It is no longer news that following last week suspension of Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Mounir H. Gwarzo by the Honourable Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, the Director in charge relations in the Commission, Dr. Abdul Zubair has been appointed to serve as the Acting Director General of the organization. As concerned social conscience, it is our duties to alert the general public, the government and relevant bodies on some germane issues particularly observed booby traps that the agency must avoid at all cost. More importantly, it is our strong contention that we must remain eternally vigilant and be pro-active watchdog of the Commission.
It is rather ironic, that global and national financial institutions world-wide are naturally supposed to be garbed in plain clothed linen of trust, integrity, openness and transparency as keepers of peoples and society funds and other treasured properties, but in Nigeria, the opposite seems to always be the case. Going a brief steps down the memory lane, the immediate past experience of the country in the management of securities is riddled with instances of scandalous abuse of office and subversion of due processes. It would be recalled that erstwhile Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ms. Arumah Oteh on assumption of office in 2010 has to wade into the crises of confidence and allegations of sharp practices against the Director General of Nigeria Stocks Exchange (NSE), Lagos, Dr. Ndidi Okereke-Onyuike and very damnable indictments by the business mogul, Aliko Dangote, who was then the President of the NSE. Both Okereke-Onyuike and Dangote were relieved of their posts.
At inception, Arumah asserted that her tenure would entrenched reforms in SEC which would be anchored on five pillars which are integrity, restoration of confidence in the market; building institutional capacity; broadening and deepening the market; as well as instituting transparent regulations. As laudable as these ambitions were and are still valid till today, her tenure was marred with various kinds of allegations and clamour for her removal. She was accused of spending N42Million on hotel accommodation, she had issues of financial inappropriateness in the failed banks deals with AMCON, members of her Management Committee distanced themselves from some of her contentious positions and had running battles with the National Assembly and employees of the Commission. At a point during investigation by the National Assembly, she was suspended and the legislators found her guilty, recommending her prosecution but rather the Government of President Jonathan reinstated her to her position. The lesson from this short historical excursion is that in Nigeria, anything can happen. Thus, it would be condemnable but the ruling elite would only be acting to type if in the not too distant time, Gwarzo is reinstated as the Director General of SEC. This would not only be tragic but set back the hands of anti-corruption clock of this administration back to yesterday.
It would be recalled that Mr. Mounir Gwarzo was suspended because of strife petitions and allegations against him of awarding a severance package of N104.85Million to himself as severance pay while still serving in office, insider abuse, and infractions of the Public Service Rules 0305 and 0306 to have used nine firms to siphon funds from the Commission. Some of these companies were owned by himself and wife. We are proud to be part of the veritable civil watchdogs that blow the whistle against the sleaze in the SEC. Subsequently, the Minister of Finance suddenly woke up from slumber to set suspend Gwarzo and set up an administrative panel of inquiries. It is our great expectations that this should not be a grand ruse to cover up bigger scandals because the same ministry has a seat in the Board of the Commission that approved the illogical severance pay for Gwarzo. More-importantly, there are fears that his removal may be a smokescreen to divert attention from a panel set up by the Commission to look into allegation of misconduct and abuse of share-holders confidence by Oando Petroleum.
We are most disturbed about all these developments, knowing the crucial roles of the Commission as the Regulators’ Regulator and the pivotal imperatives of a vibrant financial securities system to an ailing, depressed neo-liberal economy like ours. The ripples of what is consciously done without appropriate timing or transparency, or even what is left undone would have fatal consequences on Nigerians and the society at large. For instance, the nations’ role in the Africa-Middle East Region of International Organisation of Securities Commissions may be heavily compromised.
We welcome the effort of the National Assembly that has set up a body to investigate all the allegations leveled against the suspended SEC DG. We equally urge that pertinent oversight platforms over the Commission including the National Assembly and the Presidency to expedite actions on the report of the administrative panel of enquiry, ensure that it follows the stipulation of extant laws like the Investment and Security Act which set up the Commission without compromising the operational independence, professionalism, functionalism of the Commission as catalyst for economic stability and growth.
Let us not forget that Gwarzo was suspended along with two others directors; the Head of Media, Abdusalam Naif Habu and the Head of Legal, Anastasia Braimoh, all of them along with any other collaborators must be brought to the long arm of the law. There must be no sacred cows, there must be thorough cleansing of the Augean stable.
Executive Chairman, CACOL