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By Camillus Eboh
ABUJA/LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigerian lawmakers opened an investigation on Tuesday into the finance minister's suspension of the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), saying they would look into whether the ministry had interfered with the SEC's work.
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives plan to investigate the suspension and report their findings to parliament within two weeks, according to a motion paper seen by Reuters.
Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said she was suspending SEC director general Mounir Gwarzo last week while her ministry looked into allegations of financial impropriety against him.
Gwarzo's suspension comes a month after the SEC began its own investigation into the shareholding structure of oil company Oando Plc and froze trading of the company's shares.
Lawmakers said there had been allegations of interference by the finance ministry in the discharge of SEC responsibilities, particularly issues related to the forensic audit of Oando, which was largely responsible for Gwarzo's suspension. "The intervention by the House will put the matter into proper perspective and amicable resolution of the conflict in order to protect the image of the Securities and Exchange Commision in the interest of both local and foreign investors," the motion read.
Gwarzo was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.
The ministry has appointed Abdul Zubair as acting chief of the commission while Gwarzo is under investigation.
It set up an administrative panel to investigate the charges, including a claim that Gwarzo was paid 104.85 million naira as a severance package while he was still in office, the finance ministry has said.
Shares in Oando, which has been frozen at 5.99 naira since October 18, sold off in heavy trading of 10.1 million units, a day after Gwarzo was suspended.
Oando, which bought ConocoPhillips' Nigerian business for $1.65 billion in 2014, had gone to court to challenge the suspension of its shares by the SEC.
(Additional reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha in Lagos, Paul Carsten and Camillus Eboh in Abuja,; editing by Mark Heinrich, Larry King)