By; Bassey Udo
Details emerged late on Friday night why the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, wielded the big stick and removed the acting Director General, Abdul Zubair, and other top officials of the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) from their positions.
On Friday, Mary Uduk was appointed as the new acting director general of the Commission, to replace Mr Zubair who was moved to the External Relations Department.
A statement by the Minister’s spokesperson, Oluyinka Akintunde, named other top officials redeployed to include Reginald Karawusa as acting Executive Commissioner, Legal & Enforcement.
Others were Isiyaku Tilde as acting Executive Commissioner, Operations, and Henry Adekunle as acting Executive Commissioner, Corporate Services.
A reliable source close to the capital market regulator told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday the development was informed by the confusion that followed last Wednesday’s sudden decision to lift the technical suspension on trading on Oando PLC shares.
The shares of the company were placed on technical suspension in October 23, 2017 following the announcement of a forensic audit in the wake of alleged massive “manipulation of the company’s shareholding structure.”
The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) said the directive to lift the suspension Thursday and resume trading on the shares of the embattled oil and gas company came from SEC vide a letter dated April 9.
Hours after the initial announcement of the lifting of the suspension made the rounds, a counter order for its reversal followed. That, too was reversed again prior to a final order late in the evening of the same day.
The source who requested that his name should not be disclosed as he was not authorised to speak officially on the issue said the confusion had seriously embarrassed government .
SEC rallied late Wednesday night to offer an explanation, and also apologise for the confusion that ensued.
The Commission explained the decision to lift the suspension on the company’s shares was in accordance with normal practice to protect investors’ interests as a short term measure.
“Suspensions (of shares of companies) are typically intended for a short period to ensure market stability and thereafter lifted to allow market dictates,” the statement said.
The suspension of the shares of Oando PLC, SEC pointed out, was however prolonged beyond the normal period due to several litigations by the company and some shareholders contesting the propriety of the forensic audit and technical suspension ordered by SEC.
But, the explanation and apology appeared a have come a little too late to avert the serious sanctions that awaited the erring officials.
The source said Mrs Adeosun queried the Abdul Zubair-led management of SEC demanding explanation for the flip-flop.
The source told PREMIUM TIMES Mr Zubair in his reply denied any knowledge about the directive to the NSE DG to lift the suspension on Oando shares without official clearance and authorisation.
He however blamed an unnamed deputy director at the Commission for issuing the directive to the NSE DG without his authorisation as the chief executive of SEC.
Not convinced by the then acting DG’s response to the query, the minister was said to have directed that he be redeployed as the head of the External Relations Department of the Commission to save the government further embarrassment.
“It was becoming obvious government was fast losing trust and confidence in the officials. The decision to shuffle the management of the commission appears to have confirmed fears in government circles that the top hierarchy of SEC may have been infiltrated by forces sympathetic to Oando who are not happy about the ongoing forensic audit of the company,” the source said.
Besides, the re-shuffle appears to have put paid to the alarm raised by organised labour last week about plans by the federal government to reinstate the suspended Director General of the Commission, Mounir Gwarzo.
Several media reports had carried the statement by the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) warning against any attempt to reinstate Mr Gwarzo who was suspended last year following alleged corruption and abuse of office.
The ASCSN State Secretary in charge of the Federal Capital Territory, Isaac Ojemhenke, said indications were that President Muhammadu Buhari was pressured by some forces in his inner cabinet to reinstate the embattled former SEC DG.