Nigerian Capital Market as required…”

“That the appointment of Ms Arunma Oteh be terminated forthwith as DG, SEC,” the report said.

The report added, “She has shown incompetence in the management of human and material resources at her disposal in SEC, lack of transparency in the management of Project 50…and general inability to carry along her staff, board and management in decision-making in SEC and questionable staff recruitment.”

In another recommendation, the panel directed the prosecution of Oteh for lying on oath over the “ownership structure of the nationalised banks.”

Also to be prosecuted with Oteh for the same offence are a Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Kingsley Moughalu; and the Managing Director of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, Mr. Umar Ibrahim.

The House directed the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, to prosecute the officials for breach of Section 10 of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act “for giving false evidence under oath to the committee.”

While the officials had told the panel that the nationalised banks were owned by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria, it was later discovered that private individuals were the directors of the banks.

On another ground, Oteh and the Governor of the CBN, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, were recommended for prosecution for contempt.

The panel explained that they refused to produce documents that would have assisted the investigation in breach of “Sections 4&11(b) of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act and Section 89 of the 1999 Constitution.”

Also to be prosecuted for the same offence is the MD of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, Mr. Mustafa Chike-Obi.

For their roles in the banking sector crisis, which led to the CBN intervening in eight banks in 2009, the panel recommended a former Governor of the apex bank, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, for “further investigation.”

Others to be investigated for the same reason are the Deputy Governor (Banking Supervision), Mr. Tunde Lemo; and a former deputy governor, Mr. Ignatius Imala.

Similarly, the House endorsed the recommendation of the panel asking President Goodluck Jonathan to strip the former MDs of the eight banks of their national honours.

In addition, it called on anti-graft agencies to “hasten their prosecution to serve as deterrence and to help restore investors’ a deterrent in the market.”

Although the panel had recommended the prosecution of Sanusi over nationalisation of AfriBank, Bank PHB and Spring Bank by the EFCC, the House stepped down the recommendation pending the outcome of consultation between the panel and the Committee on Banking/Currency.

This came after an explanation by the Chairman of the banking committee, Mr. Chukwudi Onyereri, who told the House that the committee was adequately briefed on status of the affected banks.

Members had obliged the committee a request to brief the House after the two committees had consulted on the matter.

But, one member, Mr. Abubakar Momoh, warned that the consultations should be done transparently to avoid a repeat of scandal witnessed during the consideration of the fuel subsidy probe report last month.

To strengthen the capital market, the committee recommended that both SEC and the CBN should improve on their regulatory duties by “detecting infractions and malpractices in their supervisory capacity.”

Punch

Leave a Reply