LAGOS — The suspended Director General of The Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Ms Arunmah Oteh, yesterday, denied opening several accounts for Project 50 in which she is being investigated.
Speaking exclusively to Vanguard, she said: “I thank your media for your desire to hear from me without publishing report that is not authentic. I will not comment now about an ongoing investigation. However, my track record of the highest levels of integrity and probity speaks for itself.
“Everything I do complies with rules, regulations and laws. I can assure you that I have never been and will never be associated with anything that is improper. It would be stupid to fight corruption and do anything that is improper. I have observed from some media reports that there is deliberate, albeit, unsuccessful attempt to tarnish my reputation and integrity and sabotage efforts to sanitise the Nigerian capital market.
“It is a pity that some people continue to work against investors and our country, Nigeria. Their efforts aimed at preventing investors from enjoying the fruit of their investments and preventing our nation from realising its potential as a great country will not succeed. I am sure that well-meaning Nigerians will not let this happen as most people believe that this is a negative campaign because I have been courageous enough to stand up for what is good for Nigeria.”
Project 50 was a partnership with 4 govt agencies, 10 others
Vanguard investigation has shown that Project 50 was funded by the SEC, the Central Bank of Nigeria and other stakeholders. These included FirstBank of Nigeria, Central Bank of Nigeria, African Finance Corporation, Access Bank Plc, Visafone Communications Limited, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Chapel Hill Denham, AMCON, FBN Capital and Zenith Bank Plc.
There were also partners who offered ‘in kind’ support including pro-bono speakers, consultancy and demo equipment. They include FirstBank of Nigeria, CBN, African Finance Corporation, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Chapel Hill Denham, AMCON,
N185m pledged by partners
According to Vanguard findings, an estimate of N189,706,000.00 was presented during the inaugural meeting of Project 50 team on September 2011. This estimate was intended to guide the work streams in scripting the final plan for the event and to guide the scale of the envisioned programmes.
Following the expression of various forms of commitment, a total of N185 million was pledged by the partners. Of this amount, N105, 578,556.06 was administered by the partners directly to vendor/supplier accounts while N29,454,268.00 was administered on initiatives that are unrelated to Project 50. The CBN pledged N50 million which has not been remitted to the commission.
According to a working document of SEC, outstanding bills on Project 50 totalling N14,751,000.00 was submitted to the CBN for payment while the balance of N35,249,000.00 was to be applied to two future road shows scheduled for June 25 & 26 and July 23, 2012 in the United Kingdom and the United States respectively.
According to SEC sources, “following the constitution of the work streams for the Project 50, each committee was assigned specific aspects of the project. Some of the tasks had cost implications and involved use of supplier and/or vendors. Costs associated with the tasks of each work stream were collated by the team leader who forwarded same to the Director General’s office.
C’ttee yet to submit probe report
Meanwhile, a source in SEC, yesterday, said it was yet to get the report on Project 50 from the committee investigating the suspended Director General, Ms. Oteh, even as the CBN, Federal Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Trade and Investment affirmed their collaboration in hosting the project.
The CBN further confided in Vanguard that it did not pay money into third party account as demanded by the commission, saying: “We refused to pay into the third party account and demanded for the commission’s account.”
According to a source close to the commission who does not want his name mentioned, “Project 50 was done outside the SEC’s normal operation. It was directly under the Director General as no record was kept to verify claims.
Meanwhile, another source within the commission told Vanguard that a letter was written to partners of Project 50 to solicit their support in which they obliged and made financial commitment as they deem fit.
“This is a partnership project that funds provided by donors cannot be paid into the commission’s account. The CBN, Ministry of Trade and Investment, Ministry of Finance and SEC are involved. Therefore, such money cannot be paid into the commission’s account and the Director General could not use the commission’s account because other parties were involved. Besides, the people involved made direct payment to activities they sponsored,” he noted.
However, Visafone, a donor to Project 50, confided in Vanguard that a letter was sent to them from the commission seeking their support and also directed them to make payment on their behalf. Though, the company could not confirm how much payment was made.
SEC management had in a bid to secure funding, approached a sister arm of government for financial assistance. One of such memos read: “SEC Nigeria is seeking partnership with related arms of government to implement its year-long series of programmes to commemorate 50 years of capital market regulation in Nigeria. The commemorative programmes will commence with an exclusive investment forum scheduled for October 31, 2011 at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
“Given the absolute necessity of such an investor forum at this time, we recommend that His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) features as Special Guest of Honour during the event while the keynote speaker would be a reputable investor and player in the international market place such as George Soros. We expect to have in attendance the majority of the country’s business leaders, top government functionaries, renowned global investors and prominent journalists.
“We aim to leverage this milestone event to position Nigeria in its pride of place amongst the most preferred investment destinations in the world. The event will showcase the economic transformation programme being implemented in Nigeria, draw attention to government’s interventions for engendering market integrity and posturing for a truly robust and well regulated market.
“It is our prayer that the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment will partner with us in the year-long series of activities and support in securing discussants and panellists of high calibre who will enrich discussions during the investor forum and subsequent programmes.”
SEC’s contribution approved by tenders board
Vanguard further learnt that SEC’s contribution to the project was approved by a tenders board of the commission.
At the meeting of the tender’s board, Vanguard learnt, it was told that “given that the project partners had undertaken to provide support for other aspects of the project, the commission’s financial commitment to the flagship event was to the extent that it would provide the venue, accommodation for speakers and awardees and refreshment.
“Fortunately, the previous committee had already made reservations at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja. Above and beyond the normal practices for selection of event venue, the Tenders Board met to consider the request and cost implication of using the Hilton as the venue for the event. The decision to have the Tenders Board approve the SEC’s contribution towards the event was to ensure the highest level of scrutiny and governance. The DG and ECLE were both in attendance at the Tenders Board meeting.
“The sum of N42,509,460.00 was approved and subsequently transferred to the Transcorp Hilton Abuja. However, the actual amount spent was N40,106,270.53. The outstanding portion of the deposit with the Hilton has since been refunded to the SEC.”