The apex regulator of the nation’s capital market, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), yesterday wielded the big stick by sacking the Director-General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Prof. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke.

It also asked business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, to stop acting as the President of the NSE and directed council members “elected in defiance of the court order” to cease acting as members of the council “pending the outcome of the ongoing litigation”.
The election into the council last year is still a subject of litigation and SEC is said to be determined to restore order to the exchange as the council is already tainted with the court pronouncement.

The commission also directed the conduct of an independent investigation into the allegations levelled against the management of the exchange.
The interim administrator, THISDAY learnt, is to oversee the election of a new council through a transparent and legal process.
In a statement issued last night by the Assistant Director/Head of Media, Mr. Lanre Oloyi, the commission said it took these decisions in the interest of the public because of the need to protect the investors in the market.

He said the Investment and Securities Act (ISA) 2007 vests the “unalloyed responsibility” for safeguarding the interest of the public and protecting the investor in the commission.
The statement said: “The Commission has closely followed the developments in the NSE, particularly with respect to inadequate oversight of the Exchange, ongoing litigation, allegations of financial mismanagement, governance challenges, and the inordinate delays in the implementation of the succession plan for the Exchange. In following the developments, the Commission has at all times carefully deliberated on the implications and ramifications of a direct intervention in the affairs of the Exchange. In this deliberation, the Commission weighed the consequences on the market of a direct intervention set against the broader goal of safeguarding the interest of the public and protecting the investor.”

Consequently, SEC ordered that Okereke-Onyuike be removed from the office of DG/Chief Executive Officer of the NSE while the affairs of the Exchange are to be managed by an Interim Administrator to be appointed by the commission today.
The commission also said that the council member elected as President of the Exchange (Dangote) in defiance of the court order should cease acting as the President pending the outcome of the ongoing litigation.

“These actions by the Commission reinforce the integrity of our markets and demonstrate commitment to accountability, particularly given the importance of ensuring adequate oversight at all times and demonstrating that when there are shortcomings, as the apex regulator, the SEC will step in decisively to address these issues in the public interest and to protect the investors,” Oloyi said.

Dangote had in a petition to SEC alleged that the NSE was insolvent and could not meet its financial obligations as and when due.
However, the NSE spokesman, Mr. Sola Oni, had swiftly denied the allegations, saying: “The staff are not owed salaries and allowances. The retirees receive their cheques promptly. The exchange does not owe any bank or individual. If there is any form of owing it could be that such a company is handling project that has not been completed. Even at that, the exchange must have made some pre-payment,” he said.

Despite the denial, Dangote insisted that the NSE is broke and is currently dipping its hands into the Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) accounts to borrow N900 million to support its cash deficit position.
Okereke-Onyiuke’s troubles started when she announced last January that she would retire as DG in November but failed to name her former second-in-command, Mr. Lance Elakama, as her successor. Consequently, a succession crisis ensued culminating in the exit of Elakama last March.

The NSE has embarked on a recruitment exercise to appoint a new DG. The exercise was still ongoing before SEC’s hammer fell yesterday.
Okereke-Onyiuke joined the NSE in 1983 from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) as the Manager and Head of Research and Information Services Department. She was highly instrumental to the computerisation of the Exchange in 1985, a development, which included the creation of The Nigerian Stock Exchange All Shares Index – a barometer that gauges the mood of economy.

She became the DG in 2000, a position she occupied till yesterday.
She obtained her Master of Business Administration (MBA) specialising in Finance and Computer Science at City University of New York, Graduate School in 1977 and Doctor of Philosophy/Doctor of Administration in Finance and Securities Market at City University Post Graduate Centre, New York.

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