Gwarzo and the audacity of corruption
By Yinka Odumankin
ONE takeaway from an interview I had with the Alaafin of Oyo in 2004 was the compelling need to hear both sides in a matter before adjudication. It is called audi alteram partem (or audiatur et altera pars) in our philosophy of Law. It is the principle that no person should be judged without a fair hearing in which each party is given the opportunity to respond to the evidence against them.
Oba Lamidi Adeyemi argued that though this cherished principle was introduced into our legal system by the British, it had been the guiding light in Yoruba jurisprudence ages before the British colonised Nigeria. He cited the thesis of his son at the University of Ibadan Law Faculty on “600 years of Yoruba Jurisprudence” hinged on the concept of the proverb that says only a wicked elder judges a matter after hearing only a side in any dispute.
I was raving mad when I read the memo by the suspended Director-General, DG, of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Mr. Mounir H. Gwarzo that his suspension by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun recently was linked to the forensic audit into the financial affairs of Oando Plc, which SEC under Gwarzo commenced two months ago.
In the letter titled, “Investigation of Oando Plc”, Gwarzo had said: “Pursuant to our meeting on the above subject held on Monday, November 27, 2017, I am compelled to advice you ma, on the implication of the verbal directive issued to me in which you stated that the SEC should discontinue the forensic audit on Oando Plc and hold a tripartite meeting with Legal Officers of the Commission, Oando Plc and the Federal Ministry of Finance, with the purpose of coming up with penalties which would be issued to top officials of Oando Plc in their personal capacity for payment.
“Honourable Minister, it is important to stress that an action such as that proposed above would definitely put to question the independence and integrity of the Commission, while also completely eroding the confidence of both local and international investors in the Nigerian capital market.
“Furthermore, as you may be aware, the activities around the investigation of Oando Plc are being closely monitored by the local and global investment community and they eagerly expect the outcome of the exercise.
“It is therefore not in the best interest of our recovering economy that the forensic audit is not seen to be conducted in an independent and transparent manner proposed by the Commission.”
I was coming to the conclusion that Mrs. Adeosun had forfeited the moral right to hold public office if the allegations were true. But I quickly remembered how the accused Pension thief Abduralman Maina has been parading himself as an anti-corruption czar who is being hunted by corrupt officials .
I had read Maina saying among other things: “This money, I have never seen in cash; I only see in paper. So, how did I come across the money? If there is anybody with proof of how government gave me money or how money entered into my account, let the person show the proof. People are talking on the pages of newspapers. All this is because of the following: My team was asked to go and restructure the Police Pension Office. We went to the Police Pension Office and we found out that they were taking N300 million every morning. I reported to the Minister of Finance and asked her if she approved N24 billion for payment of police pension arrears and she said ‘yes.’. I told her that the money was not being used to pay police pension arrears and that N300 million was removed every morning and these are the people that were removing the money. The matter was referred to the EFCC and ICPC.”
“The second thing was that they were allocating N1.5 billion every month for police pension. We found out that the actual amount was N488 million. That means that they have been stealing N1 billion every month for so long. Definitely, I will have enemies. We had to ask the Minister of Finance to stop these payments.”
“The task force never had or operated any account. It is the people who stole money and that are being prosecuted are the ones who paid money to the media to rubbish my name.”
Sweet sounding words from a man declared wanted for the theft of N195b pension fund and who had said that several new houses seized from him were some inheritance !
That Gwarzo tales may be a rehash of Maina’s was first hinted when the Security Exchange Commission came out in a December 5 Statement that it was committed to the forensic probe of Oando PLC.
Contrary to insinuations that Mr. Gwarzo’s sanctions had anything to do with Oando, Mrs. Adeosun has also explained that the original decision to suspend the shares of the company and conduct a forensic audit was approved by SEC since October 20 and endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
Prior to that decision, she said the SEC management, led by Mr. Gwarzo, had presented adequate evidence that showed that Oando Plc had a case to answer, with regard to infractions of the Investments and Securities Act 1999, ISA.
Insisting Mr. Gwarzo’s suspension had nothing to do with Oando crisis, Mrs. Adeosun said following the query to him on November 3, and his response on November 7, more investigations were carried out to cross check facts he gave, particularly on banks.
Besides, she said when Mr. Gwarzo was confronted with evidence that contradicted his responses in the query, it was evident that an API needed to be conducted to clarify all issues.
However, the minister pointed out that the delay in taking a decision to sanction Mr. Gwarzo was to allow the gathering of adequate evidence, in compliance with Public Service Rule, PSR, on the suspension of a very senior member of the financial regulatory community, “to avoid a possible impact on the market.”
Although she agreed meeting with Mr. Gwarzo on Monday, November 27, the minister said the issues discussed centred on his responses to the query, whose inadequacy made it become clear he would be suspended.
“Yes, there was a meeting on Monday, November 27, with him, along with the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance. But, at that meeting, he was never directed to stop investigations into Oando, never,” the minister said.
“In fact, in October when the original suspension order on Oando took place, a group meeting was held with the leadership of SEC, not just with him, and they presented very clear evidence that Oando had a case to answer. We were satisfied with that. That remains our position,” she added.
When it was evident from that interaction that he was going to be suspended from office, the Minister said Mr. Gwarzo prepared a memo, dated November 28, on the subject of Oando PLC investigation.
She said copies of the memo, which did not bear official receipt stamp of the Minister’s office, was delivered by Mr. Gwarzo in a sealed envelope using some staff of SEC seconded to the Minister’s office, in breach of official mail delivery procedures with a blackmail that it would be leaked to the press if any action was taken against.
Now that we know from SEC and the Minister that the Oando investigation continues,we shall keenly follow the probe to its logical conclusion. And with that straw Gwarzo was hanging onto removed,the suspended SEC DG should now face his investigations while Oando faces its.
Gwarzo has been accused of paying himself N104 million severance package when he was appointed DG SEC from the position of a Director in the same commission. This is in total disregard to the standing rule in the Civil service which states that severance benefit can only be paid to an employee who has concluded his or her service or has completely disengaged from service. Since Gwarzo was promoted within the commission to become a Director-general, the service rule says that he’s not yet entitled to a severance package.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC is also investigating the owners of the nine companies that have been awarded contracts by the SEC under Gwarzo. They include Outbound Investment Limited, Medusa Investments Limited, Northwind Environmental Services, Micro-Technologies Limited, Tida International Limited, Outlook Communications, Acromac Nigeria Limited, Balfort International Investment Limited and Interactiven Worldwide Nigeria Limited. According to the EFCC, Gwarzo, his wife and other cronies allegedly used these companies to carry out illegal transactions.
The way corrupt officials muddle the waters these days baffles!
Re :Gov Shettima,da taushi da laushi
Your “Candid Notes” on the above subject in Vanguard newspaper, and several commentaries, of yours speak to the heart of why Nigeria is on an ignominous roll to avoidable implosion.
Painfully, thespians like Shettima, pretend that all is well, inspite of the visible evidence that we’re courting the kind of poverty that will decimate this country, by refusing to tow the reasonable path of restructuring.
It’s disheartening to see this unwarranted grandstanding by those most afflicted by the structurally induced poverty – who ought to be in the forefront, advocating the best form of government for the people – since the purpose of governance is for the advancement of the overall wellbeing of the people.
I must commend your untiring effort at continously sensitising your audience, and Nigerians at large, on the clear template for national reconstruction, that will bring the desired “unity, peace and progress” for all Nigerians.
I know the task of genuine nation building, that you and other patriotic and visionary Nigerians, have been relentlessly clamouring for, is quite ardous. It’s my belief that the effort ushers real national development in our lifetime; inspite of the deliberate shenanigans of spoilers, who revel in the current unsustainable and debilitating status quo.
With kind personal regards,
Barrister Norbert Esenwah
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