TEXT OF THE PRESS BRIEFING BY BARR ANAYO MBAH, LAGOS-BASED LEGAL PRACTITIONER FROM THE LAW FIRM OF ALPHA HARRIS SOLICITORS, COUNSEL TO MR JIM OBAZEE, THE SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR TO THE CBN AND RELATED ENTITIES.
Gentlemen of the Press
Good afternoon. We welcome you to this press briefing to set the record straight about Jim Obazee, the Special Investigator to the CBN who has come under negative attacks by some publications, trying to defame his person and character since his appointment on Friday, 28th July 2023.
The offending articles were published by The Eagle Online, Sahara Reporters, Peoples Gazette, HeadTopics, and others with evil and malicious campaigns to abuse the minds of the people so that Obazee can be viewed by members of the public as corrupt and fraudulent while he was in public service.
In one of the offending articles against Obazee with the caption ‘Jim Obazee: the many controversies of Tinubu’s CBN Special Investigator’ The Eagle Online, the publisher chronicled that Obazee was ordered by the Senate Committee on Public Account to refund to the Federation Account, N94 million that comprised N66 million paid to Japaul Oil and Maritime Services for an office space at Japaul Building and the sum of N28, 765,842.11 raised and paid through 64 payment vouchers without the internal audit stamps and dates by FRC.
Some in their articles, particularly, Sahara Reporters, Peoples Gazette, and HeadTopics also painted him as a criminal, who was convicted of sexual assault, linked to corruption and siphoning of public funds.
We will not want to waste energy on the news peddled by these people as the initial publication of the same is already the subject matter of several suits against three frontline newspapers in the country, The Guardian, The Punch, and the Daily Independent pending before the High Court of Edo State, Benin City Judicial Division, Benin City, Edo State, since 2021 for their libelous Publication against the person of Mr Obazee as what was then published and then repeated by these present publishers are false in its entirety. The said civil suits are currently at Trial Stage and for your information, the details of the Suits are, as follows: (a) Suit No. B/769/2021 – Jim Osayande Obazee v. Punch Nigeria Limited; (b) Suit No. B/770/2021 – Jim Osayande Obazee v. Independent Newspaper Limited; and(c) Suit No. B/885/2021 – Jim Osayande Obazee v. Guardian Newspaper Nigeria Limited.
Pieces of evidence at the Court by Sola Oluseyi of Sola Oluseyi & Co, a firm of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, and also, the Manager of the Japaul Building will exonerate Mr Obazee from the wrongful accusation on the rent of the building while the 64 invoices cited in the reports of the three newspapers were issued by the officials of the FRC in October 2017, nine months after Mr Obazee had left office. It is on record that Mr. Obazee was removed from office on January 9, 2017, in a controversial manner by the Federal Government via a media announcement signed by Garba Shehu from the Presidency; while the 64 vouchers were issued during the tenure of the Late David Asakpohia, the former Executive Secretary of the FRC after Mr. Obazee had been relieved of his office. We will stop at this, as the matter is already in Court but we will take decisive actions permissive in law against the current peddlers of this news without verification.
On the issue of Conviction for sexual assault, we state that to date there is no criminal investigation commenced or criminal charge filed in any court in Nigeria by anybody against Mr. Jim Obazee. The news was maliciously concocted and captioned to tarnish Mr. Obazee’s hard-earned image. We challenge the peddlers of the false and malicious statements to produce the Petition(s) and Criminal Charge(s) filed against Mr. Obazee as well as the judgment(s) of the Court convicting or sentencing him for any such criminal offenses. We state categorically that what Mr. Obazee is aware of is a purely employment-related civil suit filed at the National Industrial Court by one of the employees of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) for wrongful termination and other claims against FRCN and wherein Mr. Obazee was joined as a party as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Judgment was given in the case and FRCN and Mr. Obazee have since appealed against the decision of the National Industrial Court. There was never a criminal charge or conviction of Mr. Obazee in any court in Nigeria. The news is malicious and false.
The news peddlers also stated in their publication that Mr. Obazee was linked to corruption, siphoned public funds into his pocket, took bribes to recommend federal takeover of banks and removal of Lamido Sanusi as CBN Governor and that EFCC is closely monitoring him over a legion of Petitions. No mention was made of any particular petition or petitioner or case file relating to all these spurious allegations of corruption. We are still waiting for further details from the news peddlers but there is not yet a single piece of evidence to support their publications.
We had expected this campaign of calumny against his person because he has refused to be compromised and be enticed by several carrots being dangled at him to lure him away from the truth by the sponsors of these publications.
All the peddlers of these offending articles in The Eagle Online, Sahara Reporters, Peoples Gazette, HeadTopics, and others have received our strong-worded demands for retraction, apologies, and damages as the news in their publication are syndicated lies, untrue information, statements, communications and accounts calculated to injure and tarnish our client's image, character, credit, reputation and person before the members of the society to decrease the respect, regard and confidence in which our client is held in the society.
Our Client, Mr. Obazee, is a consultant and a global expert in international financial reporting and had worked in the capacity of the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC), the 29th Chairman of the International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (ISAR) of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Chairman of the National Committee on Road Map to the Adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in Nigeria and currently appointed as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Special Investigator by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR.
Mr. Jim Obazee was a civil servant of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and worked with the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (hereinafter referred to as FRC) as Executive Secretary from the inception of the FRC on June 3, 2011, to January 09, 2017.
Mr. Jim Obazee has carved out a niche for himself in many professional and personal respects not to deserve this collateral damage to his reputation by this style of vindictive journalism. On 4th November 2010, our Client was appointed the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Accounting Standards Board that was later succeeded by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria by the enactment of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria Act, No.6, 2011.
On 12th November 2014, our Client addressed the World Congress of Accountants (an event that takes place once every four years) in Italy on “Fighting corruption and Fraud: The role for Professional Accountants. Our Client, in 2015, chaired the National Committee on “Top 100 Businesses in Nigeria”; the first and only corporate reward platform that the Federal Government of Nigeria set up in 2015.
During our Client’s service, he painstakingly built goodwill and a global reputation arising from his expertise, dexterity, and innovations in international financial reporting as a result of which he was decorated with several awards and recognition, including the following, to mention but a few: “Most Outstanding, Innovative and Resourceful Financial Czar of the year 2020” by the Prestige International Magazine Excellence Award in December 2020;
Best Financial Reporting Expert Personality of the Year 2019; Lagos-Ikeja City Award; Most Outstanding Financial Personality of the Year 2019: City Pride Achievers’ Award (Nigeria); The Most Outstanding Personality of the Year 2017; awarded by the International Centre for Comparative Leadership for Africans and Blacks in Diaspora; Africa Leader of Integrity Merit Award 2016 (Ghana); Role Model 2016: Nigeria Rising Award 2016 by Hallmark Newspaper, Nigeria; Africa Best Rated Leadership Personality of the Year 2016 (Public Sector) (African Development, Ghana); Award of Excellence for Competence/Distinctiveness in Public Service 2015 (Nigeria Media Nite-Out Award 2015); among others.”
On 9th January 2017, our Client’s appointment as Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria was terminated by the Federal Government of Nigeria via media announcement without any formal letter to that effect. The announcement, signed by Garba Shehu (from the presidency), also carried the name of a replacement (of our Client) whose tenure, as announced, should begin with immediate effect.
Since our Client was relieved of his appointment, he has continued his business in the Financial Reporting Service Sector and has engaged in consultancy services in the said sector for both municipal and international institutions/establishments until recently he was again appointed the Special Investigator on CBN and other related entities by the current administration of His Excellency, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Gentlemen of the Press, It should be noted that the issue of the authenticity, falsity, or otherwise of the report of the Senate Committee on Public Account relating to FRC now published by the News Peddlers, being the gravamen of our Client’s defamation case against the Newspaper Houses earlier mentioned, is sub-judice being the subject matter of the suits earlier mentioned, and should not have formed the basis of any news report until the case in Court is decided one way or the other. Therefore, it is condemnable and unacceptable that these media houses are publishing a report that its truth is being challenged in Court.
Furthermore, the news headline boldly captioned “Convicted of Sexual Assault” where there is no criminal investigation or charge is condemnable and unacceptable. Without more, the news is false and untrue. The same headlines boldly captioned “Linked to Corruption” and “Siphoning Public Fund” are condemnable and unacceptable and false and untrue. There is no iota of truth in all these reports.
It is, therefore, crystal clear that the publications of July 31, 2023, by the aforementioned news media to wit: The Eagle Online, Sahara Reporters, Peoples Gazette, HeadTopics, and others, were false, untrue, unverified, and calculated to ridicule and drag our Client’s reputation to the mud. The publications have caused our client and his immediate family national and international backlash and embarrassment and have done incalculable damage to him and subjected our client to unspeakable hatred, opprobrium, ridicule, scandal, and contempt in the eyes of reasonable members of the public and the entire world.
Finally, let it be known that these false publications about our Client constitute offenses under Section 373 of the Criminal Code Act and are punishable under Section 375 of the Criminal Code Act. Section 373 of the Criminal Code Act provides that a defamatory matter is a matter likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by an injury to his reputation. Such matter may be expressed in spoken words or any audible sounds, or words legibly marked on any substance whatever, or by any sign or object signifying such matter otherwise than by words, and may be expressed either directly or by insinuation or irony. Section 375 of the Criminal Code Act, also provides that “Subject to the provisions of this Chapter, any person who publishes any defamatory matter, is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for one year; and any person who publishes any defamatory matter knowing it to be false, is liable to imprisonment for two years.
Our Client will explore the provisions of the law to protect and ventilate his rights appropriately against the publishers of false and defamatory information, publications, and statements. They shall face the wrath of the law in due course.