Fresh facts emerged on Monday why President Muhammadu Buhari sacked the Executive Secretary of the Financial Regulatory Council of Nigeria, Mr. Jim Obazee, in connection with the implementation of the controversial corporate Governance Code 2016.
The PUNCH gathered on Monday that Obazee was sacked for disobeying a directive of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Okechuckwu Enelamah, that the implementation of the regulation should be suspended.
Among others, the code stipulates 20-year tenure for heads of religious groups and civil rights organisations.
Buhari had, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Monday, approved the immediate removal and the replacement of Obazee.
According to the statement, the new Council, as approved by the President, has Mr. Adedotun Sulaiman as chairman.
The President has also approved the appointment of Mr. Daniel Asapokhai as the Executive Secretary of the council to replace Obazee
Sulaiman is a former Managing Partner/Director of Arthur Anderson and later, Accenture.
He is a chartered accountant and a product of the University of Lagos and Harvard Business School.
Asopokhai is a partner and a Financial Reporting Specialist at the PriceWaterHouseCoopers Nigeria.
He is a product of the University of Lagos and the University of Pretoria.
Shehu said Buhari had also instructed the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, to invite the 19 Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government and private sector organisations specified in the FRC Act to nominate members of the board of the council.
Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God had, on Saturday, stepped down as the overseer of the church in Nigeria in accordance with the governance code of the FRC.
Adeboye, who made the announcement during the church’s annual ministers thanksgiving service, at the Redemption Camp in the Mowe area of Ogun State, said the new regulation would affect clergymen, including Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church Worldwide International, aka Winners Chapel; Pastor W. F. Kumuyi of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry and Bishop Mike Okonkwo of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission.
The PUNCH, on Monday, reported that the minister had, on October 17, 2016, written the FRC boss, directing him to suspend the operation of the controversial regulation, which the Christian Association of Nigeria alleged was targeted at weakening the church.
According to the report, Obazee refused to suspend the regulation because there was no gazette backing the suspension of the regulation.
Enelamah’s recommendation nailed Obazee
The PUNCH learnt that Enelamah had earlier recommended to Buhari that the implementation of the regulation be suspended.
A top government official, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said the President approved Enelamah’s recommendation and the minister thereafter conveyed the decision to Obazee.
The source said, “Since the minister had conveyed the President’s approval that the implementation should be suspended, it was taken for granted that it had been suspended.
“Surprisingly, the Presidency received a report that during the Christmas period, Obazee hosted chief executives of some quoted companies to a dinner.
“It was at that dinner that he reportedly told his guests that the law had taken effect and would be implemented.
“The report got to the government and the President was angry about it.”
The President of the National Council of The Nigerian Stock Exchange, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, was said to have led the chief executives of companies to the dinner.
Another source, who confirmed the development, said Buhari sacked Obazee and dissolved the board of the FRC on Monday based on the recommendation of Enelamah.
Ministers warn President on implication of code
A top source in the Presidency, who confided in The PUNCH on Monday, stated that Obazee was sacked because he defied the directive of the minister.
“The President was irked by the fact that the FRC disobeyed the directive of the minister that the regulation should be suspended,” the source stated.
Another source added that the Presidency found it curious that a regulation, which the Council could not implement during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, was being enforced under Buhari.
“Although the regulation dated back to Jonathan’s administration, why did he fail to implement it and ask the religious leaders to resign? Why did the council wait till the present administration before insisting on its implementation?” the source asked.
It was also gathered that some ministers told Buhari on Monday morning that the gale of resignation that would sweep across the Pentecostal churches in the South would affect his government.
One of the ministers, who spoke on condition of anonymity with one of our correspondents, said the ministers reminded the President that the regime could be tagged anti-Christian if action was not taken.
FG suspends code of corporate governance
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, on Monday, suspended the controversial Corporate Governance Code, which was issued on October 17 by the FRC.
The suspension was disclosed in a statement by Enelamah.
In the five-paragraph statement by the minister’s Strategic Communication Adviser, Constance Ikokwu, he said the code was suspended in order to carry out a detailed review of its application.
The review, according to the statement, would now involve extensive consultations with stakeholders upon the reconstitution of the board of the FRC.
The statement states, “The Corporate Governance Code issued by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria has been suspended, pending a detailed review, extensive consultation with stakeholders and reconstitution of the board of the FRC.
“Government remains committed to restoring and enhancing market confidence and improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria.’’
The FRC is one of the parastatals under the supervision of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and it is responsible for setting and promoting compliance with standards for accounting, financial reporting and auditing in Nigeria.
Shareholders rejoice as FG sacks FRC boss
Shareholders in the country’s capital market, on Monday, expressed joy over the sack of Obazee, saying it was a timely step in the right path.
They said the erstwhile FRC chief executive had overshot his bounds so many times before recent developments.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, the President, Renaissance Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Olufemi Timothy, said at this particular time, the sack of Obazee was a good thing that had happened to the country as a whole, and not just the capital market.
He recalled that Obazee had earlier maintained that only chartered accountants could be admitted into the audit committee of companies, going against the practice where any elected shareholder could be elected into the position by fellow shareholders.
Timothy added, “He had gone beyond his mandate, and putting the country on a very hot seat. I think President Muhammadu Buhari is no longer comfortable with him. It is the best thing to happen to us to save the nation.”
Also, the President, Constance Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Shehu Mikail, described Obazee’s sacking as “lovely”, saying the FRC boss had no business regulating bodies that were not under him.
Mikail stated, “This means the government has heard the cries of the people. I really support his sacking.
“People saddled with responsibilities should take into cognisance the interest of the people. The former FRC boss did not properly liaise with the regulators, but rather saw himself as superior.”
Also, the National Director, Legal and Public Affairs in CAN, Kwamkur Samuel, described Obazee’s sacking as a commendable development.
He said, “The Nigeria church and indeed many well meaning Nigerians will want to hear the total disbandment of the obnoxious, archaic and anti-Christian law by the Federal Government or the amendment in respect of the church.’’