By Oludare Mayowa
President Bola Tinubu’s appointment of Jim Obazee, former Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN), as a special investigator to probe the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has ignited significant interest within the nation’s financial sector.
This move comes in the aftermath of the suspension of the former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, who is facing allegations of misappropriating funds and criminal breach of trust. Emefiele has recently denied charges related to illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
The appointment of Obazee was formalized through a letter dated July 28, in which President Tinubu instructed the investigator to lead a team of experienced and capable individuals.
The scope of the investigation includes examining the CBN and other government-owned entities while collaborating with relevant security and anti-corruption agencies.
The ultimate goal is to provide a comprehensive report on public wealth held by corrupt individuals and establishments.
Tinubu, who has embarked on ambitious reforms for the country, including lifting fuel subsidies and relaxing foreign exchange trading restrictions, views this investigation as a crucial step in bolstering economic growth.
Notably, the 58-year-old former financial regulator holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Benin and a Master’s in the same discipline from the University of Lagos. He served as the CEO of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria from November 2010 to January 2017.
Obazee’s previous tenure at the FRCN was not without controversy. In 2017, during President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration, his enforcement of the corporate governance code led to his dismissal.
He faced allegations of sexual harassment, particularly from his former personal assistant, Abimbola Yakubu and accused of corruption and insubordination by his former boss, the minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah.
The FRC, under Obazee’s leadership, also took controversial actions, such his allegation of financial improprieties against the former CBN governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, leading to his dismissal by former president Goodluck Jonathan.
The FRC’s actions extended to suspension orders on several high-profile figures in the financial sector, including the former chairman of Stanbic IBTC, Atedo Peterside and the group managing director, Sola David-Borha.
These suspensions were related to infractions in the 2013-14 financial statements of Stanbic IBTC. The matter faced legal challenges, and the suspension on the bank’s management was eventually lifted in December 2016.
Another contentious directive issued by the FRC under Obazee’s watch was the imposition of a 20-year term limit for heads of not-for-profit organizations, including churches and mosques.
This move led to the stepping down of Enoch Adeboye as the general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and naming Joshua Obayemi as his successor, while still retaining his position as the worldwide overseer.
However, amid widespread controversy, President Buhari intervened by terminating Obazee’s appointment and reconstituting the board.
In light of these past controversies surrounding Obazee and the recent appointment as a special investigator, stakeholders in Nigeria’s financial sector are closely watching the developments and outcomes of the investigation into the CBN and other government entities.
The president’s commitment to addressing corruption and improving the country’s economic prospects adds further significance to this investigation’s progress and findings.
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