How N1.7bn severance package to ex-SEC workers nailed Gwarzo—Report

Mounir-Gwarzo

There were indications on Thursday that the suspended Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mounir Gwarzo, was recommended for dismissal for reasons including payment of N1.7bn as severance package to 44 members of staff of the commission without approval from the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun.

In  a report of the Administrative Panel of Inquiry, it was stated that the payment of the N1.7bn to the 44 members of staff of the commission as severance package was never provided for in the commission’s budget for 2015.

But Gwarzo was said to have in 2015 introduced a voluntary exit scheme for members of staff willing to quit the service of SEC.

The scheme christened, “Golden Handshake,” was designed to ease out members of staff voluntarily with attractive packages as benefits.

A top government official privy to the content of the report of the administrative panel told our correspondent, “In 2015, he single-handedly without a budgetary provision paid N1.7bn to a set of staff under a golden handshake.

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“By law, the DG of SEC is required to seek the approval of the Minister of Finance, even if there is a board in place.

“They should have sought the approval of the minister, who, in turn will present it to the President and the request is sent to the National Assembly.

“But the suspended SEC DG went outside budgetary provision to effect the payment.”

Contrary to the claim by Gwarzo that he had resigned from the board of Outbound Investment and Medusa Investment Limited, a copy of the resolution reached by the board of Medusa dated August 15, 2016, showed that he was still a director of the company.

Gwarzo’s personal interest in the companies, according to the report, is a clear contravention of the regulation, which explicitly prohibits public officers from being in situations that bring their personal interests into conflict with their public duties.

Gwarzo had tendered a letter of resignation as a director of Medusa Investments Limited on December 19, 2012, to the API while appearing before members of the committee in January 2018.

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The panel in its report, however, said the actions taken by the former SEC boss in 2015 and 2016 negated his letter of resignation as a director in Medusa.

For instance, it was stated that based on bank documents, Gwarzo had written a Wuse branch of a bank in Abuja on July 24, 2015, requesting for a change of account officer.

His letter to the bank, according to documents made available to our correspondent, was signed in his name as a director of Medusa Investments Limited.

The API had in its report recommended the sacking of the embattled DG from the public service.

A final decision on the report is being awaited from the Federal Government.

When contacted by our correspondent, Gwarzo said in a text message that the claim that he paid the sum of N1.7bn severance package to staff members without approval was untrue.

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He stated, “It’s not true; please discuss with the Board Secretary of the commission and they will show you the board approval.

“We have also provided explanations to both the ICPC and EFCC and got clearance on the issue signed by the former Chairman of ICPC.

“And let’s also state that at that time we had a board thus, we did not require the approval of the minster and the board approved (it).”