FG suspends SEC chief, Gwarzo, others for financial misconduct

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The Federal Government has suspended the Director-General, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir Gwarzo and two others from office to allow for an unhindered investigation of several allegations of financial impropriety levelled against him.

The suspension was handed down to him yesterday by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, through a statement by the ministry. The statement signed by Deputy Director, Press, Federal Ministry of Finance, Patricia Deworitshe, said the suspension is in line with the Public Service Rules (PSRs) 03405 and 03406.

The Minister has set up an Administrative Panel of Inquiry to investigate and determine the culpability of the Director-General. Gwarzo was directed to hand over immediately to the most senior officer at the commission in line with civil service rules, pending the conclusion of the investigation.pending the conclusion of the investigation.

The statement, however, did not specify the nature of the financial misconduct or the focus of the investigation.

A government source told Reuters that Gwarzo was being investigated for alleged conflicts of interest and contract awards to private companies related to him.Gwarzo is alleged to have collected severance package of N104,851,154.94 naira about $332,857.14while still in service.He is also alleged to be a Director in Medusa Investment Limited, in violation of Public Service Rules (PRS) 030424 and awarded contracts to the same company and others to which he is related, thus resulting in a conflict of interest.

Gwarzo was suspended alongside the commission’s Head of Media Division, Mr. AbdulsalamNaifHabu, and Head of Legal Department, Mrs. Anastasia OmozeleBraimoh, who have been alleged to engage in financial impropriety in the Commission.AbdulsalamNaif was not immediately available for comment and SEC declined to comment.

According to Reuters, Nigeria’s stock market has soared almost 40 percent this year under Gwarzo’s leadership, reversing losses recorded last year after the central bank relaxed currency rules, allowing foreign investors to trade the naira at market rates.

Gwarzo, a veteran SEC staff member, has also proposed cutting fees on the market to boost activity. But the suspension may damage foreign investor confidence in a market that has seen no initial public offerings in more than a decade.

The finance ministry move comes a month after Gwarzo said the SEC would open an investigation into the shareholding structure of oil giant Oando Plc and froze trading of the company’s shares.

Oando, which bought ConocoPhillips’ Nigerian business for $1.65 billion in 2014, had gone to court to challenge the suspension of its shares by the SEC.

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