The Federal Government on Wednesday suspended the Director-General of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir Gwarzo, and two other top officers of the commission over alleged financial impropriety and abuse of office.
The two others are the head of media division, Abdulsalam Naif Habu, and the head of legal department, Mrs. Anastasia Omozele Braimoh.
Gwarzo was alleged to have paid himself a N104m severance package.
Other allegations were: “He is a director in Medusa Investment Limited, in violation of Public Services Rules (PRS) 030424. He awarded contracts to the same company and other companies to which he is related, thus resulting in a conflict of interest.”
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said his suspension would pave the way for unhindered investigation and was also in line with PSR 03405 and 03406, adding that a panel to determine his culpability had been set up.
Gwarzo has been directed to immediately hand over to the most senior officer at the commission, pending the conclusion of investigation.
Reacting to the development, the president of Constance Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Shehu Mallam Mikail, urged government to involve the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the investigation.
He said: “If government wants to fight corruption in the capital market, they must involve the services of the EFCC in order to ascertain the true state of the matter.
“If he is found guilty, he must be brought to book. Many things are actually going on in the commission because the reference made on the account number and the company is proof that there is more to it.
“This will not affect the capital market. Instead, it will instil confidence in the minds of investors that government is sincere and transparent, and is ready to flush out bad eggs in the market. It will serve as deterrent to whoever takes over.”
The president, Standard Association of Nigeria, Godwin Anono, said: “It is an issue of complete fraud. It is worsening on daily basis in the capital market. He has been indicted and the law should take its course.
“When people that are supposed to show good examples to others are treading this direction, then there is a problem. See what the regulators are perpetrating. Investors have lost a lot of money in the market. And what can we do? That is why nobody wants to go back to the market. People are not buying shares again. It is quite unfortunate.”
The national coordinator, Progressive Shareholders Association, Boniface Okezie, was however cautious. He said: “I do not know why he was suspended over mere allegations. Government interventions are not healthy for the market. They should have investigated the matter before making the pronouncement.
“I hope there is no political undertone in this hasty suspension. EFCC is there and other agencies of government are there to take up the matter, instead of making pronouncement that could trigger panic in the market. Let thorough investigations be carried out. And if he is found guilty, government can then suspend and retire him.”
The House of Representatives committee on capital market recently commenced deliberation on investigating the SEC boss.
The chairman of the committee, Tajudeen Yusuf, told journalists at a press briefing that there was need to investigate allegations including the award of contracts to companies owned by his relations.
Yusuf said that while the committee was yet to receive a petition against Gwarzo for paying himself, it would act based on media reports.
“I have not received the said petition on the matter. But I, like other Nigerians, have noticed that these issues have been in the media. As representatives of the people, whose responsibility is first and foremost to ensure investors’ confidence and trust in the capital market, of which SEC is the regulator, we will seek to know the fact of the matter,” he said.
On the specific steps the committee would take, the lawmaker said: “Yes, we can invite the director general. We can write him to appear before us. But first, I want us to meet as a committee.”
The media last month had reported that Gwarzo allegedly got a severance package of N104 million, shortly after he was named director general.