The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, yesterday, announced the suspension of embattled Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mr. Mounir H. Gwarzo, from office, to allow for an unhindered investigation into several allegations of financial impropriety and impunity leveled against him.
Also suspended with him are two management staff of the Commission – Mr. Abdulsalam Naif Habu, Head of Media Division and Mrs. Anastasia Omozele Braimoh, Head of Legal Department, alleged to have engaged in financial impropriety in the Commission.
The Minister in a statement released in Abuja said the suspension was in line with the Public Service Rules (PSRs) 03405 and 03406.
Adeosun, said the Ministry has already set up an Administrative Panel of Inquiry (API) to investigate and determine the culpability of the Director-General, even as she directed the suspended SEC Director-General to immediately handover to the most senior officer at the Commission, pending the conclusion of investigation by the API.
Gwarzo has had a litany of weighty allegations hanging on his neck, including running the capital market like a mafia lord, who travels outside the country without handing over to the most senior official.
He was also accused of several underhand dealings including awarding contracts to his firms and relations without recourse to due process.
The situation drew the anger of several stakeholders who asked him to step down for full investigation into the allegations.
Gwarzo’s journey to crisis began when former President Goodluck Jonathan, appointed him as SEC, DG on May 22, 2015, from his Executive Commissioner position.
Having assumed office as DG/CEO, one of the first assignments he allegedly undertook was to hurriedly pay himself a severance package of N104 million as SEC Executive Commissioner, a position he occupied for two and half years before his ascension to the headship of the Commission.
However, the development did not go down well with the internal publics of SEC, as a flurry of petitions flooded the House of Representatives after stiff opposition mounted by the acting head of SEC’s Legal Department, Frana Chuwuogo, failed to stop him.
Beside the above hefty allegation, a petitioner alleged the SEC DG had been awarding contracts to his family members and friends, in violation of the rules guiding the Commission.
It said Gwarzo, his family members and certain directors of the Commission were shareholders and directors in companies “used to carry out the alleged illegal transactions”.
Details of the “illegality” were stated, with at least four different accounts said to be traced to him.
In their reactions, capital market stakeholders expressed divergent views on the SEC boss’s suspension.
According to Boniface Okezie, National Coordinator, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, the Minister took a hasty decision as this will drag us back to where we are coming from because I believe Gwarzo has done a lot to sanitise the market and a lot of people won’t be happy. This is an unnecessary interference as SEC did this in the Nigerian stock Exchange years ago using Arunma Oteh to interfere when the council approved the erstwhile CEO’s retirement and today we have not gotten out of that problem. This brought lack of confidence in the market and I hope her hasty decision will not plunge the market into darkness again.
For his part, Timothy Adesiyan, President, Nigeria Shareholders Solidarity Association, said it is a right step in the right direction as the action of the Ministry of Finance was to ensure that there are no unnecessary interference during their investigation.