- My suspension illegal —Gwarzo insists
Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun said on Tuesday that the suspension of the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Mounir Gwarzo was in order while Gwazo insisted it was not.
While the Minister claimed that the suspension of Mr Gwarzo was in line with relevant Public Service Rules, the suspended DG claimed that the action of the Minister was illegal.
They both defended their positions at the investigative hearing by the House Committee on Capital Market and Institutions, Chaired by Honourable Tajudeen Yusuf on the “need to intervene in the conflict between Minister of Finance and the suspended Director General Securities and Exchange Commission HR 190/2017).
The Minister at the hearing, however, told the committee that she received the report of the Administrative Panel of Inquiry that investigated Mr Gwarzo, ” yesterday” (January 29), stressing that the report would be sent to President Muhammadu Buhari.
On why Mr Gwarzo was suspended, she said, “on the 27th of October 2017, we received a bundle of documents delivered to our whistle-blowing unit making allegations not only against Mr. Gwarzo but also against two other officials of SEC. On that basis, I asked the head of the whistleblowing unit to investigate”.
She added that “we did not immediately suspend Mr. Gwarzo because every allegation is just that- it’s allegation. It must be subjected to some scrutiny. The policy of the whistleblowing unit is they have two levels of investigation – One is cursory, the other is detailed. Due to the seniority of Mr. Gwarzo in the market and the potential impact of the matter, I asked them to go straight to level two, which is: you either prove the case or we throw this out.
“They came back with evidence that suggested that there was a very real need to issue a query to Mr. Gwarzo which is the procedure. Mr. Gwarzo was then queried. He responded. But unfortunately, his response contradicted the evidence that we had at hand. For example. Mr. Gwarzo claimed that he had resigned from the company, but the evidence we had from the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC showed him to still be a Director and a shareholder. So, on that basis, we felt there was a need to do more work.
Buttressing her point, the minister noted that, “at the same time, we were receiving information from the staff of SEC that documents were being removed. We knew that we needed to do a thorough investigation, of course, that investigation could not be done with Mr. Gwarzo still at the helm of affairs at SEC, and that was when we took the decision to suspend him.”
She added that every action taken by her was to protect the interest of the capital market, noting that, this year we are the best performing capital market in the world.
But Mr Gwarzo in his statement before the committee said that the Minister had no power to remove him as Director General, and as well condemned interference of the Ministry of Finance in the internal process of SEC.
The suspended DG also told the committee that he was suspended because of the technical suspension of Oando shares on the capital market in order to carry out the audit on shares of Oando to protect the minority shareholders.
He said that all the allegations levelled against him was frivolous and absolve himself from any conflict of interest.
He added that he had resigned his position in the companies he was alleged to have interest.
Counsel for suspended SEC DG, Mr James Igwe SAN in his submission before the committee also said that suspension and the processes taken by the minister was against Section 36 (1) of the constitution, stressing that it was inconsistent with the Act setting up SEC.
On his part, the Director Legal, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr Christopher Gabriel also insisted that the suspension of DG was carried out in line with the Public Service Rules, adding that, “he is a political appointee”.
Earlier, the Speaker, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, who was represented by the Deputy Minority Leader, Honourable Chukwuma Onyema, said that the House was determined ” to unravel what led to this unfortunate and regrettable situation, with a view to resolving and finding reasonable solutions, geared towards achieving positive impact on the capital market and National Economy.
Honourable Yusuf on his part said that the committee on capital market and institutions will always be fair just and open to all.