loose cannon

Nigerian investigator who fired Pastor Adeboye gets new job to ‘nail’ Emefiele  

By Eniola Akinkuotu

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Posted on July 31, 2023 15:42

Jim Obazee has been appointed to investigate Nigeria’s central bank
Jim Obazee has been appointed to investigate Nigeria’s central bank (rights reserved)

A man who was fired by Buhari has now been appointed to probe the Central Bank of Nigeria in the wake of the suspension of Godwin Emefiele.

Jim Obazee, who once headed the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN), is expected to look into the books of the central bank and other government owned business entities and will report directly to the president, says a leaked government memo. 

However, sources within the government tell The Africa Report that Obazee’s primary assignment is the CBN and he will be expected to provide evidence to law enforcement in order to nail Emefiele.

Emefiele has been in custody of secret police for the last six weeks and is facing charges of owning a gun. 

“The authorities have not been able to pin anything on Emefiele except the allegation of owning a gun, but with Obazee now taking charge of investigations, you can be sure that they will find something with which to bury Emefiele, and others,” a ruling party chieftain says.

This is not the first time that Obazee – a pastor and an accountant – has been given such an assignment. In 2014, he accused Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi of financial propriety and forwarded a report to then President Goodluck Jonathan. The president seized the opportunity to suspend Sanusi who had embarrassed the government by raising the alarm over a missing sum of $20bn. 

Sanusi was accused of persistent refusal to comply with the Public Procurement Act, in the CBN procurement activities and unlawful expenditure on “intervention projects” across the country. Sanusi was also accused of financial infractions and acts of financial recklessness as reflected in the bank’s audited statement for 2012 as well as questionable write-off of N40bn ($51m) loans, allegations which he denied.  

First clash with Emefiele  

Barely a year after his clash with Sanusi, the next assignment led Obazee to the doorstep of Sanusi’s successor, Godwin Emefiele.

In a press statement, Obazee announced that the FRCN had suspended the Financial Reporting Council numbers of the chairman of Stanbic IBTC, Atedo Peterside, and the managing director, Sola David-Borha. He said this was due to alleged irregularities in the Stanbic IBTC Holdings plc audited accounts for 2013 and 2014.  

By doing so, both Peterside and David-Borha were barred from vouching for the integrity of any financial statement, annual report, returns and other documents of a financial nature. 

This angered the central bank, which believed that the FRC was trying to usurp the supervisory role of the apex bank.

In a letter addressed to Obazee, Emefiele noted that the action had caused the shares of Stanbic IBTC to fall by 18% and had eroded investor confidence in the bank. 

However, in a letter he leaked, Obazee accused the CBN of condoning “unwholesome disclosure and reporting practice” at Stanbic IBTC Plc and even divulged personal discussions he had with Emefiele in the office of the president’s chief of staff. 

The following year, Obazee blamed the central bank for the continuous depletion of the nation’s foreign reserves. 

Sexual harassment 

Apart from his clash with Emefiele, Obazee also had a running battle with his personal assistant, Pastor Abimbola Patricia Yakubu, who accused him of sexual harassment. 

In a suit filed before the National Industrial Court marked NIC/LA/673/2013, Mrs Yakubu, said: “I close very late at night as a civil servant, not because we really have much work to do, but that’s when he [Obazee] finds it most convenient to talk to me about his love for me. He makes sure everyone has closed and we are left alone in the office to make his demands.” 

She claimed that whenever she rejected his advances, he would insult and victimise her. Mrs. Yakubu said Obazee eventually transferred her to another state as punishment. 

Although Obazee publicly denied the allegation, he never entered a defence in court. 

Oyewumi Oyebiola, the judge on the case against Obazee and the FRCN, awarded over N5m ($25,380 at the time) in addition to a separate N250,000. 

“I award the sum of N5,000,000 against the 2nd defendant [Obazee] for sexually harassing the claimant, discrimination against her, inhuman and executive recklessness of the 2nd defendant, thereby creating a hostile working environment for the claimant and for the violation of her human dignity and self worth/respect,” the judge said

Missing money 

Besides allegations of sexual harassment, Obazee also came under investigation by the Senate. In 2018, the Senate Committee on Public Accounts asked him to refund N94m ($203,904 at the time) to the government’s account.

The committee determined that he allegedly approved N66m for a two-year rent for a property that the FRCN never occupied and another N28m reportedly syphoned via 64 vouchers. 

Pushing out Adeboye 

In 2016, Obazee became unpopular within religious circles when he issued a directive asking charity organisations, including churches and mosques, to comply with a corporate governance code stipulating a term of 20 years for heads of such entities. 

He also called on churches to open their account books and pointedly accused the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) of failing to operate a transparent accounting system, even though he himself was a pastor at the said church.

This directive limiting the term of pastors affected Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the general overseer of the RCCG, who also happened to be the spiritual father of then Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.

Adeboye immediately stepped down while Pastor Joshua Obayemi was appointed as the new head of the Nigerian branch of the church, while Adeboye assumed the role of the international overseer. 

The Buhari administration came under intense criticism even as the national dailies were filled with articles accusing the government of trying to “tame the church”. 

Obazee was said to have ignored a government directive of his supervising minister, Okechukwu Enelemah, who had asked him to rescind the directive. Days later, he was subsequently fired by President Buhari. 

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