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Okereke-Onyiuke to Oteh: You can’t query NSE expenditures

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Reps threaten Oteh’s arrest if  . . .

By Lawrence Olaoye

Former Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Professor Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, yesterday was defiant when she said the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has no legal powers to query her expenditures while in office.
Okereke-Onyiuke, who appeared before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the nation’s capital market, told the lawmakers that the forensic report which allegedly indicted her for superfluous spending was illegal.
She said a Federal High Court had ruled that the report should not be cited as a valid document anywhere even as she insisted that her lawyers have warned her not to elaborately reply to the allegations of graft levelled against her.
The former NSE boss said SEC has no power to query the expenditures of a private concern as the approval to spend funds generated by the Commission lies mainly with the Governing Board.
“The SEC has no business in how a private company decides to spend its money; it is not government money and the approval for the spending rests on the Governing Board,” she said.
SEC Director General, Aruma Oteh had her submission to the committee on Monday alleged that Okereke-Onyiuke crippled the NSE through fraudulent expenditures in contravention of the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA).
She was alleged to have blown the Commission’s N186 million on 165 Rolex wristwatches meant as gifts for long service award-winning workers of the Exchange but only 73 of the expensive watches were actually given out, leaving 92 valued at N99.5 million unaccounted for.
“These were the kinds of financial imprudence that were perpetrated at the NSE.  These transactions were routed through companies owned by some senior officers of the Exchange,” Oteh submitted.
However, yesterday Okereke-Onyiuke hit back defiantly, saying that Oteh was merely using the allegations to cover her ineptitude as SEC DG having watched helplessly as the market nose-dived.
She also told the committee that she had in her kitty a court ruling nullifying her removal from office even as she added that a Federal High Court had ordered the SEC to pay her N500 million as compensation for her forceful removal.
She added that the court ruling also ordered that she be reinstated as the SEC DG even as she claimed that with the ruling reinstating her, the SEC has no substantive DG, legally.
She said “I do not want to go back to the Stock Exchange otherwise a federal high court has made declarative judgment that I am still the substantive of DG NSE, so whether they remove or not I am still the DG, NSE has no DG yet and the man that is there is not DG.”
She told the committee, “According to Justice Mohammed Idris, I am still the Director General of the Nigeria Stock Exchange. He made that judgement May 20, 2012. The only reason I did not go back to effect that order was because I have integrity.
“I am an international figure, I am known all over the world because of my work in the Stock Exchange and elsewhere. I made pronouncements in the media 2008, 2009, 2010 that I am retiring. Why will I now turnaround because the court said that someone’s claim that she removed me is illegal and unconstitutional and so I am still the DG”, she explained.
She said, “I will not because of that say I am back and want to do another five years. A lot of people advised me to do that, but I felt that people that know me will be disappointed in me, that is why I didn’t go back not because I am afraid of anybody”.
On the collapse of the capital market, Ndudi Okereke explained that the banks were responsible because they were issuing out loans to people indiscriminately.
She said “While these were happening CBN refused to act. It was the margin loans that destroyed capital market. It was recently that CBN and SEC reacted but it was too late, the damage had already been done.
SEC did not guide people that were doing the business.   SEC must compel all those companies to get listed so that the stakeholders could trade their shares”.
Asked about her involvement in the TRANSCORP, Okereke-Onyueke told the committee that she was appointed to the Board of the corporation on national assignment. She however added that she got the nod of the members of the NSE Governing Council before she accepted the assignment.
Reacting to the allegation that she raised funds for United States President Barak Obama when he was campaigning for office, she denied insisting that she merely organized a concert to drum up awareness for Nigerians and Africans living in America having forged a personal relationship with him in the past.
Meanwhile, the committee yesterday threatened to order the arrest of Ms. Oteh, should she fail to appear before it today.
The SEC boss who was grilled for more than five hours on Monday was expected to continue the exercise yesterday but she wrote the committee indicating that she would not be available to continue the hearing. Oteh told the Committee that she would be attending the Economic Management Team meeting chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan.
But the Committee found the letter offensive as Chairman, Ibrahim El-sudi ruled:  "Ms Aruma Oteh is hereby ordered to appear before this committee by 10am tomorrwo,(Wednesday, 9th of May, 2012) unfailingly otherwise we shall be compelled to invoke the necessary provisions of the law.
"The content of the letter to this committee has an aura of arrogance and looks down upon the integrity and authority of the National Assembly, this committee has been fair to everyone that appeared before us.”
Oteh’s letter read in part: "As you would recall, the Securities and Exchange Commission had dutifully and diligently entered appearance at the hearing in spite of the several rescheduling at the instance of the committee since the 17th of April. This has forced me and the Commission to cancel and in several cases reschedule important official commitments.”

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