By CHIDI OBINECHE
The face-off between the Presidency and the National Assembly over the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms Arunma Oteh, may have come to a head, at the weekend with a soft landing for her. The Presidency is set to redeploy her to the new Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), Daily Sun learnt. Her stay at the commission has strained the understanding and relations between both arms of government, with the latter consistently demanding her sack, and refusing to do business with SEC, under her leadership.
The Senate Committee on Capital Market recently walked out the SEC team that came for budget defence. This was quickly followed with the National Assembly, passing the budget with a zero allocation to the commission. A top National Assembly source, however, confided in Daily Sun that the allocation to SEC was merely withdrawn and kept out of the books, pending compliance with demands for her sack, and would be promptly facilitated for a new leadership at the commission.
“The money for SEC was budgeted for, but kept out. When a new director general is engaged, it will be availed for the new person,” the source said. The Presidency was, however, aware of the dangers in spending unbudgeted funds and was not keen on falling prey to charges of constitutional abuses. Recently, President Goodluck Jonathan at a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly at the Aso Rock villa, sought for a special understanding in the passage of N168.7 billion spent unbudgeted funds.
At the parley, which also had his Chief of Staff, Chief Mike Oghiadome in attendance, the National Assembly leaders tasked Jonathan on the need for mutuality in their relationship, reiterating the need to comply with the House of Representatives resolution to sack Oteh. They were told that ‘something was being done about it’. As part of the rapprochement, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was confidentially enjoined to source for a fitting soft landing for her, in a manner that would not hurt the pride and esteem of the Presidency. Following the new understanding,
Oteh was reprimanded over her outburst at the walk out of her team by the Senate Committee on Capital Matters. Consequently, she and officials of the commission did not react to the zero allocation to the commission in the 2013 budget. Meanwhile, the Presidency is set to recruit a replacement, who has, at least, 15 years experience in capital market operations in line with the demands of the National Assembly and the Capital Market Act. Oteh, who previously worked abroad at the Africa Development Bank (ADB), was said to boast of only 10 years experience in the finance sector, before assuming office at the helm of SEC.