The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) has ordered the immediate reinstatement of Dr. Mounir Gwarzo as the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In a ruling on Thursday, the court held that a panel set up by the former Minister of Finance, Mr Kemi Adeosun, to investigate Gwarzo as well as the SEC DG’s suspension by the minister, were illegal.
Justice Sanusi Kado, in his judgment, held that the minister of finance, named as the second defendant in the suit, lacked the power to suspend the SEC DG.
Kado held that, “the minister’s role was that of recommendation,” stressing that her role did not include disciplinary power to suspend the DG.
While dismissing three issues raised by the defence counsel through their preliminary objection, the trial judge ruled that the suit was “not status barred.”
Mr Kado further held that the issue in dispute was not about the position of the claimant as the DG of the Commission, but that the bone of contention was who had the power to suspend him.
The judge held that the second defendant (Minister of Finance) did not have the power to suspend the claimant since he was not an employee of the commission.
Mr Kado held that it was only the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, on the directive of the president, who had the power of suspension.
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.
He, therefore, declared that the suspension of the claimant was null, void and of no effect. Mr Kado also declared that the recommendation of the Administrative Panel of Inquiry set up by the second defendant, be set aside.
Adeosun had on Nevember 29, 2017, suspended Gwarzo over alleged “proven cases of financial misconduct, unlawful catting away of sensitive documents.”
At a press briefing on 8th December 2017, the former minister claimed that she suspended Gwarzo because he failed to satisfactorily respond to queries issued to him.
But at a subsequent public hearing summoned on the matter by the House of Representatives Committee on the Capital Market and Institutions, Gwarzo denied the former minister’s allegation.
He noted that Adeosun allegedly suspended him due to his insistence on the forensic audit of Oando plc, which he claimed the former minister had vested interest in.