SEC boss, Gwarzo, in N104m severance package controversy

Mounir Gwarzo, director-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), allegedly got a severance package of N104 million from the Commission shortly after he assumed office in 2015.
 
However, the spokesman of the Commission, Naif Habu Abdulssalam, said ‘the Commission follows laid down rules and regulations in all its activities’.
 
Recall that Gwarzo was SEC Executive Commissioner when former President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him to lead the Commission on May 22, 2015.
 
On assuming office as DG, he allegedly paid himself the hefty package as entitlement for being an Executive Commissioner for two and a half years.
 
In a petition to the House of Representatives seen by an online media, Gwarzo was said to have demanded a severance package entitled to a commissioner immediately he assumed office.
 
Despite opposition mounted by the acting head of SEC’s Legal Department, Frana Chuwuogo, Gwarzo allegedly received over N104 million as benefits for his former position.
 
A document on one of the petitions states:
 
“On assumption of office as the DG of the Commission, Mr. Gwarzo immediately requested that the sum of N104,851,154.94 (One Hundred and Four Million, Eight Hundred and Fifty-One Thousand, One Hundred and Fifty-Four Naira and Ninety-Four Kobo), be paid to him as severance package for the cessation of his appointment as Executive Commissioner of the Commission,” the petition read.
 
“The requested severance package in the sum of N104,851,154.94 (One Hundred and Four Million, Eight Hundred and Fifty-One Thousand, One Hundred and Fifty-Four Naira and Ninety-Four Kobo), was paid by the Commission into Mr. Gwarzo’s bank account, held with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, with account number 0023868895.
“Mr. Gwarzo received the above stated payment of a severance package in total disregard of the opinion of Mr. Frana Chukwuogo, the Acting Head of the Commission’s Legal Department, who clearly stated, in accordance with best practices, that a severance payment can only be paid to an employee of the Commission who has concluded his or her service and has completely disengaged from the Commission and not to an employee who has been promoted within the Commission and has not severed his employment with the Commission.”
 
Beside the above hefty allegation, the petition said the SEC DG had been awarding contracts to his family members and friends, in violation of the rules guiding the Commission.
 
It said Gwarzo, his family members and certain directors of the Commission were shareholders and directors in companies “used to carry out the alleged illegal transactions”.
 
Details of the “illegality” were stated, with at least four different accounts said to be traced to him.
 
“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 petition read.
 
“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 DG 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.”
 
Five other companies allegedly used for personal gains were listed by the petitioner.
 
Meanwhile, the SEC spokesman, Abdulssalam Naif, said Gwarzo had been in the know of the allegations ‘contained in that article since January 2017, following the receipt of a petition’. He added that “as a tradition, the Commission follows laid down rules and regulations in all its activities. And in this particular case, we ensured that no relevant policy was breached.”
 
He promise that the SEC would issue a more comprehensive response to the petition to prove its DG’s innocence.

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