EXCLUSIVE: Real reasons SEC DG, Gwarzo, was suspended

Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Munir Gwarzo. [Photo credit: Business Eye]
Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Munir Gwarzo. [Photo credit: Business Eye]

Just before 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening, selected journalists got mails from the finance ministry of an impending ‘news break.’

“Kindly await a major news break from the Federal Ministry of Finance today at 6.30 p.m.,” Oluyinka Akintunde, the spokesperson of the Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, said; an indication that a decision to be announced to the public about 90 minutes later had already been made.

Less than an hour after Mr. Akintunde’s mail, the news was announced. Munir Gwarzo, the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, had been suspended.

Suspended alongside Mr. Gwarzo were two officials of the regulatory commission, Abdulsalam Habu, Head of Media Division, and Anastasia Braimoh, Head of Legal Department.

The finance ministry in the statement signed by Patricia Deworitshe, Deputy Director, Press, announced that the officials were suspended based on corruption allegations against them.

“The Honourable Minister has set up an Administrative Panel of Inquiry (API) to investigate and determine the culpability of the Director-General”, Ms. Deworitshe announced.

Ms. Deworitshe did not announce the reason why it took the finance minister 10 months to acknowledge and act after the allegations were made to her office and anti-corruption agencies against Mr. Gwarzo and the two others.

However, ongoing investigation by PREMIUM TIMES reveal that while the allegations against the regulatory chief deserve to be investigated and suspects prosecuted if found guilty, the real reason for the suspension was the crisis rocking Nigeria’s supposed largest indigenous oil and gas firm, Oando.

In fact, sources told PREMIUM TIMES, the decision to suspend Mr. Gwarzo was taken at least 24 hours before Mr. Akintunde’s first mail to journalists on Wednesday at a meeting attended by three people.

THE MEETINGS

On Tuesday, the SEC chief met with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Mohammed Dutse, two sources knowledgeable about the meeting told PREMIUM TIMES although both gave varying details of the meeting.

One source said the Tuesday meeting was a follow up to another held between Mr. Gwarzo, Mrs. Adeosun, and Mr. Dutse.

At the Monday meeting, the source said, Oando was the only topic of discussion.

A few hours before the Monday meeting, SEC had written the oil and gas firm, formally notifying it of the decision to commence the forensic audit earlier announced in October.

“The Commission notes that the above findings (of irregularities in Oando) are weighty and therefore needs to be further investigated. After due consideration, the Commission believes that it is necessary to conduct a forensic audit into the affairs of Oando Plc”, the commission had stated on October 18.

However, hours after the SEC letter was delivered to Oando, the Monday afternoon meeting was reportedly called at the instance of the minister.

During the meeting, Mrs. Adeosun reportedly ordered Mr. Gwarzo to call off the forensic audit of Oando.

“She advised him to rather constitute a committee that would recommend that Oando pays large sums as penalties for its various infractions”, the source said.

Mr. Gwarzo reportedly told the minister and permanent secretary that his commission would not discontinue the audit process as such would have a negative effect on public perception of its role as a regulator.

The source said the DG was confronted with the threat to either resign or be suspended from office, ostensibly to allow ample time for the Oando issue to be sorted before his reinstatement later.

It was then Mr. Gwarzo reportedly received the shocker. He was allegedly reminded by the minister of pending allegations against him and that, ”those could be brought back.”

Worried by the mood of the alleged Monday meeting and the pressure allegedly put on him by the minister, Mr. Gwarzo reportedly briefed some of his close confidants on the discussions at the meeting.

Mrs. Adeosun’s spokesperson, however, told PREMIUM TIMES that the Monday meeting never held. He, however, confirmed the Tuesday meeting but gave a different narrative of what transpired.

Our source, who sought anonymity for fear of victimisation, said Mr. Gwarzo on Tuesday sent a memo to Mrs. Adeosun documenting the implications of derailing the forensic audit, particularly the negative signal it would send to the capital market, in view of the horrible financial position of Oando.

In the memo, he made reference to Section 11(d) of the SEC Act on his duty as the Director General of the Commission to advise the minister on such matters, the source said.

He advised the minister to “allow the matter to follow its course professionally, for the integrity of its regulatory function.” The source said it was the content of the memo, and the minister’s actions, that was discussed with Mr. Dutse on Tuesday.

Mrs. Adeosun’s spokesperson, Mr. Akintunde, however, gave a different narrative of what transpired on Tuesday.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday morning, Mr. Akintunde said the SEC boss did not meet with the minister but only met with the permanent secretary on Tuesday to seek a “soft landing” over the corruption allegations.

“The minister was not even in office on Monday. Mr. Gwarzo went to the Permanent Secretary on Tuesday to seek a soft landing over allegations that he paid himself N104 million severance package while still in office; and the private companies he used to award contracts to his relations.”

Mr. Akintunde said it was after the meeting with the permanent secretary that Mr. Gwarzo was advised to go and consider resigning his appointment.

In his reaction to why it took 10 months for the minister to react to the corruption petition, Mr. Akintunde said, “investigations were conducted to authenticate the substance of the petition, queries were issued and answers received; the anti-graft agencies have to be given the chance to do their job.”

Another source at the SEC, knowledgeable about the matter, however, questioned Mr. Akintunde’s claim.

“If the investigations have already been conducted by the finance ministry, why set up a panel again? Since the matter is already being investigated by EFCC and ICPC, why not let them complete their investigation and prosecute those found wanting. It’s a lie, the suddenness is all about protecting Oando even though Gwarzo has a case to answer,” the source said.

THE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST GWARZO

In the corruption petition, which is currently being investigated by the two anti-corruption agencies, EFCC and ICPC, Mr. Gwarzo was accused of pocketing about N104.85 million as severance package while still in service.

He was also accused of getting entangled in a conflict of interest as a Director in Medusa Investment Limited, a company he allegedly used to funnel millions in contract awards while still in office in violation of extant rules.

Officials at the EFCC and the ICPC confirmed that their commissions are investigating the matter and had indeed questioned several officials mentioned in the alleged scandal several times.

At the EFCC, the case is being handled by the Capital Market and Investment Fraud Section, CMIFS, section headed by Adesola Amusan.

When he was invited earlier this year, the SEC chief was said to have admitted to the EFCC that he indeed received a severance package, but insisted it was not for the office he currently occupies as DG, but for when he held office as a commissioner.

Mr. Gwarzo was said to have submitted documents, including the extract of a Board meeting of SEC held on July 11, 2002, long before he joined the commission.

Any senior official who attains the position of either a DG or commissioner was entitled to draw a severance package after completing two years in office, that board resolution stated.

Having completed over two years and five months in office, as a commissioner, Mr. Gwarzo reportedly told the operatives he was entitled to the severance package.

PREMIUM TIMES findings show that Mr. Gwarzo served as Executive Commissioner of SEC for two years and four months prior to his appointment by former President Goodluck Jonathan on May 22, 2015, to succeed Arunma Oteh as the Director-General of SEC.

While our ongoing investigations show that this practice of paying people such severance packages is common in SEC, its legality is questionable, an issue the EFCC and ICPC are still looking into; to, among others, determine how many officials benefitted from such arrangement in the past.

Apart from the suspended officials, other officials including the executive commissioner, corporate services of SEC, also appeared before ICPC investigators.

The spokespersons of both the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, and ICPC, Rasheedat Okoduwa, could not be reached for comments on the current status of their investigations.

While Mr. Uwujaren’s phone number was not reachable, Ms. Okoduwa did not pick or return calls made to her.

While the anti-corruption agencies continue to investigate the allegations against Mr. Gwarzo and others, and now joined by the administrative panel set up by the finance ministry, attention will now be focused on what the regulator will do about Oando.

THE OANDO CRISIS

The proposed forensic audit of Oando followed two petitions SEC received from concerned shareholders, Dahiru Mangal and Ansbury Incorporated, about alleged mismanagement of the company’s financial affairs and distortion of its shareholding structure.

Following the petition, SEC said it conducted a comprehensive review, which revealed massive breaches of the provisions of the Investments & Securities Act 2007 and the SEC Code of Corporate Governance for Public Companies.

Consequently, the Commission announced the appointment of a consortium of experts, consisting auditors, lawyers, stockbrokers and registrars, to conduct the forensic audit, while shares of Oando Plc at the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE were placed on temporary technical suspension.

The technical suspension is still in place, meaning while trading on Oando stock is still allowed, there will not be any price changes.

Last week, the oil firm also lost a bid to stop the forensic audit planned by SEC as a Federal High Court ruled against it.


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  • Shahokaya

    Who are/is the power behind Oando?

    • wae tinubu

      Wale Tinubu

    • persona

      The unseen hand in OandO is Ibori.
      Whilst he was out in jail, the company thrived. He sponsored elections from abroad but since his return, OandO has had issues. Ibori returned to seek big money and that is what is affecting the company.

  • samG60

    Anti corruption indeed. Election is coming.
    THE MAN has suddenly become a beautiful bride once again, clear obstruction of justice.

  • disqus_jLJUa0YmE9

    Finance minister supporting corrupt activities

    • EdgarLegatt

      Before nko?

  • Intrepid

    APC na MAFIOSO. I see the hand of the master Bullfrog in Bourdillon.

  • Hass

    Kemi!!! Kemi!!!!!! Kemi!!!

    What am I hearing? Fighting corruption with deodorant abi???

    Hiding her kwarapshon behind a fake cockney accent

    Baba must hear this

  • Abubakar Bello

    Gwarzo, U don enter wan chance. You wan Audit the Lion of Boudillon. Politics Na Politics, you think say Baba wey dey find Second Term go chuck Mouth!!

    Best of Luck

    • EdgarLegatt

      Gwarzo was not smart enough to understand that u can’t have such skeletons in ur closet and go after the powers that be. Even for a clean person this is an extremely perilous endeavour talk less for a thief. Oando can no longer avoid the audit anyway, this is a company trading not only on NSE, SA has suspended them as well, Gwarzo was never that powerful it’s all too late now but at least punishing him will appease the gods small

  • tobi

    Oando suspended the SEC DG

    that is what I got from this?

  • thusspokez

    In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday morning, Mr. Akintunde said the SEC boss did not meet with the minister but only met with the permanent secretary on Tuesday to seek a “soft landing” over the corruption allegations.

    This spokesperson inadvertently admits that someone [I.e., the minister] is blackmailing Gwarzo,otherwise why would the latter be seeking a “soft landing” — given that the ministry of finance is not a law-enforcement agency and has not power to pardon any crime.

  • Jacky

    Tinubu gave me ‘beautiful piece of information’ – Buhari

  • Someone

    the boards in all these parastatals are corrupt and incompetent. how can you award an officer such high amount for only 2 years in the position. many states have unpaid workers. greed greed greed. this gwarso is not a saint.

    adeosun is tough.

    • Darlington

      SEC board has not been in operation for the last two years. Which board are you referring to? Adeosun is only being used to protect Tinubu’s business interests to position the Lagos landlord as one of the major pawns Buhari will use to get his re-election come 2019.

      • Someone

        maybe. it seems the boards of all parastatals including nnpc are not
        functioning so the DGs do what they want. but i think it’s timid to
        attribute buhari’s statement to this.

  • bola

    there were collaborators in this mismanagement of Oando oil fund, DG cant play ignorant, finance minister wants part of the share (so I thought) so she ordered to auditing but Oando must pay huge amount of fine, to who? government?

  • Darlington

    With current revelations in the polity, it’s obvious that Buhari has lost the so-called anti-corruption war to politics of 2019. The two attributes that hitherto gave him edge ahead of his main rival Atiku, have collapsed completely. Buhari’s so-called integrity has been punctured mercilessly by Maingate & other corruption scandals in his government.

    2019 will be very interesting. Tinubu knows that the recent overtures to him by Buhari is a Greek gift. Once beaten twice shy. For the cabal to sacrifice Gwarzo just to please Tinubu, shows that Atiku’s defection has set them into panic mood.

    • Sanssouci

      “Buhari’s so-called integrity has been punctured mercilessly by Maingate & other corruption scandals in his government.”
      ==========================================================
      That is in your eyes because you have pondered and understood the implications and ramifications of such an unbelievable scandal. Trust me I have heard several die hard Buharists, people I hitherto assumed had functional brains in their heads who see the whole Mainagate as “no big deal” or a “simple mistake”. Once people can because of politics bury logic, common sense and reason then the outcome of 2019 can never be predicted.

      • Message66

        Well spoken. Nigerian politics has thrown normal reasoning out of the window.
        2 major and 1 minor criteria count:
        Tribe and Religion, and the minor one: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, if you understand what I mean.

      • deri best

        when bingo steals it is assumed to be a new style but when Jonathan does the same–he is a called a thief—–stealing is not the same as corruption–all because of his Fulani tribal marks——–we are all guilty——-when Buhari thieves it is not news–when others in the SS does the same it becomes headline story—-what a shame–what a country

        • Oladele

          This boy you have resurrected! You refused to grow old. See Deri, always think about future generations, whether the heist carried out by Dr Jonathan or the one going on currently in Buhari administration, all are bad and we must stand up against them.

    • Someone

      no one of them have integrity. including gwarso. people think he’s saint not knowing he was stealing behind. what a country.

    • deri best

      Bingo Buhari has never had any integrity to protect–my friend—he is a rogue like Abacha and any other Fulani person—–how he succeeded in deceiving Nigerians with his meek Fulani looks is still a mystery to me–aware he has the worst human rights records in the history of mankind

      • davids

        while you are the best at abusing good people

      • niran ade

        Really? More than George Bush and Tony Blair? Mobutu and Samuel Doe? Oh gosh

  • deri best

    Oando is owned by Tinubu then Tinubu suddenly travels with Bingo——-I laugh at Justice Nigeriana–aka Mr. Integrity

  • Edon B.

    Now that Corruption is fighting back on dangerous fangs, full force with bare face, what should we do with our votes in 2019? Ghetto scene!

  • dami

    Dog eat dog politics…

  • john

    Gwarzo….. Another corrupt child of Jonathan.

    • Realis

      Is that the bane of contention here? Read the story very well before commenting

  • kazeem

    why did it take 10 months for the minister to react to the corruption petition. Why now? Does ithave any thing to do with the planned forensic audit of Onado which to court striked out in favour of the Securities Commision.
    I smell foul