NIGERIA’s House of Representative committee’s fact-finding hearing on the troubled capital market in Abuja on Thursday exposed the combined contributory factors of improper coordination, a culture of profligacy
and reprehensible acts of disregard for public services rules to the crash of the sector.
The gross misconduct at the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission in one case was exposed to have exceeded its legal mandate in official accommodation for its Director-General, Ms Aruma Oteh. While the law allows that public officials can only use temporary hotel accommodation for no longer than 28 days during which such officials personally seek permanent accommodation, DG Oteh stayed at a Hilton hotel in Abuja for eight months, incurring millions of naira in bills at the expense of tax-payers and the dwindling capital base of the exchange market.
The committee was also told that in spite of existing law on monetization of fringe benefits for elected and public servants, another $500,000.00 was set aside from public funds to pay for an “official” accommodation for Ms. Oteh in the highbrow Maitama District of Federal Capital District of Abuja, a location where the rent only takes care of business for two years.
Land speculators and emergency property agents always make Abuja to be out of reach of Nigerians, even as cheaper accommodations exist in Abuja satellite towns. But pride, ineffective security and traffic control along with common conceit make it almost impossible for Abuja “big people” to commute to and from satellite settlements.
The Security and Exchange Commission was also carpeted for employing right hands for the wrong positions. For example, the director in charge of internal control with oversight for internal audit is not a trained accountant or auditor. He is a statistician. The man in question said that he had on-the-job training in audit.
Dr. Oluwatobi Oyefeso holds a doctorate in finance and was trained in the United Kingdom before his appointment as the director-general of the SEC institute. But he said the institute has no board. He also surprised his audience by disclosing that he had not been able to conduct any training since 2010. The SEC has consistently trained personnel on monthly basis, but the institute and its staff of six had been sidelined.
By for the most stunning revelation of Thursday’s public hearing was in respect of how some members of the SEC’s top echelon often gather to do evil: a tenders board never met even as an over-invoiced purchase of three vehicles for 47 million naira was made. It was apparent that procurement process was often done without due diligence.
Apparently boxed into a tight corner on the series of ineptitude under her watch, Ms Oteh became extremely confrontational, and was often disrespectful to the committee in spite of her Harvard training, accusing the committee of trying to ‘nail’ her. The committee chairman said that she was emotional. She had earlier alleged that the members of the committee had demanded a bribe of N44 million from her.
The chairman of the House Committee denied the allegation and explained that he had officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offenses Commission to investigate the allegation.