BY BAYO AMODU, Abuja
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has said she will never succumb to blackmail by some vested interests over her recent suspension of the embattled director-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mr. Mounir Gwarzo.
Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja yesterday, Adeosun, who did not disclose the vested interests she claimed were blackmailing her, described Gwarzo’s claims that his suspension was due to his refusal to stop the forensic audit of Oando Plc as baseless because she approved the audit of Oando.
The minister also said the federal government had not ordered a halt to the investigation of Oando after Gwazo’s suspension, adding that the point was also made clear to the new SEC leadership that the audit must continue. She wondered why some interests were trying to hang Gwarzo’s suspension on her opposition to the same audit which she approved.
“This can be corroborated by the other parties at that meeting and by subsequent events. Gwarzo was queried on the 3rd of November, 2017 and he responded on the 7th. And based on that response, I asked for more investigations to be done because he gave some responses to some issues that were unsatisfactory. So we asked for further investigation to get certain facts from the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, and some banks based on the evidence.
“It became clear that we would need to conduct an API and therefore the laws of the Public Service say he has to be suspended. Now his responses to the query of November 3 were raised with him on Monday where he was asked to clarify matters. He was reminded that he said this, but we have evidence to another effect and it became very clear from the inadequacies of his response that he would be suspended,” the minister stated.
On the Oando issue, Adeosun said: “He was never directed to stop his investigation into Oando. In fact as I have said earlier in my statement, in October when the original suspension of Oando took place, we had a group meeting with the leadership of the SEC, not just Mr. Gwarzo but all of his team, and they presented very clear evidence that Oando had a case to answer, and we were satisfied with that and we made our position clear.”
She also said that Gwarzo’s removal was based on the fact that “the integrity of the capital market is vital to the growth of the Nigerian economy and must be managed in an orderly and transparent manner to ensure investors’ confidence. Its leadership must maintain and be seen to maintain the highest standards of integrity.”
“The original decision taken by SEC on October 20, 2017 to suspend the shares of Oando Plc and conduct a forensic audit was approved and endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Finance. The SEC team, led by Mr. Gwarzo, presented adequate evidence to the Minister of Finance and her team, that Oando Plc had a clear case to answer with regard to infractions of the ISA.
“No contrary evidence has been presented and, thus, the investigative work on Oando and all other ongoing investigations being undertaken by SEC in the discharge of its statutory functions have continued. Indeed, our information is that the forensic auditors have resumed at Oando.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there was no directive whatsoever to discontinue investigation into Oando and this was reiterated to the current SEC leadership at the formal handover meeting. The fact that the investigation has continued further corroborates that this is the minister’s position.”
Gwarzo, according to the minister, “personally delivered the memo using SEC staff seconded to the office of the minister, in breach of normal procedures for the receipt of mail.
“The copy of the memo in my possession was delivered with a message that any action against Mr. Gwarzo would result in same being leaked to the press.
“Gwarzo’s suspension is in line with the Public Service Rules (PSRs), to allow for an unhindered investigation of serious allegations of financial impropriety against him. Some of the allegations with documented evidence include the awards of contracts to companies related to him and members of his family,” she said.