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Probe Panel Asks FG to Dismiss Suspended SEC DG, Gwarzo

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  • Probe Panel Asks FG to Dismiss Suspended SEC DG, Gwarzo

The Administrative Panel of Inquiry, which was set up in November last year to investigate corruption allegations against the suspended Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Mounir Gwarzo, has recommended the sacking of the embattled DG from public service.

The panel, which is headed by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mahmoud Isa-Dutse, was set up by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun.

In the recommendation, which was sighted by our correspondent in Abuja, the committee also suggested that the suspended DG should refund the sum of N104.85m, which he allegedly approved and received as severance package while still in office.

The panel also recommended that Gwarzo be referred to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission for further investigation of the allegation of using his position as SEC DG to influence the award of contracts to Outbound Investments Limited.

In the report, which has already been submitted to the finance minister, it was recommended that the holding of the position of the DG of SEC as well as a director in two private companies (Medusa Investment Limited and Outbound Investments Limited) was in breach of public service rules 030424 and 030402 and Section 6 of the Investment and Securities Act, 2007.

The panel stated in its report, “Mr. Mounir Gwarzo should be referred to the ICPC for further investigation of the allegation of using his position as director-general to influence the award of contracts to Outbound Investments Limited in view of the provisions of Sections 57 (12) (b) and 58 (5) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

“Gwarzo should be dismissed from the public service of the Federal Government, in line with the PSR 030402 (in relation to the allegation on golden handshake), having breached paragraphs 313 and 316(4) of the Financial Regulations (Government Notice No. 219 of October 27, 2009) (engaging in extra-budgetary expenditure without appropriate approval).

“Should be discharged on the allegations of award of contracts to Medusa Investments Limited; award of contracts to other companies as mentioned in paragraph 5.1.1 and to which no relationship with Mr. Mounir Gwarzo was sufficiently established.”

However, the panel recommended that the cases of two management officers of the commission, Mrs. Anastasia Braimoh and Mr. Abdulsalam Naif, be referred to SEC for appropriate disciplinary action in line with the provisions of the staff manual of the commission.

The panel advised the Federal Government to re-orientate public servants to the very fact that the public service rules and financial regulations were ground norms of every government service contract, be it at the federal, state or local government level.

“Accordingly, all government extra-ministerial departments and agencies should be made to understand that the PSR and FR are superior to whatever specific legislation and domestic arrangements that guide their operations, except when such issues are not covered by any provision of the PSR,” it added.

Meanwhile, Adeosun and Gwarzo clashed on Tuesday over the legality of the suspension of the latter by the former.

The minister and Gwarzo had appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market and Institutions at the National Assembly in Abuja.

The committee, which is chaired by Mr. Tajudeen Yusuf, is investigating the suspension in a bid to advise the House on how to resolve the dispute.

Adeosun and Gwarzo both justified their positions on the matter as lawmakers grilled them for about two hours.

While the minister insisted she acted right within her powers in order to sustain investors’ confidence in the capital market, Gwarzo argued that his suspension had no basis under any known law in the country.

Gwarzo, who was the first to speak, told the committee that neither the Public Service Rules nor the Investment and Securities Act gave the minister the power to suspend the SEC DG.

He claimed that the real reason for his suspension was the forensic audit SEC was conducting into the operations of Oando Plc.

Gwarzo added that the timing of the suspension and a series of meetings held between him and Adeosun over the Oando case suggested that the oil firm was the real issue and not the allegations of financial impropriety levelled against him.

He stated, “The minister called me to her office and demanded that I should stop the forensic audit of Oando. I asked that she put it in writing, but she called for my resignation instead. She said if I failed to resign, then I would be suspended.

“And I insisted I would not do anything the minister asked me to do. What followed the next day was my suspension.”

Gwarzo admitted that he indeed claimed N104m severance package from SEC, defending the payment as his due, having served as a commissioner for over two years prior to being appointed as the DG.

He informed the panel that SEC’s provisions for entitlements covered the money he was paid.

“Nothing went wrong with my payments. There were payments approved by the Board of SEC before mine. Why did it become necessary for my own to go to the minister for approval?” Gwarzo queried.

He came to the session in company with his lawyer, Mr. James Igwe, SAN.

But, Adeosun, faulting Gwarzo’s submissions, said the suspended DG took several decisions that conflicted with his position.

For instance, she said a petition investigated and found to be true was that Gwarzo, as a public officer, had interests in two private companies.

She noted that one of the companies had business transactions with SEC, including supplying diesel to the agency, while Gwarzo presided over its affairs.

She added that by that act alone, Gwarzo had breached the Public Service Rules and did not deserve to continue to sit as the SEC DG.

The minister recalled how the Whistle-blower Unit of the ministry received “loads of documents” of petitions against Gwarzo in October 2017, which made the ministry to move in by setting up an administrative panel to probe him.

She added, “He was still a director of one of the companies and we found out that there was a conflict in what he told us and the records we got from the Corporate Affairs Commission. He remains a shareholder in Medusa, and his saying that he resigned is not true. The CAC records show otherwise.

“As we were investigating, documents began to miss from SEC. We were compelled to suspend him as a pre-emptive decision to protect the integrity of the capital market.”

The minister dismissed Gwarzo’s allegation that his suspension was linked to the forensic audit of Oando as a deliberate move to divert attention from the real issues.

She added, “We knew he would try to link it to Oando. It is mischievous to link it to Oando. As we speak, the forensic audit is still going on. It has not stopped. If it was about Oando, as he has always claimed, why is the audit still on even after the suspension?

“I gave my support to the audit though he did not inform me beforehand. I gave my approval.”

Adeosun, who denied having any business interests in Oando, also told the committee that she never at any time threaten to sack Gwarzo or demand that he resigned.

“I don’t have any shares in Oando. My family members own no shares there. I repeat again. This is all mischief, linking Oando to this. Gwarzo should address the real issues,” she added.

The committee sought the views of the Director, Legal Services at the ministry, Mr. Christopher Gabriel, on the legality of Adeosun’s action.

Gabriel backed the minister, saying, “There is no contravention of any known statute by the minister on this case; SEC at the moment has no board.

“In the absence of a board, the minister is the board and she will carry out all those functions that a board will ordinarily carry out.”

The session ended without the committee taking any decisions.

However, the chairman of the committee gave an assurance that members would thoroughly investigate the rift and come up with a position in order to safeguard the capital market.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Finance

CBN Directs Banks to go After COVID-19 Financial Criminals

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Central Bank Asks Banks to Stay Abreast Frauds and Rising COVID-19 Financial Crimes

The Central Bank of Nigeria has directed all financial institutions in Nigeria to update alert protocols in their Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism monitoring tools, in accordance with emerging trends of rising COVID-19 related financial crimes.

In a circular titled, ‘Administrative letters to all banks and other financial institutions’ issued on Monday and signed by J.M. Gana, the Director, Financial Policy and Regulation Department, the apex bank said changes in business activities and financial transactions due to the shift caused by COVID-19 pandemic have led to the surge in financial crimes globally.

Therefore, it said financial institutions must now adapt quickly and keep abreast of the new emerging financial risks and other developments to arrest this new and emerging ML/TF.

According to the circular, this includes strategic investment in data mining and artificial intelligence software to monitor financial transactions effectively and report as quickly as possible.

The central bank said the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, the central repository of suspicious transactions and other financial information, had released a comprehensive report on STRs and others.

It stated that the NFIU had identified cybercrimes, frauds, counterfeiting and substandard goods, diversion of public funds and misuse of non-government organisations funds as some of the ongoing crimes that banks across the nation need to stay abreast and report.

Other suspicious transactions and red flags identified in the report were some e-commerce companies with little or zero history or internet presence suddenly receiving multiple payments from unrelated third parties.

Similarly, it said individuals with zero or little history of financial transactions receiving multiple payments from unrelated third parties. It also noted that customers who suddenly start delaying in the supply or purchases of medical supplies and payment of goods linked to known brands, yet the beneficiary is an individual, not a corporate company should be flagged.

The measures, the apex bank said were necessary due to the rising numbers of unusual transactions from banks’ customers and unscrupulous individuals.

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Finance

Union Bank Secures US$40 Million Facility from IFC Global Trade Finance

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Union Bank Secures US$40 Million Facility from IFC Global Trade Finance

Union Bank of Nigeria Plc said it has secured a US$40,000,000 finance guarantee facility from the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group.

In a note to the Nigerian Stock Exchange, the lender said the facility would help boost access to finance for local businesses and enable increased international trade for Nigeria.

It explained that the facility “will support Union Bank to establish working partnerships with nearly 300 major international banks within the GTFP network, thereby broadening access to finance and reducing cash collateral requirements for Nigerian businesses.

“The facility will enable the continued flow of trade credit into the Nigerian market at a time when imports are critical, and the country’s exports can generate much-needed foreign exchange.

Under the IFC’s Global Trade Finance Program (GTFP) terms of the agreement, GTFP offers benefiting banks partial or full guarantees covering payment risk on Union Bank’s trade-related transactions.

Accordingly, these guarantees are transaction-specific and may vary depending on underlying instruments like letters of credit, trade-related promissory notes, guarantees, bonds, and advance payment guarantees.”

Emeka Emuwa, Chief Executive Officer of Union Bank, said, “Union Bank is pleased to join the IFC’s Global Trade Finance Program. This is a significant achievement as we continue to expand our trade financing offerings to our
customers. Even in these peculiar times, we remain focused on contributing to economic growth by developing tailored solutions that help our customers harness the teeming opportunities that still exist in the Nigerian market.

Eme Essien Lore, IFC’s Country Manager for Nigeria, said, “Keeping trade moving is essential to growth and job creation, especially during the challenging economic times we are living through today. We welcome Union Bank to IFC’s Global Trade Finance Program and value a partnership that will make a positive impact on Nigeria’s economy.

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Apapa Customs Command Generate N367.6bn in Nine Months

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Nigeria Customs Service

Customs Command Apapa Realises N367.6bn Between January and September

The Nigeria Customs Service, Apapa Command, said it generated N367.6 billion in the nine-month ended September 2020.

Mohammed Abba-Kura, the Customs Area Controller, disclosed this while speaking with newsmen in Lagos.

He said a total of 328 containers of goods worth N19.5 billion were seized during the period. This, he said represents an increase of 37 containers when compared to the same period of 2019.

Speaking further, Abba-Kura said the N367.6 billion realised in the first nine months of the year, represented a 17 percent or N54.1 billion increase from N313.5 billion it collected during the same period of 2019.

The Apapa Command generated N14.3 billion as revenue in the third quarter from customers’ duty and other charges.

He said “The difference recorded was made possible as a result of resilience of officers in ensuring that importers and agents are made to do proper declarations, adhere strictly to import/export guidelines in tandem with extant laws.”

Commenting on the seizures, Abba-Kura said, “These items were seized mainly because of various forms of infractions which range from false declarations, non-adherence to import/export guidelines and failure to comply with other extant regulations as enshrined in the Customs and Excise Management Act.

“In the area of export trade, the period under review recorded exportation of goods worth N26,273,706,822 exported from the country.”

“These exported goods include mineral resources, steel bars, agricultural products among others with a total tonnage of 378,447 million tonnes free on board value of $85.8m. Similarly, the volume of export from January to September 2020 stood at N78.6bn with FOB $257,003,965.”

He added that the compliance level rose to about 60 percent during the period, highlighting the reason for the surge in the number of seizures made.

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