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Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance, has suspended Mounir Gwarzo, Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), over N104 million severance package.

The minister made this known on Wednesday in Abuja.

She said it was “to allow for an unhindered investigation of several allegations of financial impropriety levelled against the director-general.”

Adeosun said the suspension was in line with the Public Service Rules (PSRs) 03405 and 03406.

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An administrative panel of inquiry (API) to investigate and determine the culpability of the director-general was set up.

The suspended SEC director-general was directed to immediately hand over to the most senior officer at the commission pending the conclusion of an investigation by the API.

Also suspended were two management staff of the commission, Abdulsalam Naif Habu, Head of Media Division, and Anastasia Omozele Braimoh, Head of Legal Department, who had been alleged to have engaged in financial impropriety in the commission.

Gwarzo was SEC executive commissioner when former President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him to lead the commission on May 22, 2015.

On assuming office as DG, he allegedly paid himself a hefty package as entitlement for being an executive commissioner for two and a half years.

The latest suspension followed a petition to the House of Representatives in which Gwarzo was alleged to have received over N104 million as benefits for his former position.

“On assumption of office as the DG of the Commission, Mr. Gwarzo immediately requested that the sum of N104, 851,154.94 be paid to him as severance package for the cessation of his appointment as executive commissioner of the commission,” the petition reads.

It continued: “The requested severance package in the sum of N104,851,154.94 was paid by the commission into Mr. Gwarzo’s bank account, held with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, with account number 0023868895.

“Mr. Gwarzo received the above stated payment of a severance package in total disregard of the opinion of Mr. Frana Chukwuogo, the Acting Head of the Commission’s Legal Department, who clearly stated, in accordance with best practices, that a severance payment can only be paid to an employee of the commission who has concluded his or her service and has completely disengaged from the commission and not to an employee who has been promoted within the commission and has not severed his employment with the commission.”

The petition also stated that the SEC DG had been awarding contracts to his family members and friends in violation of the rules guiding the commission.

It said Gwarzo, his family members, and certain directors of the commission, were shareholders and directors in companies “used to carry out the alleged illegal transactions”.

Details of the “illegality” were stated, with at least four different accounts said to be traced to him.

Regarding this, the petition stated: “Mr. Gwarzo and two of his relatives are Directors of Outbound Investment Ltd. (the Company). Since Mr. Gwarzo assumed office as DG of the commission, the company has been the sole supplier of diesel to the commission.

“The company has also supplied air conditioners to the Lagos zonal office of the commission, as well as supplied fridges to the commission.

“Payments made by the commission to the company for contracts executed can be verified from the company’s bank account held with United Bank for Africa Plc, with account number 1016723428.

“In addition, the company has executed more contracts for the commission which are not listed in Appendix B1; however, these contracts can be verified from the commission’s accounting records.

“Mr. Gwarzo even as the DG of the commission is a Director of Medusa Investments Limited (the company). The only other director of the company is Khadija Mustapher, who is also the wife of the DG of the commission.

“The company has actively been used by Mr. Gwarzo, as a shell to carry out alleged illegal transactions as is verifiable from the frequent transactions carried out through the company’s bank account held with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, with Account Number 0023953920. Mr. Gwarzo is a signatory to the said company account.

“Mr. Haris Haliru Gwarzo, the younger brother of the DG, is said to be the sole proprietor of Northwind Environmental Services (the company).

“The company has been engaged by the commission to clean the commission’s Kano Zonal Office, since the inception of Mr. Gwarzo’s tenure as the DG of SEC.”

“Payments made by the commission to the company, for contracts executed, can be verified from the company’s bank account with Diamond Bank Plc, with Account Number 0095179297.”

SOURCE: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER

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