Court acquits, discharges suspended SEC DG, Gwarzo

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

A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court on Tuesday discharged the suspended Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir Gwarzo, of the charge of fraud filed against him.

Mr Gwarzo’s co-defendant, Zakwanu Garba, who was the Executive Commissioner of the commission, was also discharged and acquitted.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had arraigned the two officials before Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf on a five-count charge bordering on fraud.

The former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, suspended Messrs Gwarzo and Garba from their positions in November 2017 over allegations of corruption.

The minister then set up a panel to investigate the alleged issues, after which the ICPC arraigned them in court.

Delivering judgment on the case on Tuesday, the judge, Mr Baba-Yusuf, held that the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused persons committed the offence for which they were charged.

The judge said by its own admission, the prosecution through its witnesses and evidence confirmed that the action of the defendant was by a decision of the governing board of SEC, which is the highest decision-making body of the commission.

Ruling on the first count of a five charge of use of office for personal enrichment against Mr Gwarzo, the judge said the ICPC did not prove its allegation.

He held that while the first prosecution did not implicate the first defendant in her testimony, the remaining witnesses who are operatives of the ICPC contradicted themselves.

“Furthermore, exhibit 19, which is a memo from the governing board of SEC, has clearly demonstrated that the decisions of the board of SEC as the highest decision and policy-making body of commission is legal.

“As a result of this, the first defendant is acquitted on the first charge,” the judge ruled.

The judge also absolved Mr Gwarzo of the allegations that he used his official position to corruptly enrich himself by using the monies paid to him as car grant as the DG of SEC.

Mr Baba-Yusuf held that: “The burden of proof was on the prosecution but through its own exhibit, which includes a board resolution which approved the car benefit for an executive director who had spent more than two years in office, the charge against Mister Gwarzo has not been established,” he said.

He said the fourth witness under cross-examination agreed that the board resolution was lawful and that the car grant was non-refundable.

Mr Baba-Yusuf held that the testimony of Prosecution Witness Two clearly showed that the first defendant had no role in deciding what he was entitled to and as such could not have used his office to enrich himself.

The judge, however, concluded that the evidence as a whole cannot be used by any court or tribunal to convict him.

He, therefore, discharged and acquitted him.

The court in the fourth count also discharged Mr Garba on the grounds that the evidence that he aided the suspended director-general of SEC to use his office to corruptly enrich himself was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judge then held that no prima facie case was established against Mr Garba who acted based on a decision of the governing board of SEC, which is the highest decision-making body of SEC.

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