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Nigeria’s SEC head vows to continue fight against market abuses

Arunma Oteh, in her first full interview since her temporary suspension as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission in Nigeria, tells Euromoney she remains dedicated to weeding out market abuses, despite a backlash against her reforms.

Arunma Oteh, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Nigeria, says she will continue to reform the capital markets and boost investor confidence in the sector, despite being the target in what she describes as a modern day “witch hunt”.

“We’re not losing the battle, we’re not battle fatigued,” she says of the government’s anti-corruption efforts.

Oteh was recruited by president of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan in 2010 to lead an overhaul of capital markets regulation in the country after a market crash in 2009.

Arunma Oteh, director general of the Securities and Exchange Commission
Arunma Oteh, director general of the Securities and Exchange Commission

Foreign investors and Nigerians alike maintain high hopes for Africa and particularly its most populous nation, Nigeria. Amid new economic success throughout the continent, international investors should be primed to reap the benefits from Nigeria’s burgeoning economy, but this hasn’t been without obstacles. In an attempt to purge the capital markets of abuses since her SEC appointment, Oteh has moved to bring before a special tribunal more than 250 defendants, including stockbrokers and bank directors, whom she says were involved in market manipulation before the crash.

However, earlier this year, Oteh became a target for allegations of mismanagement of official funds, which led to her very public suspension. This suspension was lifted after a report by PwC found that, although Oteh had fallen short in some administrative procedures, she was not guilty of financial misconduct, as per the allegations.

Oteh claims that underlying all of the attacks against her were vested interests opposed to her reforms and those who wished to see a return to the pre-2008 regulatory environment. “What happened to me was a witch hunt,” she says.

“It’s not as if since 2010 [the opponents to my reforms] have waited until 2012 to do something. I’ve had shakedowns every month since August 2010. This was just the public one.

“I would never do anything that is improper, for two reasons. First, it doesn’t go with my values. Second, it would be stupid, given the people I am chasing up. I can assure you if I had done wrong in my life, they would have gotten me by now, given all the things they have tried.”

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