The National Industrial Court, Abuja, on Thursday ordered the immediate reinstatement of Mounir Gwarzo, the suspended Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The judgment was delivered by Justice Sanusi Kado, who held that the minister of finance, who is named as the second defendant in the suit, lacked the power to suspend the claimant.
Back Story – Gwarzo alongside two other management staff of SEC (Mr. Abdulsalam Naif Habu, Head of Media Division and Mrs. Anastasia Omozele Braimoh, Head of Legal Department) were controversially suspended in November 2017 for alleged financial impropriety.
Gwarzo was accused of collecting a severance package of N104 million, despite advice from SEC’s legal department not to do so, since he was still in the employment list of the commission. Prior to his appointment as Director-General of the commission in 2015, Gwarzo was an Executive Director.
The acting head of the legal department had objected to the offer since severance packages were meant for officials who have disengaged from an organization. The Director-General was also accused of awarding contracts to companies controlled by wife and brother. Although, the timing of the petition was a suspect as SEC was in a tussle with Oando Plc over moves to conduct a forensic audit on the company’s affairs.
Details of Judgement – The Judge held that the issue in dispute was not about the position of the claimant as to the DG of the commission, whereas, the crux of contention is who had the power to suspend the DG. Also, the judge further held that the defendant (Former Minister of Finance) lacked the power to suspend the claimant since he was not an employee of the commission.
In other words, the judge further stated that in the absence of the board, the former minister only had supervisory power, which does not include disciplinary power to suspend the DG. Further stating that only the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, on the directive of the president, had the power to suspend the DG.
Also, it was stated that since there was a cause of action in the claimant’s suit, the claimant hence had the right to commence the suit by the way of originating summon. Mr. Kado, in addition, said the Administrative Panel of Inquiry that indicted the claimant was not a court of law; neither was it a quasi-judicial body, but just a body set up for a fact-finding duty.
Hence, Justice Sanusi Kado ruled that the suit was not status barred, dismissed all the three issues put forward by the defense counsel in their preliminary objection and declared that the suspension of the claimant was null, void and of no effect.
What happens next – Nairametrics in its earlier article revealed that it is shameful that the SEC has been without a board for the last four years. While reactions are expected over the reinstatement of Gwarzo, this may be a catalyst to kick start the reengineering process of the SEC, and this is likely to in turn have its trickle-down effect on the market.