Arunma Oteh is of Nigerian/British nationality. She is from Abia State. She studied at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, earning a first class honors degree in Computer Science. She went on to the Harvard Business School where she obtained a master's degree in Business Administration. She co-edited the book, African Voices African Visions.
Oteh worked for various institutions including the Harvard Institute for International Development and Centre Point Investments Limited of Nigeria in corporate finance, consulting, teaching and research. She joined the African Development Bank (AfDB) in 1992.
She was a Senior Investment Officer/Senior Capital Markets Officer from 1993 to 1997, then Division Manager Investments and Trading Room from 1997 to 2001 when she was appointed the Bank's Group Treasurer responsible for fund raising and investments in major international capital markets. Oteh was appointed Vice-President for Corporate Management at the ADB in March 2006, responsible for Language Services, General Services and Procurement, Human Resources, and Information Management and Methods.
Ms. Oteh was nominated as the Director-General of the Securities & Exchange Commission by President Umaru Yar'Adua in July 2009. Arunma Oteh became Director General of the SEC in January 2010, after being confirmed by the Senate.
In a June 2010 interview with the BBC Oteh listed "wash sales, market rigging, pumping and dumping shares" as some of the abuses in Nigeria's capital market. She said the SEC expected to charge about 200 individuals and entities in civil or criminal cases. She faced resistance from the powerful Nigerian rent-seeking elite, but expressed confidence due to the backing she had received from President Goodluck Jonathan. In August 2010, as a result of some of the identified market abuse issues, the Securities and Exchange Commission removed the leadership of the Nigerian stock exchange.
The House Committee of Capital Markets and Institutions launched a public inquiry in April 2012 into the near collapse of the Nigerian capital market in 2008. Oteh and the committee chairman had a heated exchange over the focus of the hearing, leading to the chairmans resignation from the committee after allegations that he had asked for a bribe to influence the House Committee inquiry, and that he had collected public funds to attend a workshop in the Dominican Republic but had neither attended the program nor returned the money
The SEC released two statements explaining their position on the allegations made during the public hearing. The First press statement made on 19 March 2012 focused on the varied allegations made by the committee
In June 2012. The second press statement stated that "[n]o financial overtures have ever been made to the Hon. Hembe by Ms. Oteh, DG SEC or any staff of SEC." A new eight-man Ad hoc committee was set up by the House of representatives to complete the hearing on the near collapse of the capital market. As a possible fallout of the events that had taken place at the public hearings, Arunma Oteh was asked to proceed on compulsory leave by the SEC board, pending an independent investigation into the management of Project 50, a program packaged by her to commemorate 50 years of capital market regulation in Nigeria.
On July 18, 2012, Oteh was called back to resume work after an independent investigation by the board-appointed firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, cleared her of any financial impropriety. Oteh's concluded her 5-year tenure as SEC DG in January 2015. In July 2015, Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank appointed Arunma Oteh, Vice President and Treasurer of the institution.
In 2011 Oteh was made an Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in "recognition of her contribution to economic development and to transforming the Nigerian capital markets". In 2011 she received the "Distinction In Public Service" award from the Commonwealth Business Council/African Business. In 2014, Oteh won the CNBC Africa All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA) Business Woman of the Year category for West Africa.