Court clears, suspended SEC DG, Gwarzo over fraud allegation

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…resigns to save your integrity – Stakeholders

By Kayode Tokede

The suspended Director-General, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mr.  Mounir Gwarzo was on Tuesday cleared by a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High over fraud filed against him.

The suspended DG’s co-defendant, Mr.  Zakwanu Garba, who was the Executive Commissioner of SEC, was also acquitted.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) had investigated and charged the suspended DG of SEC over N104 million severance package he got in June 2015. Apart from the severance package, the ICPC also flagged another N10million that he took as excess car grant paid to him.

The ICPC had arraigned the two officials before Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf on a five-count charge bordering on fraud.

Delivering judgment on the case, 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.

Meanwhile, capital market stakeholders query the judge decision on governing board of SEC.

A stakeholder who does not want his name in print said, the commission does not have a governing body under Gwarzo, stressing that federal Ministry of Finance during the regime of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012 appointed board for SEC.

Speaking to Nigerian NewsDirect, the President, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria (PSAN), Mr. Boniface Okezie, said, “if the court has declared him not guilty, then who am I to query the judgment.

“For me the court is the final abrasion to the charge if they found in their own wisdom that they have committed a crime. For me, I congratulate him for that, which means he has not been found wanting. Then, is SEC appealing the ruling, if they are not appealing the ruling, then the man should be discharged.”

He said the court ruling would not affect the capital market, maintaining that federal government needs to act by letting him resign and appoint a new DG.

“Well, having stayed for almost a year out of the service, government can do the appropriate to recall him and retire him with all his benefits given to him. But, if recalled to continue, that could affect the market negatively. It is high time to look and appoint a new DG and the board to tackle issues in the capital market,” he explained.

Speaking also, the Managing Director, Enterprises Stockers Limited, Mr. Rotimi Fakayejo, said “There will not be any effect on the capital market except if there was a judgment compel in extension that he should be reinstated. Well, ICPC judgment in the court does not tally with the reinstatement.

“If reinstated, it will of course affect the capital market because it was assumed that he was creating impact in the movement of the capital market. If it was proved that he did no wrong, definitely, it will affect the capital market positively.

“So, until he goes to court and seek reinstatement, it will not happen.”

However, Ruling on the first count of a five charge of use of office for personal enrichment against 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 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.

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.

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.

The court in the fourth count also discharged 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 Garba who acted based on a decision of the governing board of SEC, which is the highest decision.

The former Minister of finance at a press briefing on December 8th, 2017 stated that Gwarzo suspension followed proven cases of financial misconduct, Unlawful carting away of sensitive documents, in addition to unsatisfactory response to queries served him.

At a public hearing held on January 30th 2018 organised by the House of Representatives Committee on the Capital Market and Institutions headed by Hon. Tajuddeen Yusuf, the suspended SEC DG stated that the minister of finance Mrs. Kemi Adeosun suspended him because of his refusal to compile with her directive to stop the forensic audit of Oando.

SEC received a petition from Ansbury Investment Inc an indirect shareholder of Oando and another petition from another shareholder of Oando Plc Alhaji Dahiru Mangal, all dated May 2 and May 4 2017 alleging the Management of Oando of financial fraud and corporate governance breaches.

SEC reviewed the petitions and constituted a technical committee to examine the conflicts which reveals many infractions that includes Insider dealings on the sale of 1.21billion shares amounting to N21.5billion and Related party transaction in which Oando paid over N200billion.

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.

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