The World Bank has just announced the appointment of the immediate past Director- General of Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Arunma Oteh, as its Vice- President and Treasurer. According to the statement of the World Bank, “As VP and Treasurer, Arunma will manage and lead a large and diverse team responsible for managing more than $150 billion in assets. Ms. Oteh was selected to this position through an international competitive search. Her appointment is effective September 28, 2015.”
This is indeed a landmark achievement for Nigeria. It clearly shows that Nigeria is endowed with high achievers in the global scheme of things. Ms. Oteh had distinguished herself despite tremendous hurdles in the five eventful years she served as the sixth Director-General of SEC, the main regulatory institution of Nigeria’s capital market.
Oteh was appointed by the then President Umaru Yar’adua in 2009, but assumed office in January 2010. She took over the leadership of the Commission at a critical stage, coinciding with the global financial crisis that ravaged the economies of the world in 2008 and 2009. Nigeria’s capital market suffered a crash of unimaginable dimension when foreign investors embarked on massive profittaking. At that time the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) All –Share Index (ASI) fell from a height of 66,000 basis points in March 2008 to less than 22,000 points by January 2009. Over N8 trillion or 70 per cent of the total market capitalization of the Exchange was wiped out during the 2008/2009 global financial crisis. Many Nigerians did not only lose their huge and life-time investments but incurred debts resulting from bank loans extended to them for trading on the Exchange. Oteh indeed came on board when investors’ confidence in the market was eroded and virtually non-existent.
It is to her credit that the NSE hit market capitalization of over N13 trillion during her tenure with robust institutional reforms that boosted investors’ confidence because of the transparency measures adopted at various levels of market operation. Oteh’s passion for a world-class market showed in her articulation and drive by which she established the National Investor Protection Fund and also strengthened its Administrative Proceedings Committee which resulted in broadening and deepening the Nigerian market. Consequently, the market witnessed significant product innovation, improved listing rules, landmark bond market reforms, widening of participation in the markets through licensing and the coming on stream of other capital trade points, as the Commission pointed out. Oteh was also able to effect strong enforcement actions and improvement of rules and regulations. The firm manner in which she carried out the reforms at SEC also cascaded through the realms of the market, resulting in the full application of prescribed sanctions on erring operators.
Despite intense distractions, Oteh remained focused and resolute. Internally, intrigues from management and senior employees led to her being briefly suspended by the board which also recalled her after an investigative panel found nothing against her. On the other hand, officials of the labour union maintained their resistance to Oteh’s reforms. Externally, the National Assembly suspended statutory allocations to SEC under Oteh when the then President Goodluck Jonathan rejected the lawmakers’ demand for Oteh’s removal. Oteh had boldly accused the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market probing the crash of the capital market of corruption, alleging that they demanded for financial gratification.
Oteh was elected Chairperson, Africa Middle East Regional Committee (AMERC) of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) in June 2010. She was re-elected Chairperson in June 2012 and in September 2014. She was a member of the Nigerian Economic Management Team (NEMT) chaired by the President of Nigeria and a Director of the Board of the Pension Commission, Nigeria (PENCOM) and of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON). She was also a Board member of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) and was a member of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Agenda Council on Institutional Governance from 2010 to 2014. Prior to joining the SEC she was Executive Vice-President, Corporate Services, at the African Development Bank Group (AfDB).
In 2011, and in recognition of her contribution to economic development and to transforming the Nigerian capital markets, she was awarded the “Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON)” national honour. She also received the “Distinction In Public Service” Commonwealth Business Council/ African Business Award in 2011 and the Eminent African Business Leader Award from the China Foundation for Global Partnership in 2013. The SEC under her watch received the Africa Investor (AI)’s “Most Innovative Capital Markets Regulator” award in 2011, 2013 and 2014. She was also named the 2014 AI Capital Market Personality of the Year and the 2014 AABLA West African Business Woman of the Year. Oteh holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA), from Harvard Business School, Boston, U.S.A. and a First Class Hons Degree in Computer Science, from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria. We salute Ms Oteh on her appointment by the World Bank as the Vice- President and Treasurer. She richly deserves her worldwide recognition and distinction.