An FCT High Court in Maitama has discharged and acquitted the suspended Director General of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir Gwarzo of corruption charges filed against him.
Gwarzo was arraigned on a five-count charge by the Independent and Corrupt Practices and Other Related Commission (ICPC) of criminal breach of trust and for allegedly paying himself severance benefits of N104.8m and N10.4m in excess of car grant while still in service.
He was charged along with Zakawani Garba, a commissioner in SEC, who was accused of using his position to confer corrupt advantages on Gwarzo.
Ruling on a no-case submission yesterday, Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf, held that the ICPC did not prove any of the essential elements of the offences against Gwarzo and Garba.
The judge said the first witness called by the ICPC, Fraina Ifeoma Chukwuoge, who is the acting Head of Legal Department of SEC, had testified among other things that Gwarzo qualified for severance benefit according to the resolution of the commission’s board of July 11, 2002.
He held that the witness confirmed that the extract of resolution of SEC’s board meeting of July 11, 2002, which was admitted as evidence, stipulated that a person appointed as a commissioner for the commission would be qualified for severance benefits so far the person has spent a minimum of two years in the position.
The judge held that evidence led by ICPC through its fourth and fifth witnesses were contradictory and have been so discredited that no reasonable tribunal could find the defendants guilty.
He said one of the witnesses testified that previous commissioners of SEC also benefitted from the severance benefit and none of them have been made to return same.
“All the frantic efforts by the prosecution counsel to bring the first defendant (Gwarzo) within the scope of those referred to in Exhibit ICPC 19 (a law guiding severance benefits of political office holders and judicial officers) was an exercise in futility. It amount to blowing a muted trumpet,” he held.
Justice Baba-Yusuf therefore held that the first defendant “is hereby discharged and acquitted of counts 1, 2 and 3 and by inference, all the charge against him.”
The judge also discharged and acquitted the second defendant, Garba of the two against him.
Gwarzo was suspended on November 29, 2017 by the former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, who at a press briefing on December 8, 2017 said that the suspension followed proven cases of financial misconduct, unlawful catting away of sensitive documents, in addition to unsatisfactory response to queries issued to him.
However, Gwarzo responded at a public hearing held on January 30, 2018 by the House of Representatives Committee on the Capital Market and Institutions, that Adeosun suspended him because of his refusal to comply with her directives to stop the forensic audit of Oando.