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Oteh: Senate absolves self from SEC budget saga

By The Citizen
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The Senate sang a new tune on Friday when it reacted to the decision of the Board of the Securities and Exchange Commission to approve the 2013 budget of the commission without recourse to the National Assembly.

The board approved the budget, ignoring the joint resolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives demanding the sacking of the Director-General of the commission, Ms. Arunmah Oteh, on the grounds that she was not qualified to be appointed as the DG.

The resolution was later incorporated in the 2013 Appropriation Bill passed by both chambers on December 20, 2012.

Clause 10 of the bill disallowed SEC from making any expenditure this year without the prior authorisation of the National Assembly.

It reads, 'All revenue however so described, including all fees received, fines, grants, budgetary provisions and all internally and externally generated revenue shall not be spent by the Securities and Exchange Commission for recurrent or capital purposes or for any other matters, nor liabilities thereon incurred except with the prior appropriation and approval by the National Assembly.

Speaking with our correspondent in Abuja on Friday, the Senate said the issue of Oteh's sacking and the zero budget for the commission was the House's idea, not the Senate's.

The Senate claimed that it was not involved in the conflict.

The spokesman for the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, told one of our correspondents that the Senate was also not concerned about how SEC ran  its affairs.

He said, 'The issues with SEC are the business of the House of Representatives.

'We will not be doing the job of the board of SEC; we have passed the (federal) budget the way it is and you know why we passed it on that date. We did that because of the deadline.'

But, another senator, Femi Lanlehin, had a different opinion.

He stated, 'It is the leadership of the National Assembly in conjunction with the membership, that will decide on the next line of action on the removal of Oteh.'

The House, however, warned SEC not to touch  the budget 'purported' to have been approved for it by the board.

The Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamiala, said, 'It will be a criminal offence; it will be a breach of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 and above all, an infringement of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

'If it is true, then the House will meet in plenary to discuss this criminal offence and take a stance.'

Investigations showed that the commission was not bothered by the zero budget allocation, as the newly-constituted board had approved its 2013 budget.

Findings by our correspondent showed that the budget was approved shortly after the board was inaugurated by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The six-man board, which is chaired by Dr. Suleyman Ndanusa was inaugurated by the minister on January 15.

A top official in the commission confided in one of our correspondents that the commission had yet to feel the negative impact of the National Assembly's zero allocation.

The source who pleaded anonymity, said since the commission was not dependent on the government to fund its operation, the decision by the National Assembly might not have significant impact.

Ndanusa had on January 15 during an interview, shortly after the inauguration of the board, said the new board would immediately work with Okonjo-Iweala to settle the rift between the embattled Oteh and the National Assembly. (Punch)