BY CHIKWELU CHUKWUJINDUM
There is no doubt that one of the biggest drawbacks to national development particularly in African countries south of the Sahara is the reckless and bare-faced conversion of public funds and property to personal use by public officials.
In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nations, the challenge of rising to its full potential has been checkmated over the years by mounting corruption and mindless theft of public funds by elected and unelected public officials charged with the responsibility of providing social amenities and infrastructure. In the last few years there has been unremitting corruption in the public space fuelled in the main by the laissez fare attitude of senior government officials who should check and sanction such unwholesome practice.
Admittedly, we have witnessed in the last two years a scaling down of the tendency by public officials to pilfer public funds. Still the unwholesome practice persists. The latest case in the public domain is the allegation against Mounir Gwarzo, Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Gwarzo was suspended last week by Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance on charges of financial and other impropriety.
The allegations against Gwarzo are weighty and are such that cannot and should not be swept under the carpet. Essentially, the suspended SEC boss has been accused in a petition sent to the EFCC and the House of Representatives, of paying himself a princely sum of N104 million upon resumption of duty as Director General. He claimed the money was his severance package as Executive Commissioner, which was his position in the commission before he was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan to head SEC in 2015.
Other allegations against Gwarzo as contained in the petition include:
“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 Director General 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.”
The allegations are weighty indeed and Nigerians must commend the Finance Minister for having the courage to suspend Gwarzo to allow for proper investigation into the charges against him.
However, rather than respond to the allegations against him, the suspended SEC DG has been employing diversionary tactics to avoid responding to rather weighty accusations against him. He has done this by trying to impugn the integrity of Mrs. Adeosun by insinuating that the Finance Minister suspended him because he refused a verbal order by her to discontinue a forensic audit of Oando Nigeria Plc for grossly violating SEC regulations. According to Gwarzo, SEC under his watch had been investigating Oando for acts of financial impropriety and that it would be counterproductive to discontinue with the investigation.
The discontinuance of the Oando audit had been Gwarzo’s excuse and sympathy-eliciting strategy but that no longer exists as SEC under the new Acting DG said on Tuesday that it was going ahead with the audit. It is a welcome development and should pave the way for thorough examination of the weighty charges against Gwarzo. For Gwarzo himself, this is an opportunity for him to clear his name. It is an opportunity for him to prove that his stewardship as SEC DG was not an avenue for corruptly enriching himself and his family members and friends.
Thankfully, in addition to the ongoing investigation into the matter by the Economic and Financial Crimes commission (EFCC), the House of Representatives has waded into the matter and at the end of the public inquiry, the truth, unvarnished, will reign supreme.
Chukwujindum, a stockbroker sent in this piece from Lagos