To Let Go or Not to Let Go.
The case of the suspended former DG of the Securities and Exchange Commission Mr. Mournir Gwarzo by Kemi Adeosun former Minister or Finance had another hearing at the FCT high court Maitama Abuja.
The case filed by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related offences Commission before Justice Husseini Baba Yusuf bordering on a count charge of fraud to the sum of N104,851,154.94 which Mr. Gwarzo paid himself as severance package when he had yet to retire, resign or disengage from the service of the SEC.
This being in total disregard to the civil service standing rule that severance benefit can only be paid to an employee who has concluded his or her service and has completely disengaged from service.
The matter was brought before the public by the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) a human rights, community based and civil society organization in a press briefing held in Lagos.
The Community Based Organization averred on Jan.2, 2013, Mr. Mounir Gwarzo was appointed an Executive Commissioner in the SEC for a four year tenure by the then administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Before the expiration of the term, Mr. Gwarzo was elevated by same government as the Director General of the Commission on May 22, 2015.
However, consequent upon resumption of the office of DG, Mr. Gwarzo ordered the payment of a severance benefits to himself to the tune of N104,851,154.94 for the 2 years he spent as Executive Commissioner of the same institution.
CACOL holds the view that Mr. Gwarzo ran the SEC as his personal estate and appointed companies with links to him and some of his cronies in office to carry out transactions and provide services to the Commission.
Some of the companies found to have links with the Mr. Gwarzo, his wife and other cronies include: Outbound Investments Ltd, Medusa Investments Ltd, Northwind Environmental Services, Micro Technologies Ltd to mention a few.
In the case of Outbound Investment Ltd. a company which collected several contracts from SEC Mr. Gwarzo and his wife were the only Directors and Shareholders of the company.
The human rights organization had requested that President Muhammadu Buhari should direct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC ) to look into the allegations of illegal wealth creation from the Commission by Mr. Gwarzo as EFCC was in possession of all the required documents.
Accordingly, President Buhari acted swiftly and both the EFCC and the Ministry of Finance investigated the matter. The Ministry of Finance, in line with the Public Service Rules set up an Administrative Panel which conducted a thorough investigation into the matter and Mr. Gwarzo was found culpable. The Panel report formed the basis of the accused suspension.
But in a strange twist, the matter was taken from the EFCC and handed over to the ICPC. Rather than the ICPC charging Mr. Gwarzo for the two infractions based on the two allegations levelled against him, the ICPC chose to bring him before an FCT Court in Abuja for only one infraction. It is however instructive to note that Mr. Gwarzo’s wife is also a member of the FCT judiciary.
Perhaps more surprisingly, it would appear the investigator, one Taiwo Olorunyomi, who claimed to have been an ICPC investigator since 2005, was merely in court to validate the appropriateness of the accused paying himself gratuity while still in service and challenging the very evidence put together by the very Commission he works for.
It is a settled practice in Criminal Law that the Prosecutor is presumed to have either been a member of the investigative team or is completely in alignment with the body of evidence he is armed with to prosecute a case in court.
Why has Adesina Raheem, the ICPC Prosecutor, chosen to invite a witness who came to court mainly to validate the appropriateness of Gwarzo paying himself gratuity while still in service.
Why is Gwarzo being tried for only one infraction when he was investigated by both the EFCC and the Administrative Panel set up by the Ministry of Finance for two offences.
Is there a grand plan to deliberately lose the case and let Mr. Gwarzo walk away free and be reinstated to then SEC. There are indeed more questions begging for answers.
CACOL therefore calls on the newly sworn in Chairman of ICPC Professor Bolaji Owasonoye to immediately order a probe into the lingering matter. Should ICPC lose the case as we suspect may happen by design, we urge Professor Owasonoye to ensure the matter is appealed and reassigned to another team entirely within the ICPC.