The Return of Aruma Oteh and the Rule of Law
The way we go about thingsin Nigeria, particularly public governance is quite a concern to me and for so many others.It is precisely the flagrant disregard for the rules of governance : almost as if we are incorrigibly incapable of managing or organizing ourselves and that we need to be managed by perhaps other developed countries. We simply portray ourselves as apeople who are undeveloped in mind character,etc. and above all inherently corrupt.Regrettably, this is why most foreigners particularly those from the western nations still consider this continent as ‘the darkcontinent’. I mean they still believe we live on trees and so on.But then,I won’t blame them, after all,simple rules that are put in place for people to obey for the sake of sanity in our society are hardly ever respected except when it’s in our personal interest.Unfortunately, it is in this connection that some years ago it was being proposed by some developed countries in the western world that some African countries should be recolonized.
In this regard, I am concerned about the return of Aruma Oteh to Office as the Director General of Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC).This has generated so much dust in the polity, even from the time that she was indicted to have overspent her purse or better still had been lavish with regard to expenses– N850,00 at the dinner meal on a particular day, and of which she has had to be investigated by the House of representatives committee on capital markets .Subsequently, the executive arm of the Federal government had also decided to investigate her dealings,particularly her transactions on the project 50 of the Nigerian stock Exchange. Meanwhile, she was put on compulsory leave pending the outcome of the investigation.At the end, they found, through Pricewatercoopers, an audit firm, that she was clean.However, with regard to procedural rules of the civil service she has also been asked to carry out her work with due regard for procedural rules. Moreover, this is due to the fact that petition had been made with regard to her administrative style as Director General at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Indeed, the Federal executive arm ofgovernment acknowledged that she had been flouting procedure, but to them – in their wisdom- these were not worthy of any serious punitive measures, but rather a slap on the wrist. They simply asked her to go and do better or to sin no more, as it were. In effect, saying that there is room for improvement. Now to me this is action of government is most evasive of the real issues.The whole process showed a clear lack of transparency particularly as it concerns the person in the hot seat who was being investigated in the market square, as it were. I mean,how is it that we were not made to know what the breaches in procedure were vis avis what the extant rules in public service .And more importantly, whether those breaches did not qualify for any punitive measures in accordance with what is set down.For goodness sake! , this is how things ought to be done.
Regrettably, I still remember how Reuben Abati, the presidential spokesman, was hesitatingor faltering in speech when he was making a statement to the effect that Aruma Oteh is to be pardoned, as it were. But who are they fooling? I mean how would they think that we would swallow that except with a bowl of salt. Indeed, they tend to see the public as unthinking people- insulting our collective intelligence .And to add insult to injury, they have said there is no going back on her reinstatement, especially in the face of objections by all and sundry.
Importantly, this position of the executive just shows the arrogance and dictatorial tendencies of this present administration, which has been demonstrated over and overagain.
Now, this present issue has come up against the backdrop of a probe of Aruma Oteh by the House of Representatives over her handling of the capital market: they claim that she is not capable of running the institution of the capital market as well as other sundry allegations by Officers of Securities and Exchange commission. In this regard, they in particular say that she has hired staff wrongly,wrongly promoted undeserving staff, shown unilateralism with regard to conduct of office, highhandedness,etc. Therefore, we just cannot simply dismiss these allegations at face value or treat them with kid gloves especially because of their implication on the running of thisinstitution (SEC).
Thus, it is just natural for the staff to become disgruntled when they realize that they are not being recognized in the system.As a consequence, the system no longer coheres-it just fails to hold-and so it gives room for slackness or gaps.Importantly,this will affect the entire environment over which the SEC has jurisdiction,notably the Nigerian stock exchange, which is considered to be moribund,lately because of the administrative style at SEC. Importantly,the stock exchange has suffered immense loss of capitalization for a long time now, particularly since this issue came up. Thus,it is very much in order for there to be a determination of whether the administration of SEC has any relationship with the current downward orientation of the stock market.
However, considering the unbecoming stand of the Federal executive in this matter,it is gratifying to note that it is not the only arm of government.In this regard, the House of representatives,after a grueling time of public hearings to hear Oteh out on the matter, have recommended her sack.
Importantly,one of the principal items in the petition by SEC officers is that Oteh is not qualified to be in the Director General in the first place: It is claimed that anyone that is to get there must have had 15years experience in the Nigerian capital market.This, apparently, is for such a person to gain experience in the sector.To me, it is not so much the long time that one spends working that determines whether such a person will perform. But then to the question of 15years:there is criteria set down for putting someone in Office,and if such a person does not meet it then the person simply does not qualify for the position.Thus we must first consider whether she is fit to be there or not. Of course, there is the place of expediency in assumption of Office; and this happens when someone does not possess necessary qualifications but then the person is just the right person for the job under certain circumstances. Also,expediency cannot be time bound in sense that it is for a particular period of time pending when the subsisting situation yields to the ideal .But then this has to be clearly defined in our constitution and then well communicatedin the circumstance so that people know this provision is being taken up .Ideally,any legal system should have provision for this sort of circumstances .I mean, we cannot be running dogs to any constitution, and in any case the law is made for man and not man for the law .
But regrettably, Oteh did not meet the 15 years requirement nor was there any expediency situation that required her to come into office.Thus the executive which had initially flouted this critical requirement and is now blatantly doing it all over again even in the face of criticisms,objections,and protests.Thus,just kicking us in face. Yet, this is same the rule of law, Mr. President, has said that he would uphold. Clearly, what we see in our country is a situation in which the so called rule of law principle is selectively applied at best. It is only when it is in their favour that it is respected. For consider the Salami case, he was removed on recommendation of the National judicial council. And when the wrongness of this decision was later on realized, He was then recommended for reinstatement .But regrettably, up till this moment the executive has said that it must follow due process despite of criticisms, etc. from the legal profession.
Now,it’s important for to stress that,apart from this matter, Oteh is someone I terribly admire.I have never seen such a woman figure in government with such a stature. She has both brains and brawn: her high flying academicqualifications, physical beauty(statuesque), elocution,etc.She has all that it take for any progressive modern day institution – just cuts the image of one for excellence,professionalism,etc.In any case,she had been a top officer at the African development bank before she came over here.But regrettably,she does not seem to have translated these credentials to anything positive for the sector apart from the reforms of recapitalization of security companies as well as the sacking NdidiOkereke and putting down of AlikoDangote as President of the Nigerian stock exchange. I mean these have really not done much for the market,in fact the market has gone down far worse she met it .However, credit to her for the removal of NdidiOkereke who was seen to have been at the helm when the stock market suffered a terrible slump-due to heavy malpractices- from which it has yet to recover. As a result, most Nigerians are now disillusioned about the capital market such that it will take some extraordinary effort in the sector for them to regain confidence inthe capital market.
But then this current situation in SEC is not going to help matters at all. The institution does not seem to pull together, even as the public perceives that the people therein are divided .So how will they then trust in such an organization to be in a position to bring about the much needed healing process to the capital market.So, this reinstatement issue is just a case of from frying pan to the fire for the capital market. Thus, it is critical for the capital market that SEC shows the public that all these allegations have been properly dealt with. And of course the right person who meets the requirements assumes the office.
But government in their wisdom have decided for selfish reasons to return Oteh despite the tense situation and the legitimate allegations by the Officers in the institution: don’t they realize that in such a situation the establishment would not be in a position to deliver the goods and that the public-local and international -would not repose confidence in them to handle matters appropriately? I mean what we have seen play out is the case of government being its worst enemy. Obviously,this government has shown itself to be one that is self -seeking and only does what will please themselves at the expense of the people. Of course, I won’t have expected Oteh to have just sat there smugly without fighting her corner,to regain her office. I mean, the compulsory leave would perhaps have seen her out of office permanently as per normal .And this would have been the end of a glorious career for her; that for which she has labored for over the years. I mean this woman would not have been able to get anywhere in the future on the basis of her credentials. And then, of course, the permanent scar on her reputation as one who was effectively sacked. Thus I am not surprised thatshe has fought behind the scenes, got Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,and whoever else is was thereto get her back in Office.
The big point in all this is that she is illegitimately occupying public office. It is not so much that despite her actions she could have been well meaning and as such they should just pass over any issues.Rather,she is not, according to law, qualified to hold that position, yet she does so because the executive wants that.Unfortunately, they don’t know seem to know shame and by implication they have clearly shot themselves in the foot in this.And the wider implication is that the entire world is watching a country that makes pretensions to fighting corruption yet is the biggest culpritespecially by this action of the reinstatement of Oteh.Moreover, see the implications already for the stock market-it has continued to go down, down, down...
Indeed, the National assembly -if it has any shame- should immediately reconvene from its recess to address this matter squarely by ensuring that the recommendation for her sack is carried out without delay. For nothing less will be acceptable: I mean, how would they go on recess when this issue is still burning? This will save the country the present shame and disgrace that it is currently experiencing due to this illegality. I mean now the National assembly must show themselves to be pro-people indeed, for they are the second arm of government that can bring about checks to the present excesses of the Presidency. This is just an opportunity for them to shine and endear themselves to the hearts of Nigerians .I just hope that they will seize this opportunity.
Otherwise,I think a demonstration would have to be made to the National assembly, at least by owners of stocks on the Nigerian stock exchange, who are the pig in middle and really the biggest losers in this issue. Indeed, a demonstration needs to be carried out to make the case that under present circumstances the stock market will not be revived, and so there has to be a complete overhaul of the entire sector. I mean peoples investment are being eroded due to the selfishness of some people, for since the day she was recalled things have just been downhill.