Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun has denied that she ordered suspended Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to discontinue with the probe of oil firm, Oando Plc for violating redulations of SEC.
The Minister made this clarification in a statement on Friday issued by Oluyinka Akintunde, her Special Adviser on Media and communications.
The statement is coming in the wake of insinuations fuelled by Gwarzo that he was suspending for refusing to act on the Finance Minister’s verbal order that he should discontinue with investigations into infraction of SEC regulations by Oando. The Minister said she would ordinarily not have respondded to such insinuations in view of her responsibility for the approval of the Constitution and Terms of Reference for the Administrative Panel of Inquiry into the allegations against Mr. Gwarzo. She noted however, that given the degree of speculations and the potential impact on the capital market, there was need to set the record straight.
“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,” the minister said.
She said the integrity of the capital market being vital to the growth of the Nigerian economy, must be managed in an orderly and transparent manner to ensure investors’ confidence. She said the leadership of SEC must maintain and be seen to maintain the highest standards of integrity.
The minister said 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. She said the SEC team, led by Gwarzor presented adequate evidence to the minister and her team and that it was evident 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,” Adeosun said.
The Finance Minister noted that the insinuation of an instruction to discontinue with the Oando case is false and that this can be corroborated by the other parties at that meeting and by subsequent events.
Shedding light on what actually transpired in the days leading to Gwarzo’s suspension, the Finance minister said Gwarzo was queried by the Ministry on 3rd November and he responded on 7th November, 2017. She said his response was not satisfactory and as such further investigation was ordered.
“Based on the evidence from that further work and creditable reports that documents were being unlawfully removed from SEC, as well as consultations with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the decision was taken to suspend Mr. Gwarzo,” the minister said.
She added that at the meeting of Monday, 27th November 27, Gwarzo was asked to clarify some of his responses to the query issued, which were not consistent with documentary evidence. She said that from that interaction, the suspended SEC DG became aware of the strong likelihood of his suspension and that it was after that meeting that Gwarzo prepared the memo, which has been circulated in the media.
“It is instructive to note that Mr. Gwarzo 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 the possession of the Minister was delivered with a message that any action against Mr. Gwarzo would result in same being leaked to the press. It was this threat of blackmail that strengthened the resolve of the Minister to suspend Mr. Gwarzo and allow the Administrative Panel of Inquiry to proceed with its probe,” she said.
The minister noted that regardless of insinuations, Gwarzo’s suspension followed due process and was in line with Public Service Rules (PSRs). She said the SEC boss was suspended to allow for unhindered investigation of serious allegations of financial impropriety against him noting that some of the allegations with documented evidence included the awards of contracts to companies related to him and members of his family.