The sack, last week, of Mr. Mounir Gwarzo as Director-General (DG) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, was provoked by a letter found offensive by the minister. While the official spiel was that Mr. Gwarzo was relieved of his appointment because of a wave of corruption allegations swirling around him, including paying himself over N100million in retirement benefits to which he was not eligible, it was the letter that made Mrs. Adeosun pull the trigger.
In the letter, exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters, Mr. Gwarzo pointedly refused the minister's instruction that the SEC should halt its investigation of Oando Plc, former employers of Mrs. Adeosun, for crooked book-keeping and corruption.
Dated November 28 and titled "Investigation of Oando Plc," Mr. Gwarzo's letter opened with a recall of the meeting held with Mrs. Adeosun on 27 November, where the minister verbally directed the SEC to discontinue the forensic audit of her former employers. Mr. Gwarzo also stated that instead of the audit, the minister directed that a tripartite meeting with SEC's legal officers, Oando Plc and the Federal Ministry of Finance to determine the penalties to be issued to officials of Oando Plc in their personal capacity.
The sacked SEC DG, however, warned the minister that her proposal with putting a question mark on the independence and integrity of SEC as well as erode the confidence of local and international investors in the country's capital market. He also warned the minister that the investigation is being monitored by the investment community, locally and globally.
"Furthermore, as you may be aware, the activities around the investigation of Oando Plc are being 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 as proposed by the commission," Mr. Gwarzo wrote.
He pointed the minister's attention to the fact that over the last three years, the SEC has embarked on enforcement actions against big players in the capital market, a step he claimed has largely sanitised the process and resulted in an 8 per cent reduction in the occurrence of infractions within the period.
A major infraction Oando was alleged to have committed, said Mr. Gwarzo, is financial mismanagement, which consequences are being borne by 274,000 shareholders of the company.
As such, Mr. Gwarzo wrote: "It is only proper that a process, which would reveal the status of the allegation to ascertain its veracity or otherwise be embarked upon in a transparent manner. This, in my opinion, will put to rest the question of how the shareholder funds have been managed by the persons appointed to do so for the shareholders. The commission, therefore, as the apex regulator of the Nigerian capital market, has the responsibility to ensure that a thorough, independent and transparent process is put in place to unravel the true financial status of the company," wrote the sacked DG.
He warned that a discontinuation of the audit will bring unsavoury consequences such as ridicule for the regulators and an image of inefficiency and lack of integrity. In addition, Mr. Gwarzo said it will erode confidence in the market, send wrong signals to local and international market players, discourage foreign investors and portray the absence of independence of regulators.
Mr. Gwarzo also told Mrs. Adeosun that he was offering his advice against a discontinuation of the audit based on Section 13 (cc) of the Investment and Securities Act, which mandates the commission to advise the minister on matters relating to the securities industry. He added that he would prefer a written directive, rather than a verbal one from the minister, stating that his preference is not in any way an attempt to disrespect her office, but to ensure proper doucmentation.
Sources told SaharaReporters that the forensic audit was provoked by an $800million investment in Oando by Mr. Gabriel Volpi, a businessman of Italian origin, to help Oando buy ConocoPhillips. Mr. Dahiru Manga, a businessman and close friend of former President Umaru Yar'Adua also invested $120million when friction developed between Mr. Wale Tinubu, Managing Director of Oando, and Mr. Volpi, who later gave another $200million. Mr. Volpi, said sources, was allocated 59% of Oando shares, while Mr. Manga got 11%. Ocean and Oil, a company owned by Mr. Tinubu, at that point, owned only1 percent of Oando. However, Mr. Tinubu was was allowed to keep running the company.
But when a forensic audit was done, it revealed that Oando had suffered a N330billion, papered over by Mr. Tinubu's cooking of the books. Auditors discovered that Mr. Tinubu had syphoned $400million and transferred to tax havens. He was also accused of living largely by way operating three private jets, two of which had been deployed to President Buhari's use during the Presidential election campaigns in 2015.
With things looking ugly, the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Gbadebo, who is Oando Chairman, said sources, had to intervene. He and Ogun State governor, Mr. Ibikunle Amosun contacted Mrs. Adeosun, who owes her current position to the governor, to get SEC to halt the audit and impose fines.
This was why Mrs. Adeosun invited Mr. Gwarzo to her office on 27 November and asked him to get SEC off the case, claiming that President Muhammadu Buhari wants Mr. Tinubu freed from the probe. The Oando Managing Director was said to have promised the Finance Minister a whopping $20million reward if she got the job done.
Mr. Gwarzo's letter, aside from costing him his job, also immediately made him a subject of interest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC). Mr, Gwarzo has a litany of misdeeds and corruption baggage of his own that SaharaReporters had recently revealed.
Currently, federal legislators, whom sources said Mr. Gwarzo, has given huge bribes are pushing for his reinstatement. He is also said to be working hard on a section of the media to ensure that his narrative drowns that of the minister, so he could get his job back.