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Arunma Oteh: A reformer fights back

In an exclusive interview, Arunma Oteh says her temporary suspension earlier this year as head of the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission was just the latest in a series of attempts to unseat her. But she says she and her allies are winning the battle to stop market abuses and change Nigeria.

To outsiders looking at Nigeria, Arunma Oteh was an unlikely target for allegations earlier this year of mismanagement of official funds. She has now been cleared. "My integrity has never been questioned, not once in a 28-year career," Oteh says.

This is a woman who seems genuinely committed to helping make the markets she regulates, as director general of the Securities and Exchange Commission, into a more effective instrument of Nigeria’s advancement. In fact, Oteh has spent much of her life working in development finance, including 18 years at the African Development Bank.

"I did find that I could make a difference [at the SEC]," she says, shortly before her reinstatement after a temporary suspension this July. "In the two-and-a-half years since I’ve been director general we have taken significant steps to prevent market abuses."

Oteh says one of the things to have brought her most trouble since coming back to Nigeria in 2010 was the controversial decision she made shortly after her arrival to remove the former head of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke. Over a decade in charge of the exchange, Okereke-Onyiuke had presided over a market that in Oteh’s view grew rapidly, but with insufficient safeguards to prevent abuses.

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