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Adeosun, Gwarzo Disagree On SEC, Oando Crisis, Others



Minister of Finance Mrs Kemi Adeosun and suspended Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) boss Mr Mounir Gwarzo yesterday disagreed on the cause and propriety of the suspension of the Director-General.

At a House of Representatives’ public hearing by the Tajudeen Yusuf – led Committee on Capital Market and Institutions on Gwarzo’s suspension, Mrs. Adeosun said the suspension was in the interest of the capital market investing public. Gwarzo disagreed; he said it was all as a result of his decision to conduct a forensic audit on Oando Plc.

Yusuf explained that the investigation was not intended to witch-hunt anyone but aimed at building and restoring the confidence of the investing public in the capital market.

Gwarzo, who appeared at the hearing with a counsel, James Igwe, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), faulted his suspension on the point of law and Public Service Rule (PSR), stressing that the minister had no power to suspend him.

He pointed out that payment of severance package of N104 million to himself as well as awarding SEC contracts to companies he has interests in as alleged by the minister were untrue.

Gwarzo said his suspension was as a result of his resolve to conduct a forensic audit of Oando despite several attempts by the minister to stop him.

He also wondered why the minister interfered in the case of Oando and Oasis Insurance, and cited five other investigations carried out by SEC in the last two years which the minister never interfered in.

Gwarzo  said: “I strongly believe that anybody or group of persons that do not want a forensic audit to be undertaken on Oando Plc does not believe in the anti-corruption war of Mr. President. The forensic audit is yet to take place almost two months after my suspension and more than four weeks after Mrs. Kemi Adeosun told the nation that the exercise will commence. There is no court order as at today restraining SEC from undertaking the exercise. Oando has filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal and the matter is yet to be heard not to talk of issuing any order and SEC only obeys court orders and not filing of papers as was the case in Gombe Bond, BGL and Partnership, and the board of the Nigerian Capital Market Development Fund has since approved the engagement of the investigators and also approved the sum of N160 million for the exercise. Therefore, SEC has no right to vary the decision of the Board and no reason not to continue with the forensic audit”.

Igwe quoted copiously from the Securities and Investment Act, PSR and the constitution that the DG was not subjected to the PSR since he was not a public servant but a head of a government parastatal appointed by the President.

Igwe said the minister lacked the powers to suspend a SEC DG and that Gwarzo could only be guided or disciplined by the Investment and Securities Act (ISA) and staff manual of the agency, adding that the provisions of laws acted upon by the minister were non-existent in the rule books.

On the allegation of payment of severance package of N104 million to himself, Gwarzo said the payment was in accordance with the rules governing such matters.

He noted that though he was a commissioner for two years before being appointed by the President, subject to the approval of the Senate, he still went through the process of a new appointment and, as such,  he was entitled to two years of severance package.

He said all heads of government agencies, such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), including commissioners, are entitled to such packages, adding that all the commissioners as well as the Head of Legal and Enforcement of the Commission agreed that the payment be made to Gwarzo except the acting Head of Legal Department at the time who disagreed.

He said the approval of the minister was not required on the matter, notwithstanding the non-existence of the Board of the Commission at the time.

On his interest in certain private companies and award of contract to one of them, Gwarzo said he resigned his membership of the companies but found out that the resignation letters were not filed.

He also said there was no law that prohibits companies belonging to members of his family from sourcing for contracts.

“The Minister lacks the power to suspend me from service. The appointment into office or removal from office of the Director-General of SEC is a power strictly resident with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is evident from the provisions of section 5 and 8 (1 and 2) of the IS Act, 2007. The minister’s role is only limited to recommendations to the President. It is elementary to Labour law that only an employer can suspend an employee, thus bringing to question the suspension by the Honourable Minister,” Gwarzo said.

According to him, as soon as the SEC issued a notice on 18 October 2017 to the public that a forensic audit will be carried out on Oando PLC and the shares be put on technical suspension, the Minister of Finance invited him to her office on 19 October 2017 at 9:30 am to inquire into the activities of the Commission on Oando Plc at that meeting.

“She sought to know the power I as the DG had to undertake such an exercise, stating that it had been suggested to her that I should be relieved of my job for taking such a decision,” Gwarzo said.

The minister said Gwarzo was economical with the truth by claiming that his suspension was a result of the investigation of Oando.

Saying that Gwarzo’s only wanted to play up emotion on the issue, Mrs. Adeosun said she could not have endorsed the investigation of Oando by SEC if she had other motives, despite being informed after Oando has been suspended by Gwarzo

While the  Minister questioned the sincerity of Gwarzo on allegation of  interference in the affairs of SEC against her by the suspended DG, Mrs. Adeosun said what explanation would Gwarzo give to the investigation of a company owned and managed by her personal friends, found wanting and banned for life by Gwarzo.

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