The face-off between the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC),Ms Arunma Oteh, and the National Assembly, in particular,the House of Representives, has gone truly ridiculous. The recriminations and finger-pointing have deepened for some time now, with the House mounting pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan to sack Oteh for “incompetence”.
The feud took an unusual turn for the worse on December 20, when the National Assembly passed the 2013 federal budget with no allocation to SEC. The position of the House summarizes the unusual development. The House had directed that “all revenues to SEC, including all fees received, fines, grants, budgetary provisions and all internally and externally generated revenues shall not be spent by SEC for recurrent or capital purposes or for any other matter, nor liabilities therein incurred except with prior appropriation and approval by the National Assembly”.
We consider the action of the National Assembly as cruel and an abuse of legislative powers. The aim of this rather harsh decision is obvious: to cripple the operations of SEC by starving it of funds, arm-twist the president and put him under intense pressure to relieve Oteh of her post as SEC D-G. By all accounts, the entire saga and role of the National Assembly and the relentless pressure on the president to sack Oteh culminating in the zero allocation to SEC is a blackmail to undermine the constitutional power of the president to appointment any Nigerian to any position he deems fit. Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives is in a better position to determine the competence or otherwise of a person so chosen by the president.
If we may ask: is it not the same National Assembly that endorsed Oteh’s appointment in the first place? Plainly,the face-off is an ego contest, and we find no lofty principle in this ego fight. Way back in early March 2012 when the SEC D-G revealed that a member of the House and erstwhile chairman of the House Committee on Capital Market, Hon. Herman Hembe, requested and received the sum of N10 million from SEC supposedly for a seminar abroad, there had been no love lost between her and the House.
We believe however that this matter can be resolved, provided the lawmakers can be circumspect enough and realize that SEC is not about Oteh. We urge the House to have a re-think as its action would terribly hurt investors’ confidence and incapacitate the power of SEC as the regulatory authority of the capital market.
To continue to insist that Oteh must go will be most unfair when a reputable firm of external auditors of PricewaterhouseCoopers(PwhC)had exonerated her of any impropriety leveled against her. It will be recalled that Oteh was suspended by SEC board on June 12,but was recalled by government in a circular dated July 17,2012 signed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF),Anyim Pius Anyim. This was after the investigation by Pwch C. All in all, it is about time to bring this ego contest to an end so that confidence which is the cutting edge in the capital market can return.