Group wants new SEC DG removed over approval of Gombe N30billion bond

The newly appointed acting Director General, Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Munir Gwarzo, has come under fire for his alleged approval of the N30 billion bond for Gombe State government.

A political pressure group, Gombe Good Governance Group, otherwise called G4, has petitioned President Goodluck Jonathan, to demand Mr. Gwarzo’s immediate removal for allegedly approving the second tranche of the bond in defiance of a subsisting restraining court order.

To enable it raise finance for its infrastructural development programmes, the Ibrahim Dankwambo state administration had approached the capital market last year to raise the bond.

Though the first of three tranches (N10billion each) of the facility was earlier released to the state government, approval for subsequent releases was dependent on the fulfilment of certain conditions spelt out by the regulatory authority.

Part of these conditions included a detailed report reviewing what the previous funds were used for as well as a list of new projects, programmes and activities the new tranche of funding would be deployed.

However, following the state government’s request for SEC’s approval for the release of the second tranche of the fund, G4, led by Mohammed Barde, instituted a legal action against the Gombe State government.

The suit also sought to tie the hands of the Federal Ministry of Finance and Debt Management Office, DMO, from acting on the matter.

In his application before the Federal High Court, Abuja, counsel to G4, Salihu Babakeke, sought an order to stop SEC from giving approval to the state government’s request pending the disposal of the substantive suit.

Though hearing on the case is scheduled for March 24, 2015, Mr. Babakeke said an injunction restraining SEC from going ahead with the approval of the request was issued and served the defendants since October 20, 2014.

According to the lawyer, the immediate past Director General of the Commission, Arunma Oteh, had complied with the injunction by refusing to give approval to the request till she left office recently.

However, he claimed in his petition to the President that they were aware of clandestine moves by the acting DG of SEC to approve the request before the March 24, 2015 date for the court hearing in the suit.

Despite reminders about the legal implications of such an illegal action, Mr. Babakeke said the new SEC boss continued to act in contempt of the court, an action, he pointed out, not only portrayed the Commission as irresponsible, but the Federal Government as lawless, with no regard for judicial process.

When contacted, Mr. Gwarzo vehemently denied acting illegally on the issue. Responding to PREMIUM TIMES enquiry on Friday, the Head of Media department, SEC, Ola Yakubu, said contrary to claims by G4, the Commission has not been served any injunction over the matter.

“SEC is not aware of any injunction or court order restraining any action on the matter”, Mr. Yakubu said. “In any case, this is a book building bond, which was already running having met all stipulated conditions.”

However, a copy of the motion on notice of injunction in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/735/14 sighted by PREMIUM TIMES on Friday, showed the Commission was actually served. The document was signed for by one Mike Abah on behalf of the Director General on October 20, 2014 at 2.20 p.m.

Nonetheless, Gombe State Commissioner for Finance, Hassan Muhammad, who dismissed allegations of any wrongdoing against either the state government or SEC, also denied that any official of the state government was served any court order by any group over the matter.

The Commissioner blamed the confusion over the bond issue on Mohammed Barde, whom he described as “a self-confessed staunch supporter of the opposition political party in the State.”

“Barde is a well-known protégée of Danjuma Goje, Governor Dankwambo’s immediate predecessor, who finds it hard to believe that the governor could beat his master’s eight-year record in less than 3 years,” the Commissioner said in s statement.

“With his revelation that he has commenced a legal action to prevent Gombe State Government from accessing funds from the capital market to build roads, and upgrade transport and social infrastructure in the State, he has so far portrayed himself as a person who could do anything to stop the development of Gombe State and prevent the delivery of dividend of democracy to 3 million people for his selfish interest,” Mr. Muhammad said.

Also, the Special Assistant on Media, to the governor, Junaidu Usman, said no matter how the issue is politicized, the bond remained the best option for the state government to provide service to the people.

“Throughout the eight years of the previous administration, only N1.4billion was spent on primary and secondary education in the state. From that about 17,000 students that sat for the West African School Certificate Examination, only nine were found to have made a pass mark for admission into the university,” he said.

“The figure” he said, “contrasts with about N12billion spent by the present administration in just three years to develop structures in 158 schools and other projects in different locations across the state, including 128 roads, international conference centre, motor parks,”

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