The suspended Director General of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC ), Munir Gwarzo said on Tuesday that the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, suspended him because he refused to stop the forensic investigation and the technical suspension placed on Oando Plc in the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE).
Gwarzo said this in Abuja at the public hearing organised by the House of Reprsentative Committee on Capital Market and Institutions, to intervene in the conflict involving the SEC boss and the Minister.
Gwarzo told the panel that the minister asked him to stop the investigation of Oando. He said she asked him to resign or risk being suspended.
His words: “On 18th October, we directed that the shares of Oando should be put on technical suspension and we also informed the public that a forensic audit will be undertaken on Oando. The following day 19th October, the honorable Minister of Finance invited me to her office and queried the power that I had to carry out the investigation and I explained to her that the law has given me the power to do the investigation. She told me to lift the technical suspension placed on Oando, the permanent secretary was also in attendance and it was on Friday. I tried to reason with her why it was not necessary to lift the suspension but she told me that it was important to do that.”
But the minister denied the allegation. She said Gwarzo was suspended in order to instill confidence in the capital market as the crisis had the potential of painting the market in bad light. She said she took the decision as chairman of the board of SEC.
Mrs Adeosun also denied allegations that some of her family members have shares in Oando.
Gwarzo had wondered why Adeosun showed interest in Oando wheras she did not interfere in similar disciplinary actions he took against four other companies.
Gwarzo said he has so far overseen actions against six companies. He said Adeosun interfered in Oando and Oasis but not in the other companies. He suggested that the minister’s actions meant she interfered in the ones in which she had vested interests.
The reasons given for Gwarzo’s suspension was that he paid himself N104.8 million as severance package and also got entangled in a conflict of interest as a Director of some companies he allegedly favoured in contract awards, in violation of extant rules.
On the severance package, Gwarzo told the panel that he is entitled to it adding that that same board that approved his predecessor, Aruma Oteh, gave the approval. He said the package was approved for a permanent commissioner in SEC, which he was before he was appointed DG. He therefore denied any wrong doing.
The suspended SEC DG also said that upon his appointment, he tendered his resignation at the private companies but the processes were not concluded by the company secretaries.
But Mrs Adeosun argued that evidence from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) showed that the suspended DG was still a shareholder, director, and signatory to the account of the company .
“We have bank transaction evidence. At the same time we received information that staff of SEC that documents are being removed and we knew that we need to do further investigation and we still have him as at the helms of affair of SEC and that was when we took a decision to suspend him,” Adesoun stated.
The Director Legal Ministry of Finance, Christopher Gabriel who also spoke at the hearing, explained that the minister exercised the power and function of the board of SEC .
He said: “When this issue came, she had the power and responsibility to react in public interest. She has the duty and responsibility in accordance with the policies of that whistleblower document to react by taking the necessary step. There is no contravention to any existing statute or rules in the procedure taken by the minister in disciplining the suspended director general”.
Mr. Gwarzo was suspended from office last November along with the Commission’s Head of Media Division, Abdulsalam Naif Habu and Head of Legal Department, Anastasia Omozele Braimoh.