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Court acquits Gwarzo, former SEC DG accused of fraud, abuse of office

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JUSTICE Baba Yusuf of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court has discharged and acquitted Mounir Gwarzo, the suspended Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) who was accused by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) of fraud and abuse of office.

Zakwanu Garba, an Executive Commissioner of SEC, who was also joined in the suit, was also discharged and acquitted.

The ICPC had arraigned both men in court after they had been suspended by the former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun in November 2017.

In his judgement on Tuesday, Justice Baba-Yusuf said the prosecution did not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused persons were guilty of the crimes they were alleged to have committed

On the first count which accused Gwarzo of using his office as the SEC DG to enrich himself illegally, the trial judge said that the ICPC witnesses contradicted themselves. He also noted that a memo from the governing board of SEC, which was tendered in evidence by the ICPC, “clearly demonstrated that the decision of the board of SEC, as the highest decision and policy-making body of the commission, is legal”.

“As a result of this, the first defendant is acquitted on the first charge,” Baba-Yusuf ruled.

On the charge which claimed that Gwarzo paid himself illegal approved a car grant for himself, the judge held that “the burden of proof was on the prosecution, but through its own exhibit, which includes a board resolution which approved the car benefit for an executive director who had spent more than two years in office. The charge against Mister Gwarzo has not been established”.

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Besides, the trial judge noted that the fourth witness, under cross-examination, agreed that the board’s resolution was lawful and that the car grant was non-refundable.

Justice Baba-Yusuf held that the testimony of Prosecution Witness Two also clearly showed that the first defendant had no role in deciding what he was entitled to and as such could not have used his office to enrich himself.

He, therefore, discharged and acquitted him.

The court also discharged the second defendant, Garba, on the grounds that the allegation that he aided Gwarzo to use his office to corruptly enrich himself was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The suspension of Gwarzo from SEC caused quite a stir at the time, especially following revelations that there may have been more to it than met the eye.

Shortly after Adeosun suspended Gwarzo over multiple financial improprieties, a leaked memo emerged in the media detailing how both officials had sparred over a decision by SEC to go ahead with a probe into the activities of Oando Petroleum Plc.

The leaked memo was reportedly written by Gwarzo to Adeosun explaining why the probe on Oando should continue and urging the then Finance Minister to put it in writing if she insists that the probe should be dropped.

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However, Adeosun denied she suspended Gwarzo because he refused to drop the Oando probe, but rather because he threatened to blackmail her.

The matter eventually got to the House of Representatives which, after a series of hearing, asked Adeosun to recall Gwarzo, but the recommendation was not followed.

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