Jim Obazee, fired as executive secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC) on Monday, is a man of controversies. Since his appointment in November 2010, Obazee never showed any discomfort with controversy.
However, the latest controversy he got himself entangled in – enforcement of the code of corporate governance – might have cost him his job.
In 2015, he was re-appointed as the FRC executive secretary for another term of four years, which will have elapsed in 2018.
He has been accused of many things, including sexual harassment and insubordination.
And he had a frosty relationship with Okechukwu Enelamah, minister of industry, trade and investment, who had directed him to suspend the law, but he refused.
ACCUSED OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT BY HIS PA
Obazee was accused of sexual harassment by one Abimbola Yakubu, his personal assistant of three years, in 2013. But he denied the allegation.
In a letter to the board of the FRC, Yakubu alleged that Obazee had repeatedly threatened to sack her if she did not accede to his amorous gestures.
“For the period of years that I worked with him, I have always been closing as late as 10pm and sometimes beyond. I have been very loyal, committed and dedicated to duty. I have never for one day shown any sign of insubordination. Early this year, I noticed the Executive Secretary’s attitude changed towards me,” she wrote.
“I met with him on several occasions, asking him what I have done wrong but he would not say anything rather, he would yell and scream at me saying all manner of unprintable words like: ‘when I am done with you, you will cry’; ‘when I am done with you, you will hang yourself’. So I withdrew and kept to myself. He continued in this attitude towards me, not relating with me and giving my subordinates my job to do (the things I should be doing).
“I close very late at night as a civil servant, not because we really have much work to do, but that’s when he 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. I am grateful to God for the kind of husband I married who is very understanding.
“Besides, there is no sexual move or plea he made that I did not tell my husband, from the very beginning of the advances. So, my husband is very much aware of the goings on but, he trusts me. Even when I told the Executive Secretary that my husband is aware of his moves he tells me it is not trust, that there is no man who will allow his wife go through such since all men are jealous. He then warned me sternly not to ever mention goings on the office with my husband.
“We have had to travel around the country together to places like, Calabar, Uyo, Enugu, Ibadan, Ijebu-Ode, Abuja and Minna. These were occasions he would have had his way had God not helped me, if I had not been determined to stand firm and if my husband was not solidly behind me. All of the time when we ought to retire back to our hotel rooms he would call me to either come to his room if we are in the same hotel or he would call to tell me he was coming to my room. Other times when we stay in different hotels, like when we are in Abuja, he would call me sometimes very late at night to tell me he was on his way to my hotel.”
She added that Obazee later transferred her to a corner office in Kaduna, where she would “suffer”, and that he eventually sacked her. Despite the allegations, Obazee was not probed. He strongly denied them, saying he sacked Yakubu because she had a history of poor performance at work.
RECOMMENDED SACK OF SANUSI
The sack of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, in February 2014, is perhaps, one of the most controversial actions of the FRC under Obazee.
Prior to his sack, Sanusi had made weighty allegations against the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He had alleged that billions of dollars accruable to the federation were being diverted by some persons in the management of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
And in the heat of the storm which followed his allegations, Jonathan relying on a recommendation of the FRC, which accused Sanusi of financial recklessness, sacked him.
After his sack, the FRC began to probe Sanusi, but he shunned several invitations of the council.
He later sued the council for defamation of character.
In October 2015, the FRC under Obazee suspended Atedo Peterside as the chairman of Stanbic IBTC.
The council cited infractions in the 2013-14 financial statements of the bank as the reason for its decision.
It directed the bank to restate and to re-issue its 2013-14 financial statements. It also imposed a fine of N1bn on the bank.
Besides Peterside, Sola David-Borha, group managing director, Stanbic’s chief finance officer and the audit committee chairman were also suspended.
But in December 2016, the FRC lifted the suspension on the management of the bank.
FORCED ADEBOYE TO STEP DOWN
Late 2016, the FRC directed not-for-profit organisations — including churches and mosques — to comply with a corporate governance code stipulating a term of 20 years for heads of such entities.
It was by this provision that Enoch Adeboye, who had spent over 20 years as the general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), named Joshua Obayemi to head the Nigeria church although he emphasised that he remained the worldwide overseer of the church.
But two days after Adeboye stepped down, and in the heat of a caustic controversy, Buhari fired Obazee and approved the reconstitution of the board.
In a statement afterwards, Constance Ikokwu, media aide of Enelamah, said the law had also been suspended in order to review it.
“The Corporate Governance Code issued by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigerian has been suspended pending a detailed review, extensive consultation with stakeholders and reconstitution of the board of the FRC,” she said.
Obazee has a bachelor of science degree in accounting from the University of Benin; a master of science degree in accounting from the University of Lagos, and a certification in strategic financial analysis for business evaluation from Harvard University, USA.
He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), and a member of the Nigeria Institute of Management (NIM) and the American Accounting Association (AAA).