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The embattled Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir Gwarzo, has resigned from office.

Mr Gwarzo’s resignation comes amidst graft allegations and trial for corruption as well as his tough stance that an audit of the indigenous oil firm, Oando, be conducted.

Mr Gwarzo repeatedly said that his suspension from office in 2017 was because he insisted on the audit of Oando, one of Nigeria’s largest and most influential indigenous oil firm.

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday accepted Mr Gwarzo’s resignation as SEC director-general, an official said.

The resignation takes effect from January 9, 2020.

A letter with reference number BD//2000//EXP/216/315 conveying President Buhari’s acceptance of the embattled official’s resignation was dated May 18, 2020, according to the Permanent Secretary of the finance ministry, Mahmoud Isa-Dutse, in a statement.

The letter titled: RE: RESIGNATION AS DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION,” from the Office of the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, reads:

“I write to refer to your letter dated 9th January, 2020 on the above subject and convey acceptance of your resignation as the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission by the President of the Federal Commission of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, with effect from 9th January, 2020.

“Securities and Exchange Commission has been directed to pay you all the benefits you are entitled to.”

End Of An Era?

The president’s acceptance of Mr Gwarzo’s resignation appears to mark the end of a long-drawn battle he waged in his bid to return to office after he was suspended by the then Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, on November 2017.

The minister said Mr Gwarzo, who was appointed in 2015, was suspended from office “to allow for an unhindered investigation of several allegations of financial impropriety levelled against him.”

Mr Gwarzo, however, said he was suspended because he ordered an audit into Oando.

Mr Gwarzo said Mrs Adeosun pressured him to drop the Oando investigation which he declined.

That audit and its findings were later embroiled in legal controversies.

Mr Gwarzo was suspended alongside two other senior officials of SEC: the then head of media division, Abdulsalam Habu, and the head of legal department, Anastasia Braimoh.

In January 2018, the administrative panel of inquiry constituted to investigate the allegations of abuse of office against Mr Gwarzo recommended his immediate dismissal from the public service.

In June 2018, the embattled former SEC DG was arraigned by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) on a five-count charge for alleged fraud.

He was arraigned alongside a commissioner at the commission, Zakawanu Garuba. They were accused of abusing their offices and breaching public trust by diverting over N114 million while they served as officers of the commission in June, 2015.

However, in April 2019, a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court discharged and acquitted Mr Gwarzo of all charges of fraud filed against him and his co accused.

Also, in May 2019, Justice Sanusi Kado of the National Industrial Court, Abuja ordered Mr Gwarzo’s immediate reinstatement back to his position.

In his ruling in the case brought by Mr Gwarzo, Justice Kado held that the then minister of finance lacked the power to suspend him from office.

In the absence of the board of SEC, the judge said, the minister, who only exercises supervisory power, did not have disciplinary powers to suspend Mr Gwarzo.

However, following an appeal filed by the ICPC against the ruling of the court to free Mr Gwarzo of the corruption charges, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the former DG resorted to seeking a political solution that would guarantee him a soft landing.

It was learnt that part of the political solution to the crisis was the need for him to seek retirement from service.

Mr Gwarzo later sent his resignation letter, dated January 9, to the president.

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed a new Director-General of SEC. He is Lamido Yuguda.

Mr Isa-Dutse said the new director-general should give priorities should to investors protection and effective implementation of capital market master plan, if confirmed by the Senate.

A fresh trial

It is unclear how President Buhari’s acceptance of Mr Gwarzo’s resignation will affect a new case filed by the ICPC against the former SEC chief.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the ICPC, in March, arraigned Mr Gwarzo at an FCT High Court in Apo.

He was arraigned alongside a Principal Manager, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Jamila Muhammad.

Mr Gwarzo and Mrs Muhammad were arraigned before Justice Olukayode Adeniyi on 14 counts bordering on gratification and abuse of office.

ICPC alleged that Mr Gwarzo on or about December 28, 2016, while serving as SEC DG, knowingly held a private interest as a director and shareholder of Outbound Investment Limited, a company which was awarded a contract to supply and install 12 units of air conditioners.

The anti-graft agency alleged that four units of refrigerators at SEC Lagos zonal office were bought by SEC for N3.4 million contrary to and punishable under Section 12 of Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Act, 2000.

ICPC also alleged that, among things, Mr Gwarzo used his position as SEC DG to gratify himself when Outbound Investment Limited was awarded the contract to supply and install 12 units of air conditioners and four units of refrigerators at SEC Lagos zonal office by the commission, thereby committing an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 19 of the ICPC Act.

The ICPC alleged that Mrs Muhammad, around November 15, 2015, while being a public officer, used her position as Principal Manager at NIMC to gratify herself.

ICPC alleged that Outlook Communications Limited, where she was a shareholder and director, was awarded a contract to air a 60-minute awareness campaign radio jingle on e-dividend in the North-East region for the sum of N798 million, contrary to and punishable under Section 19 of the ICPC Act.

She was further, alleged to have knowingly and directly held a private interest as a shareholder and director of Outlook Communications Limited, which was awarded a contract to air a 60-minute awareness campaign radio jingle on e-dividend in the North-Central states for the sum of N1.3 million by SEC thereby committing an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 12 of Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Act, 2000.

Both defendants pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them in court.

They were granted bail by the court and the matter adjourned.

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