The sitting of the House Committee probing the near collapse of the capital market continued on Wednesday with more revelations coming forth. Events at the sitting pointed in the direction that Dr. Oteh runs the Securities and Exchange Commission in an autocratic manner.
The Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Dr. Arunma Oteh appeared before the committee and she apologized for her failure to appear on Tuesday as scheduled. The Commissions Executive Commissioners in charge of Operations, Finance and Accounts as well as the Executive Commissioner in charge of Legal and Enforcement all appeared with the Director General.
The drama started as the questions started coming one after the other. At a point, the DG had to apologize again as the Chairman of the ad hoc committee; Honourable El Sudi warned her to answer the questions asked her without her usual sarcasm. At another time, he told her to answer questions directly and avoid lecturing the panel.
As the sitting progressed, it started becoming obvious that the top echelon of the Securities and Exchange Commission were working in disunity. When the issue of contract staffing and employment was raised, one of the Commissioners at the SEC stated that “the executive management of the commission has never approved or deliberated on recruitment at the commission.” All the other commissioners denied being aware of any discussion concerning employment, they also denied that there was a general discussion about employing Access Bank staffers to the Commission on secondment. The DG on the other hand gave a different indication as she stated that discussions were held over recruitment positions. She also pointed out that the reason for contract staffing at the SEC was to act as “stop gap measure” on vacant positions. She also stated that apart from being in accordance with simple civil service rule, the young professionals employed at the Commission are vast in digital operations.
Honourable Daramola asked if Access Bank served as advisers to the SEC, he also asked about the bank’s status, whether it is a branding, multilateral agency or banking institution. Another question also came on whether she was aware that Access Bank’s owners owed Intercontinental Bank Plc.
Oteh said the Access Bank staffs that were employed at the SEC do not hold any core regulatory function and went further to describe the Access Bank contract staffing issue as mere assistance on branding aims.
Reacting to an allegation by Professor Onyiuke-Okereke that Securities and Exchange Commission takes 0.3% on every transaction at at the stock exchange; Dr. Oteh said it was not abnormal for her Commission to charge an administrative fee of 0.3% on every share traded on the floor of the stock exchange.
By the time questions were raised on the “Project 50” issue, it was as if Dr. Oteh had lost steam. Contrary to her statement during a previous sitting that she would furnish the Committee with a list of those who partnered with the SEC on the project, none was made available. She also failed to mention those who donated to support the project which was to mark the 50th anniversary of the capital market in Nigeria. She also did not say where the money was lodged as she tactically evaded the question by saying “I will bring out the list if I can find it among the documents. I think the questions have moved to HR, mergers and all of that and I am trying hard to make sure I answer accurately.”