President Bola Tinubu has appointed a man who his predecessor fired over multiple allegations of corruption, abuse of office, federal racketeering and convicted of sexual harassment to lead a probe of the Central Bank of Nigeria and other federal agencies.
Jim Osayande Obazee was tapped as a special investigator with the mandate to uncover vast corruption at the nation’s main banker and other institutions suspected of entrenching a culture of public graft, according to a July 28 letter signed by the president for the new appointee.
The president said Mr Obazee, who was controversially removed from office in 2017 by President Muhammadu Buhari following multiple charges that included fraud and sexual assault of a federal official, should “immediately take steps to ensure the strengthening and probity of key Government Business Entities (GBEs), further block leakages in CBN and related GBEs and provide a comprehensive report on public wealth currently in the hands of corrupt individuals and establishments (whether private or public).”
He would operate with “a suitably experienced, competent and capable team and work with relevant security and anti-corruption agencies to deliver on this assignment,” Mr Tinubu added in the letter, noting that he would anticipate updates from Mr Obazee’s team on a weekly basis.
The development came about seven weeks after the president fired Godwin Emefiele as the head of the CBN and handed him over to the brutal State Security Service, where he has. been held ever since in defiance of court orders.
Mr Tinubu, whose emergence as president is facing serious legal challenges in federal courts, did not appear to have considered Mr Obazee’s controversial background before assigning him to a crucial anti-corruption portfolio.
Mr Obazee was the executive secretary of the Financial Reporting Council when, in 2013, he was accused of sexually abusing a federal official Abimbola Patricia Yakubu and later retaliated against her by firing her from the federal agency.
Ms Yakubu promptly sued the FRC for wrongful termination and covering up sexual assault by its leadership, a lawsuit she won at the Kano Division of the National Industrial Court.
Following a lengthy trial, Justice Oyebiola Oyewunmi awarded N5 million to Ms Yakubu against Mr Obazee. In the November 24, 2016 ruling, the judge also ordered the immediate reinstatement of the victim with full payment of her salaries, including for the years she was away from work over the illegal termination.
The court found that Ms Yakubu “suffered unquantifiable mental and psychological trauma, low self-worth and dignity,” from Mr Obazee’s treatment.
“I award the sum of N5,000,000.00 against the 2nd defendant 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 ruled.
Mr Obazee continued to maintain his innocence of all charges following the judgement. But there was no immediate clarification as to whether or not he bothered to appeal. The special investigator did not return a request from Peoples Gazette seeking comments about his background.
in 2016, Mr Obazee was also accused of siphoning public funds into his pocket from the agency, years after allegedly taking bribes to recommend a federal takeover of some banks and the removal of Lamido Sanusi and CBN governor.
Mr Obazee, who was appointed to lead FRC in November 2010, was finally sacked from office in January 2017 by Mr Buhari. His removal followed widespread controversy that trailed his decision to tightly regulate churches, mosques and other faith-based entities across Nigeria. The development was said to be linked to the decision of Enoch Adeboye to step down as the head of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The church later denied involvement in Mr Obazee’s ouster.
A spokesman for the president did not return a request seeking comments about how Mr Obazee was vetted for the position.
Mr Tinubu, who has for decades been dogged by allegations of corruption and drug dealing, has maintained close ties to people of questionable character. His chief of staff Femi Gbajabiamila accepted bribes to pass a 2021 law and was punished years earlier for stealing money from clients when he practised law in the United States. The president’s key politically-ally Abdullahi Ganduje was caught on video accepting bribes from a public works contractor.
Mr Tinubu has continued to deny allegations of corruption, although he admitted forfeiting drug money to the U.S. in the 1990s. He said in his letter to Mr Obazee that his decision to name a special investigator was in line with his administration’s strive to stamp out corruption in public service.
Credit: People gazette