Reps order probe of finance minister, Gwarzo’s controversy

Image result for Director-General, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir GwarzoThe House of Representatives on Tuesday ordered a probe into the suspension of the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Mounir Gwarzo, by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, over alleged financial abuses.

At its plenary in Abuja, the House directed its Committee on Capital Market and other financial Institutions to conduct the investigation within two weeks, particularly the allegation that the suspension was as a result of the refusal of Gwarzo to halt the forensic audit of Oando Plc being carried out by SEC on the instruction of the minister.

The House, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, passed the resolution after a member from Bayelsa State, Mr. Diri Douye, moved a motion to table the suspension for debate.

The resolution also asked all parties to maintain the status quo pending the outcome of the investigation by the House.

Adeosun had last week suspended Gwarzo over allegations that he approved N104m severance package for himself while still in service, among others.

Two other top management officials of SEC were also suspended. They are the Head of the Media Division, Mr. Abdulsalam Naif, and the Head of Legal Department, Anastasia Braimoh.

But, on Tuesday, Douye’s motion indicated that the suspension of Gwarzo was reportedly fuelled by the controversy surrounding the Oando forensic audit.

“The House observes that there are allegations of interference by the Ministry of Finance in the discharge ofthe responsibilities of SEC, particularly the Oando forensic audit matter, which was largely responsible for the DG’s suspension,” the motion read in part.

However, in their contributions to the debate, some members called for investigation into the financial operations of SEC, including the alleged abuses by Gwarzo.

For instance, the Chairman, House Committee on Works, Mr. Toby Okechukwu, warned that the matter, if not diligently handled, could once again lead to a drop in activities in the capital market.

He stated, “The payment of severance allowance of N104m to the DG should be investigated. Also, the circumstances of the internal dispute between the DG and the minister should be probed. This is one way to avoid another collapse of the capital market.

“I wouldn’t know why the minister will not allow SEC to do its job. I wouldn’t know why infractions should be swept under the carpet. Nothing less than a total inquiry into what happened in SEC is what is required and not only why the DG was suspended.”

Meanwhile, SEC said on Tuesday that it would go ahead with the forensic audit of Oando Plc.

The commission said this in a letter dated December 5, 2017 and addressed to the management of Oando Plc.

The suspension of Gwarzo by Adeosun last week had been linked to the forensic audit into the financial affairs of Oando Plc.

While the Finance ministry had claimed that Gwarzo was suspended for financial impropriety, but there had been claims that he was actually suspended for his refusal to call off the forensic audit of the oil marketing firm.

But the commission in a statement on Tuesday said a letter had been written to the management of Oando informing it that the audit would go on as planned.

It said the decision to conduct the audit was in line with its zero tolerance for infractions in the capital market.

The statement read in part, “The Securities and Exchange Commission has reiterated its decision to conduct a forensic exercise into the activities of Oando Plc. This commitment is contained in a letter dated December 5, 2017 addressed to Oando Plc.

“The commission wishes to assure the general public of its zero tolerance for infractions in the Nigerian capital market.”

In a letter signed by the Acting Director-General, SEC, Dr. Abdul Zubair, and addressed to the Group Chief Executive Officer, Oando Plc, Adewale Tinubu, and dated December 5, 2017, the commission stated, “Further to our letter to you dated November 27, 2017 and another letter to your lawyers dated November 28, 2017, wherein the commission had notified Oando Plc of its decision to go ahead with the forensic audit, the commission in the light of recent development(s) wishes to reiterate the following:

  1. That the commission is aware that suit No: FHC/L/CS/1601/17: OANDO PLC V. SEC & ANOR was struck out on November 23, 2017 by his Lordship Hon. Justice Aikawa of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.
  2. That the commission is not aware of the existence of any valid or subsisting order of court restraining the commission from proceeding with the forensic audit.

“While we acknowledge that a Notice of Appeal has been filed to challenge the judgement of the Federal High Court, this notice does not serve as an order of court restraining the commission from conducting the exercise. We wish to restate that our forensic auditors had been directed to commence work since November 27, 2017 and as a result, shall be at your premises on any date from Wednesday, December 6, 2017.”

According to reports, a petition by two of Oando’s shareholders had triggered SEC’s investigation of the oil firm.

The petitioners are Dahiru Mangal and an Italian businessman, Gabriel Volpi.

Both petitioners have filed at least four lawsuits against Oando following a failed business move in which the firm acquired oil infrastructures from ConocoPhillips in Nigeria.

The deal was said to have cost Oando $1.5bn. Volpi reportedly gave Oando the sum of $900m to effect the deal, while Mangal reportedly contributed $250m.

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