Reps panel chair demanded N44m, says SEC DG-The Nation



By Victor Oluwasegun and Dele Anofi, Abuja  

Director-General of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Ms Arunma Oteh yesterday accused the Chairman of the House of Representatives capital Market Committee of demanding for money from her.

She alleged that Hon. Herman Hembe demanded for N44 million from her.

Ms Oteh’s revelation yesterday brought the matter to a new twist after she was accused of allegedly spending N30million on hotel bills in eight months following her appointment in 2010.

She was also accused of staying in the hotel for eight months instead of 28 days as stipulated.

The accusations and counter-accusations were made at the public hearing by the House Committee on Capital Market into the activities of SEC.

Ms Oteh alleged that Hembe requested N44 million from her to finance the investigation of the failure of the capital market.

She said the second request of N5 million from the lawmaker came barely a week before the commencement of the public hearing having earlier requested for N39 million.

Oteh said the requests were turned down, saying that might have accounted for the committee’s hostile attitude towards her.

She also alleged that Hembe requested from her organisation some money and a Business Class ticket to travel to the Dominican Republic for a conference. She said it was later discovered that the lawmaker did not attend the conference.

“He did not travel and never returned the money,” she said.

To forestall loss of focus by the committee, the House leadership sent House Majority Whip, Isiaka Bawa, to intervene and restore normalcy.

Bawa said: “The House leadership is very aware of the ugly development in the proceedings of the public hearing. So, they asked me to come and see how both parties can be appealed to in order to ensure a peaceful conduct of the public hearing. We should all put aside our personal differences and look at Nigeria.”

The SEC boss said the investigative hearing was a disappointment, adding that Hembe was not fit to preside over the investigation because he nursed some biases against SEC.

She said: “This has been a Kangaroo court. Not even in Idi Amin’s Uganda did we have this type of public hearing. You implied that as a regulator, that by having people on secondment from the private sector, it could undermine the capacity of the regulatory functions of the commission.

“In asking the SEC to contribute N39 million for this public hearing, don’t you think that you are undermining your capacity to carry out your duties?

“You think that if Hon Emeka Ihedioha, the Deputy Speaker of this House, being the nephew to Prof. Ndi-Okereke Onyuike, and having his wife work in the Abuja office of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, do you think he will be compromising his capacity to carry out his duties?

“I do not think that it is appropriate for you to have gathered information from the SEC and without even asking us to verify that information, to respond to that issue and that you already made the judgment that you made yesterday; we are trying to build a democracy”.

Hembe requested officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) present at the hearing to take note of the allegations which he described as “weighty”.

“The public is also watching. If what I am doing is because of the fact that I have collected money from SEC to go on overseas trip to study and I didn’t go which is why I am doing what I am doing, the public will take note.

“But if it is the wish of members of the committee that I respond to the issues, I will go ahead and respond to the issues. I will respond to the issues as much as I can”.

Hembe expressed concerns that the turn of event might be a ploy to distract the investigation, saying, “I hope this is not a ploy to distract us from achieving the main objectives of this public hearing. Please let this not be a ploy to distract us from achieving the main objective of this hearing. I believe that we have the representatives of the ICPC and the EFCC with us.

“The issue of corruption or no corruption should be put aside. They are here and they will write their report. I think we should concentrate on the major issue here. Let’s see how we can forge ahead with the hearing and achieve something before the end of the day.

“I want to say something as the Chairman of this Committee. I will Chair this committee to the end of this public hearing. I want to say firmly, in support of what you have said, that it’s on the issues of bias or corruption that the Committee invited the EFCC and the ICPC.

“Strong issues of corruption have been made against me. Strong issues of corruption have been made against the committee. So, it is our hope that you will investigate me deeply and investigate the committee too. I give the permission for that and that is my ruling. We will proceed with the business of the committee”.

 

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