By NBF News
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'The allegations regarding the leadership and membership of the Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange are very grave and that is the reason why the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has decided to take this step in exercising its power under the Investment an Securities Act and other applicable regulations'.

With the above words, the Director General of the apex regulatory body of the Nigerian capital market, Ms Arunma Oteh, explained reasons behind the removal of the management and leadership of the Exchange on Wednesday, insisting that it acted in the best interest of investors in the capital market.

'We firmly believe that the actions we are taking will lead to long term improvements in the state and activities of the Exchange, thereby safeguarding the interests of the investors. These directives reinforce the integrity of our markets and demonstrate commitment to accountability', Oteh stated.

In a tension soaked media briefing at the close of business on Thursday, the SEC boss stated that the commission was mindful of the critical importance of integrity and reputation of the market, and therefore could not afford to sweep under the carpet weighty allegations such as the ones leveled against the NSE leadership.

The SEC DG who was accompanied by Mr. Emmanuel Ikhazobor, Ballama Banu and senior managers of the Exchange and some market operators stated that the removal of the leadership would pave way for full investigations into the allegations and also create enabling environment for the Commission's transformation agenda of the market into a world class capital market.

She said 'The SEC will be launching an immediate and transparent investigation into the Exchange and its staff to examine the alleged corporate governance lapses and the allegations of financial irregularity and mismanagement. The allegations purport that the Exchange is insolvent and may soon face bankruptcy and it will not be able to meet its financial obligations.

'The SEC has been able unable to determine the veracity of these allegations because the Exchange has not yet, as statutorily required, submitted its audited financial statements for the year 2009. A formal investigation will therefore serve to shed some more light on the situation. We therefore want all the allegations to be examined fully', the SEC boss stated.

She expressed hope that the people welcome the developments as positive changes to the status quo and in the next few weeks, would unfold action plans that will shed some more light on some of the steps the Commission will be taking. Meanwhile, SEC yesterday announced the appointment of Mr. Ballama Manu and Emmanuel Ikazoboh as the Interim Head of the Council of the Exchange and the Interim Administrator of the exchange respectively.

The commission directed that the council member (Alhaji Aliko Dangote) elected as president of the exchange in defiance of the court order should cease acting as the president pending the outcome of the ongoing litigation.

The Director General of SEC, Ms. Aruma Oteh, said given the critical period of transition that the exchange is currently facing, the SEC has determined that given the critical period of transition that the exchange was currently facing, the commission has determined that it would be imprudent to leave the council without a designated leader.

Oteh noted that under the powers vested on the commission by ISA, it appointed Manu to steer the council and the exchange through this critical period of uncertainty on account of the pending litigation regarding the status of individuals and this crucial period of change at the helm of the exchange.

She explained that the commission had previously asked the NSE to develop and implement a credible and transparent succession plan which according to her Manu instantly focus on getting the succession plan back on track to ensure the timely appointment of the new director general.

Oteh said the Interim administrator will fill the role of the former director general who was notified yesterday morning about her removal until the conclusion of the recruitment and and assumption of duty of the substantive DG of the NSE, adding that by the nature of the interim role, he will be ineligible to compete or vie for the position of the director general.

She said the wealth of knowledge and experience Ikazoboh brings to the post will enable him to manage the affairs of exchange until the assumption of the substantive DG, adding that the interim period will be of limited duration and a succession plan currently being put in place.

'The NSE, started a transformation programme in 2008. Key aspects of the agenda relate to ensuring that a modern and world class trading platform is developed. In addition to addressing the immediate issues related to exchange, Mr. Ikazoboh will ensure that the transformation agenda of the exchange is not delayed in anyway,' she said.

Mr. Manu holds a First Class Honours Bsc Accounting Degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria as well as Msc in Accounting and Finance from the renowned London School of Economics. He is currently the Chairman/CEO of the Sicom Capital Services Limited. Prior to this, he served as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services. Manu served in Union Bank as the Executive Director for Information Technology and Services.

He has previously held top management positions in organizations such as the Executive Director (Operations) in Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation. While Mr. Ikazoboh holds MBA in Financial Management from the Manchester University Business School as well as a Client Services Management degree from North Western University, Chicago, USA. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants.

He has over 25 years of experience in Public Accounting and Financial Management and several years work experience in Project Management.