Adeosun: Allegations against Gwarzo Weighty, Ministry in Possession of Incriminating Records

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Says suspended SEC DG peddling falsehood, vows to resist intimidation  Denies stopping forensic audit of Oando Plc

Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun stated yesterday that the suspension of the Director-General, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir Gwarzo, was in order, and that the ministry was in possession of incriminating records against him.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja, the minister, who broke her silence, since she suspended Gwarzo on November 29, 2017,

said Gwarzo’s suspension was connected to financial misconduct, and had nothing to do with his alleged refusal to stop the forensic audit of Oando Plc. 

She also said that she would not bow to any form of blackmail from anybody over the issue.

Adeosun said Gwarzo’s suspension followed proven cases of financial misconduct, unlawful carting away of sensitive documents, in addition to his unsatisfactory response to queries served him. 

She wondered why Gwarzo could resort to peddling falsehood, “when in fact, he was given a right of fair hearing through an administrative query.”

Adeosun, who disclosed that the forensic audit of the oil firm would continue unhindered, said: “The Federal Ministry of Finance would like to place on record that Gwarzo’s suspension is in line with the Public Service Rules (PSRs), to allow for an unhindered investigation of serious allegations of financial impropriety against him.

“Some of the allegations with documented evidence include the awards of contracts to companies related to him and members of his family.

 “It should be noted that Gwarzo was queried by the Ministry on 3rd November and he responded on 7th November, 2017. His response to the query was deemed unsatisfactory and further investigation was ordered.

” Based on the evidence from that further work and creditable reports that documents were being unlawfully removed from SEC, as well as consultations with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the decision was taken to suspend Mr. Gwarzo.

 “At the meeting on Monday, 27th November 27, Mr. Gwarzo was asked to clarify some of his responses to the query issued, which were not consistent with documentary evidence. From that interaction, Mr. Gwarzo became aware of the strong likelihood of his suspension.

” It was thereafter that Mr. Gwarzo prepared the memo, which has been circulated in the media.”  

The minister added: “It is instructive to note that Mr. Gwarzo personally delivered the memo using SEC staff seconded to the office of the minister, in breach of normal procedures for the receipt of mail.

“The copy of the memo in the possession of the minister was delivered with a message that any action against Mr. Gwarzo would result in same being leaked to the press. It was this threat of blackmail that strengthened the resolve of the minister to suspend Mr. Gwarzo and allow the Administrative Panel of Inquiry to proceed with its probe.”

She affirmed that the insinuation of an instruction to discontinue with the Oando case was false, adding that this could be corroborated by the other parties at that meeting and by subsequent events.

As a one-time key player in the capital market before her appointment as a minister, she said the integrity of the market was paramount to her, adding that she would do everything to preserve the market integrity. 

“The integrity of the capital market is vital to the growth of the Nigerian economy and must be managed in an orderly and transparent manner to ensure investors’ confidence. Its leadership must maintain and be seen to maintain the highest standards of integrity,” she stated.

Contrary to Gwarzo’s allegation that he was suspended because of his decision on Oando Plc, the minister said the original decision taken by SEC on October 20, 2017 to suspend the shares of Oando Plc and conduct a forensic audit, was approved and endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Finance.

The SEC team, led by the suspended SEC DG, she said, presented adequate evidence to the Minister of Finance and her team, that Oando Plc had a clear case to answer with regard to infractions of the ISA which the minister said she gave him her nod.  

Gwarzo’s problem was triggered by an online report over an alleged financial misconduct perpetrated by him. 

The report alleged among others, that Gwarzo applied and  collected the sum N104.8 million as severance package at  the end of his appointment as Executive Commissioner at SEC, a position he occupied for two years and four months. 

The request, the online medium said, was made via a memo dated May 26, 2015, and was referred to Mr. Chukwuogor Frana, acting head of the commission’s Legal department, for consideration and advice.

Responding in a memo dated May 27 2015, Frana advised against honoring the request made by Gwarzo, arguing that the fact that he remained in the employ of SEC disentitled him for a severance package.

Citing an extract of the SEC Board meeting held on July 11 2002, Gwarzo had argued that he was entitled to a severance package. 

Adeosun had on November 29, 2017 announced the suspension of Gwarzo, from office, to allow for an unhindered investigation of several allegations of financial impropriety leveled against him.