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THE NATION

Court acquits, discharges suspended SEC DG, Gwarzo

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A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court on Tuesday discharged the suspended Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir Gwarzo, of the charge of fraud filed against him.

Mr Gwarzo’s co-defendant, Zakwanu Garba, who was the Executive Commissioner of the commission, was also discharged and acquitted.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had arraigned the two officials before Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf on a five-count charge bordering on fraud.

The former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, suspended Messrs Gwarzo and Garba from their positions in November 2017 over allegations of corruption.

The minister then set up a panel to investigate the alleged issues, after which the ICPC arraigned them in court.

Delivering judgment on the case on Tuesday, the judge, Mr Baba-Yusuf, held that the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused persons committed the offence for which they were charged.

The judge said by its own admission, the prosecution through its witnesses and evidence confirmed that the action of the defendant was by a decision of the governing board of SEC, which is the highest decision-making body of the commission.

Ruling on the first count of a five charge of use of office for personal enrichment against Mr Gwarzo, the judge said the ICPC did not prove its allegation.

He held that while the first prosecution did not implicate the first defendant in her testimony, the remaining witnesses who are operatives of the ICPC contradicted themselves.

“Furthermore, exhibit 19, which is a memo from the governing board of SEC, has clearly demonstrated that the decisions of the board of SEC as the highest decision and policy-making body of commission is legal.

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

The judge also absolved Mr Gwarzo of the allegations that he used his official position to corruptly enrich himself by using the monies paid to him as car grant as the DG of SEC.

Mr Baba-Yusuf 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,” he said.

He said the fourth witness under cross-examination agreed that the board resolution was lawful and that the car grant was non-refundable.

Mr Baba-Yusuf held that the testimony of Prosecution Witness Two 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.

The judge, however, concluded that the evidence as a whole cannot be used by any court or tribunal to convict him.

He, therefore, discharged and acquitted him.

The court in the fourth count also discharged Mr Garba on the grounds that the evidence that he aided the suspended director-general of SEC to use his office to corruptly enrich himself was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judge then held that no prima facie case was established against Mr Garba who acted based on a decision of the governing board of SEC, which is the highest decision-making body of SEC.

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THE NATION

Kwara governor denies alleged attempt to tele-guide recruitment of KWASU VC

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Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed has denied an alleged attempt by him to tele-guide the selection process of a new vice chancellor for the Kwara State University (KWASU) in favour of particular candidates.

He said such recruitment is entirely the prerogative of the institution’s Governing Council, as the incumbent’s tenure expires.

Ahmed, in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, dismissed the allegation circulating on social media as an attempt to blackmail him.

He also dissociated his office or his aides from any attempt to foist anyone on the university as vice chancellor.

Ahmed said he has been briefed by the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, KWASU’s supervisory ministry,  that the university is yet to receive any response to its recent advertisement for a new vice chancellor, not to talk of skewing the selection process in favour of any candidate.

The recruitment of a new vice chancellor for KWASU,  Ahmed reiterated, would follow guidelines enshrined in the law establishing the university.

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THE NATION

Stop blaming NASS for delayed budget passage, Dogara tells Buhari

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Speaker Yakubu Dogara has chided the Executive led by President Muhammadu Buhari for constantly blaming the Legislature for delays in the passage of the country’s annual budgets.

In his opening address at the national budget hearing organised jointly by the Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Dogara drew the attention of the Executive to late presentation its part.

He also lamented poor implementation of previous budgets and he stressed that the Parliament won’t “rubber stamp” budgets merely for the sake of early passage.

According to him, “the budget is the most important law that is passed yearly, consequently, no parliament anywhere in the world rushes it. Let me re-emphasize that this Parliament can never be a rubber stamp and neither are we prepared to surrender our constitutionally assigned rights of checks on the Executive. It is unfortunate, however, that many commentators always ignorantly accuse the National Assembly of delaying the Appropriations Bill as if we are meant to urgently rubber stamp whatever budget estimates that is submitted to us by the Executive. If we fail to scrutinize the budget proposals, it will not only amount to abdication of our constitutional responsibilities as legislators but a betrayal of the mandate of our constituents.

“Let me also add that it is very unfair for the Executive to consistently and repeatedly blame the National Assembly of delaying passage of the budget while failing to address the issue of late budget submission on its part. The Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, provides that the Appropriations Bill be submitted not later than September of the preceding year which will give the Parliament ample time to process the document and pass it in good time. Unfortunately, the 2019 Appropriations Bill was submitted on December 19, 2018, just 12 days to the end of the year and the earliest time an Appropriation Bill has ever been presented to the National Assembly in this dispensation was on November 7, 2017.”

Dogara however noted that in a bid to address the issue the National Assembly passed a Constitutional Amendment Bill which sought to compel the Executive to submit the Budget proposals to the National Assembly not later than 90 days to the end of the fiscal year and also to limit expenditure that can be incurred in the absence of the  Appropriations Act from six (6) months to three (3) months.

Dogara added that: “In yet another effort to improve institutional capacity of the Parliament to process and pass budget expeditiously, the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) establishment Bill was passed into law. It was closely modeled after the American Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Unfortunately, I regret to inform this gathering that these laudable efforts and initiatives were thwarted when the President withheld his assent to these two important Bills.

“Consequently, efforts to enact a Budget Process Bill which will spell out timelines for every activity concerning the budget is stalled because it would be ineffective to enact a law that will run contrary to Section 81(1) of the Constitution which allows the President to submit the Budget estimates, ‘at any time’ before the end of the financial year.”

The Speaker concluded by assuring that the National Assembly will endeavour to speedily pass the budget as he called on the heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to appear before relevant committees and urged the Executive to ‘to muster the will to honestly and diligently implement’ the budget when passed.

In his comments, the Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe) observed that the public hearing was crucial to inclusive and active participation in the process of passage of the 2019 budget.

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THE NATION

Fed Govt, states, local govts share N619.857b in February

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THE three tiers of government – federal, states and 774 council areas —yesterday shared N619.857 billion as Federal Allocation for  February.

A communiqué issued by the Technical  Sub -Committee of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) at the end of its February meeting, indicated that the gross statutory revenue received was N478.434 billion.  It was lower than the N505.246 billion received in the previous month by N26.812 billion.

Addressing reporters at the end of yesterday’s meeting in Abuja, the Director of Funds in the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF), Muhammed Usman, said: “Federation crude oil export sales increased by about 46 per cent resulting in increased federation revenue from $425.00 million previously to $574.95 million. Shut-in and shut-down persisted while some terminals remained closed due to leaks and maintenance.

“Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) increased significantly while Companies Income Tax (CIT) recorded a marginal increase. Revenues from Value Added Tax (VAT), Oil Royalty, Import and Excise Duties decreased in February, 2019.

“The distributable statutory revenue for the month is N478.434 billion. The total revenue distributable for the current month (including VAT, Exchange Gain, Excess Bank Charges recovered and Forex Equalisation) is N619.857 billion.

“Therefore, from the total distributable revenue for the month, the Federal Government received N257.681 billion representing 52.68 per cent; states received N169.925 billion representing 26.72 per cent; local government areas received N127.722 billion representing 20.60 per cent; while the oil-producing states received N50.946 billion also representing 13 per cent derivation revenue.”

Usman further disclosed that “the balance in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) as at 27th March, 2019 is $183 million.”

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