The National Industrial Court, Abuja, yesterday ordered the immediate reinstatement of Mounir Gwarzo, the suspended Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to his position.
Justice Sanusi Kado, in his judgment, held that the Minister of Finance, named as the second defendant in the suit, lacked the power to suspend the claimant.
Kado, who dismissed three issues raised by defence counsel through their preliminary objection, ruled that the suit was not status barred.
He held that since there was a cause of action in the claimant’s suit, he (the claimant) had the right to commence the suit by way of originating summon while adding that the issue in dispute was not about the position of the claimant as the DG of the Commission, but that the bone of contention was who had the power to suspend him.
Furthermore, the judge held that the second defendant (Minister of Finance) did not have the power to suspend the claimant since he was not an employee of the Commission.
He said that the minister, in the absence of the board, only had supervisory power, which does not include disciplinary power to suspend the DG.
Kado held that it was only the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, on the directive of the president, who had the power of suspension, adding that the Administrative Panel of Inquiry that indicted the claimant was not a court of law; neither was it a quasi-judicial body, but just a body set up for a fact-finding duty. He therefore declared that the suspension of the claimant was null, void and of no effect.
The judge then ordered the reinstatement of the claimant as the DG of SEC to complete his five-year tenure and further ordered that the claimant’s salaries, allowances and entitlements accrued should be paid to him in full.
Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, had on November 29, 2017, suspended Mr Gwarzo and set up an administrative panel of inquiry to investigate allegations of financial impropriety levelled against him.
Gwarzo was accused of collecting a severance package worth N104.85 million while still in service in violation of the civil service rules leading to his suspension from office to allow for an unhindered investigation.
However, Gwarzo, in June 2018 approached the court to challenge his suspension and sought for various reliefs from the defendant amongst which was an order of the court reinstating him as the Director General of the Commission. He also sought for an order of the court for the payment of all his entitlements, emoluments, allowances and other perquisites of the office of DG of SEC for the entire period he was under suspension.
Speaking to newsmen on telephone, some market stakeholders expressed the view that the matter should be reviewed once again while adding that in accordance with the ruling, Gwarzo should be reinstated.
They however said, the ruling could have a negative effect on the capital market as investors are watching.
National President, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, (PSAN), Boniface Okezie said, “The court that ruled is a government agency under the arm of the law and if they have ruled so that Gwarzo did not commit the crime, he was accused of, then he should be reinstated. This is because it is the government that can appeal the ruling and if they cannot appeal the ruling, then Gwarzo should be reinstated.
This will happen if the current management at SEC chooses to appeal the ruling which I do not even see happening because almost all of them are acting appointees and unfortunately SEC do not have a constituted board so automatically the man should come back because the country in which we are running now is a country of laws meant for some particular people or tribe, that is the truth”.
A market analyst who pleaded anyonymity said, the ruling should be carefully reviewed again for the sake of the market.
According to him, “this ruling just showed that everything is wrong with the Nigerian political and judicial system, when someone was alleged to have paid himself a severance package and you say he has to be reinstated, then there is no confidence in this system anymore”