It was 2017 and just like a coup plot, the announcement seeped through the airwaves on January 9 as Nigerians were settling down in the new year. Jim Obazee’s removal from the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC) climaxed the dingdong on the 2016 National Codes of Corporate Governance of which the Code for Not-for-profit organisations has turned controversial.
It was a rude shock to many because some persons, namely: Timothy Adesiyan and Nine Others, Dorphen Limited and Two Others, and Bamidele Paul Ogundele and Five Others had all taken up a case against the FRC over the code in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/974/15 to which Honourable Justice Buba dismissed the Applicants’ suits on March 23, 2016.
The removal, which was seemingly approved by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on the recommendation of Okechukwu Enelamah, the then Minister for Industry, Trade and Investments, was announced by Shehu Garba, the senior presidential spokesman. The announcement also came with the appointment of Daniel Asakpohai (who have been away from work since February this year, but came back to the country on 31 October, spent two hours in the office, resigned his appointment and then returned to the US on 3rd December) as the replacement, and Dotun Sulaiman as Chairman of the yet-to-be reconstituted Board of the FRC. All this happened in a fiasco with outright disregard to the provisions of Sections 4 and 5 of the Financial Reporting Council Act, 2011 that stipulates conditions under which the Executive Secretary can be removed from office.
The news was shocking to Nigerians who knew that the trio of Osinbajo, Enelamah, and Obazee are all pastors at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, (RCCG). Unknown to many, Obazee has been allegedly tagged, a rebel for daring to lead the federal government’s drive for accountability and transparency from Not-For-Profit organisations which include religious bodies. Religious bodies, especially the Churches have numerous businesses including schools from which huge profits come in, from which the government would have been able to generate some taxes.
The body language of the church leaders seem not to support that government should take taxes from the profits that accrue from their businesses that have nothing to do with spirituality or charitable activities because according to some, that is “Manna from heaven” and so, the government should stay off.
Just like the current visit and entreaties to President Muhammadu Buhari on the alleged “satanic” provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 by Church leaders, so were several visits and appeals made to former President Goodluck Jonathan to expunge the provision on the Not-For-Profit Organisations from the 2016 National Codes of Corporate Governance. All they could get then was the delay of the implementation of the codes that now stand as the sin for which Jim Obazee was crucified.
The codes by the FRC on its introduction created an uproar from the church and the plot for Obazee’s removal that was quietly hatched was hastened up when the General Overseer of the RCCG, the highly respected Pastor Enoch Adeboye, who is popularly called, “Baba”, citing the codes as the reason, announced his retirement to the Church ministers at the end of the first Holy Ghost Night prayers in 2017.
If the Codes of Corporate Governance would be the one to stop Baba, the churches see it is a slap on both Osinbajo and Enelamah, (the two pastors of the church that occupy key positions in President Muhammadu Buhari’s government). So the job to get Obazee out of the system became a do or die for Okechukwu Enelamah, the supervising minister of the FRC, and also a pastor in the RCCG serving as deputy to Vice President Osinbajo at the Olive Branch Parish of the RCCG at Banana Island, Lagos.
The church, especially the Pentecostal wing did not hide its disdain for the National Codes of Corporate Governance which ordered Not-For-Profit organisations to prepare financial statements and account separately for their non-charitable activities and pay taxes on their profits/investments. “It is satanic and must be thrown out”, they cried, despite all the benefits that were lauded by the corporate entities in the country.
Unknown to some church leaders, Enelamah, who was constantly briefed by Emeka Ifezulike, his Special Assistant who represented the ministry on the committee that midwife the codes, knew of the entire processes for the governance codes, according to memos and letters sighted by InsideBusinessNG at the ministry. Church leaders including Bishop Mike Okonkwo of TREM, Pastor Taiwo Odukoya of the Fountain of Life Church, Pastor Yomi Kasali and several other Church leaders, who also held secret meetings with Obazee, prior to the introduction of the codes were also in the know of the details.
Although some church leaders would later deny being part of the public hearings where inputs were gathered for the Codes, comments, however by the fiery Lagos lawyer and clergy, Pastor Tunde Bakare in Volume 1 of the “Matters Of Heritage”, the book that documented the history of Lagos State and launched during the celebrations of Lagos at 50, show that many church leaders nowadays are liars, but using “The Lord Says” to deceive the gullible brethren. This is to justify the biblical statement of Jesus Christ in (Biblical passage) that, “It is not all that call me Lord, that will enter my Kingdom”.
Tunde Bakare, reacting to questions on Page 99 of the 244-page book published by Seye Oyetunde confirmed that religious bodies including the church were given fair hearings on the draft of the codes which essentially targets transparency and accountability in the Nigerian economy so as to give comfort to prospective foreign and local investors.
According to Bakare, “The FRC codes went through a lot of processes and public hearings” adding that after opening the books of his church, the Latter Rain Church to the FRC to ascertain whether it is on the right side of the law, he influenced meetings between the then FRC CEO, Jim Obazee, and other church leaders for them to have details of the forthcoming Codes in accordance with the FRC law.
Not satisfied with the provisions of the Codes, some church leaders as was later revealed, went ahead to plot the removal of Obazee in what they felt would kill the Codes and allow churches to continue on the offside of the law.
The plot was revealed in February this year when Pastor Taiwo Odukoya of the Fountain of Life Church, boastfully, told the participants at the Church’s 2020 Leadership Summit of how some church leaders with the help of pastors who are stationed in key positions in the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, worked to “Suspend, Re-arrange and Re-fire” 2016 Codes of Corporate Governance, a measure which they believed, stave off the government from instilling transparency and accountability in Not-For-Profit organisations and by extension, the churches.
Pastor Odukoya, at the Leadership summit, gave details of the plot in which he mentioned Vice-President Osinbajo and former minister of industry, trade and investments, Okey Enelamah as those in government that “God Used” for saving the churches from what he called “a disaster”. At the programme that was streamed live on You-Tube and Facebook and watched by InsidebusinessNG, Pastor Odukoya, in the video, thereafter ordered the Media team of the Church to “delete” the explosive disclosure but which they forgot to do.
Below Is the Transcript of Pastor Taiwo Odukoya’s Narration of the Plot:
“It started 12 years ago and nothing was done until suddenly, the whole foundation of the church began to shake. It was God that saved us by using Baba (Pastor E. A. Adeboye) to deliver us when they suddenly said that the Government regulations (the FRC Code of Corporate Governance for Not-for-Profit organisations) have removed him from office. Everybody ran helter-skelter but we thank God for well-positioned people. Thank God that Baba (Pastor E. A. Adeboye) said that God has positioned Osinbajo (the Vice President) and has also positioned Enelamah there, (the then Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment). They were the ones that God used”.
“It was almost a disaster and I am sure you were surprised when he (Pastor Femi Atoyebi who was also in attendance) said it. Of course, we ran underground. People were just going to church and just clapping their hands. We looked for leadership, we looked for somebody, we attended the hearing at the ministry. It was Ladi (a person in attendance that he pointed to) that we stationed there to make sure they didn’t conclude. (Pastor Odukoya paused for a while and then remarked…), “Delete it”. (Pastor Odukoya was telling the media team of the church to delete this portion from the video of the programme).
Continuing he said “I remembered when the crisis started I was in Switzerland and we were about to preach, when a call was coming and it was Sylvester (another person in attendance that he also pointed to) who said a letter came and they were asking….I said reply the letter; I said call them, (how can they be saying this), then tell them we, we, we….. how can you be saying that it was the last hearing, did we see the notice?, but we were told that the notice has been on the (FRC) website for 21 days and I said, Who did you tell? I made a phone call from there. I was calling all our “Fathers in the Lord”, two of them were in Israel, one was in the U.S and another was in Israel, I told them that we have less than 48hrs. But you see, that is for the general body. We had to begin to look for those experts in the body, we looked for lawyers, accountants, we moved around, we looked for experienced civil servants. You see, if you don’t plan, if you don’t have the structure in place, then you are in trouble. I know a number of us have most of these things, but the question is this, are you strong enough and well-structured for what is coming? I know you will say that we have good professionals in our churches and they are doing well, but how come the church is struggling? So the time has come to begin to involve them as much as possible and God will help us in Jesus name.”
He thereafter lamented, “The threat is still there but it (the National Codes of Corporate Governance) was suspended and so, they withdrew to go and re-arrange and re-fire and they are still working. But again, the good news is that Sam Adeyemi started something and working with those who have an insight into that place (FRC) and he (Sam Adeyemi) said pastor, can we quickly begin to do something and tell churches to come so that we can begin to position ourselves, and that is going on”.
He concluded, “A lot of you don’t have a clue on what was going on, we are just wearing our garments and praying. But it (the prayer) is not effective. If you are praying without the knowledge and that is why the things you are hearing today is important”.
The following transpired during the question and answer session that followed;
Question: Someone asked “It’s not so informative but at the same time maybe Pastor Atoyebi can help put some light on it. Presently a bank like the GT bank has started flagging ministries (Churches) accounts that have not yet done SCUML registration with EFCC and it’s part of the consideration of the issue some time ago at the Financial Reporting Council and so, you have one month to comply or your account will be shut down’.
Answer by Pastor Atoyebi: “I think that merely confirms that it’s always going to happen so the earlier we started the better for us but I know that GTBANK is one of the strictest banks in terms of regulatory compliance. It wouldn’t play with it and once one bank starts, others will follow because for fear that the Central Bank can penalize the bank that doesn’t do it. And because of that, everybody will fall in line, it is better that we get ready before they are ready for us”.
Question. Another person asked, “You said the orthodox churches were better than us in terms of administration and co, which helped in terms of schools, hospitals etc. Are we saying the very best way to establish a financial base for the ministry is to go into different ventures?”
Answer by Pastor Atoyebi: “I know that majority of churches are complaining about a drop in income all over the world but the thrust is for a specific project, the spiritual project to run the church, pay your bills and stuff, and I am sure, often of any church will do that least of all the church as large as this but what God has called you to do is a lot more. For instance, you look at Matt.5:14:16 that says, “You are the light of the world, you are the salt of the earth and if the salt shall savour then what shall it be salted, it’s good for nothing then to throw down under the feet of men. If you are going to be a light unto the world and salt to the earth; it’s something very expensive. I will tell you a true-life story about a doctor that walked into my pastoral office years ago. He was looking for fund because he was running a Motherless Babies Home that takes care of abandoned children. He had about 16 at that time in his house and one day, he heard the scream of a baby as he was going somewhere, so he walked up to the place and saw a girl, whom he picked up. That time, he had no food, no money because he had lots of them like that. That year that he came to me was the year that lady that he picked up, was graduating with M.B.B.S at the University of Ilorin. Please tell me which is a greater gospel preaching between what I have been doing all evening or that one. If that girl was to make a choice as to which God she will serve, you don’t need to preach to her, she will say the God of this man will be my God”.
I want to submit that offering from large-hearted brethren as you all know, may not meet every need. It’s just like citizens asking the government to do everything 100%, no government does it, but of course, as the best medium, that is what we expect them to do but it must be public, private cooperation/initiative, the same thing in the church. So if we have people who are giving, which was what they were doing in the Catholic Church and all those orthodox churches that had excess funds; they take it up and invested it. You will marvel at what those churches are making from rental, and from hospitals even though it is highly subsidised. So I want to suggest that churches need to get into ventures and there is the need to keep the accounts separate for accounting purposes because it will be taxable and there should be no problem with that. Can you imagine that the CMS house in Lagos is owned by a church and some people have been paying rent forever? That is why the Church that owns the CMS house does not shout and scream, looking for money and quoting scriptures”.
Question from another person: “There are industries that contribute to the success of each country from a GDP point of view. How can the church catch up with that without playing spiritual tactics which don’t help?”
Answer from Pastor Atoyebi: You know when they started the federal Reporting Council (Financial Reporting Council) about church accounting, my major problem about the approach of government was that we have not been doing it, we have not been complying with it. I think it is unfair for the government to expect them (the churches) to rise from zero operation to ten overnight because it wouldn’t make sense. I don’t think it will be right to bring in law and say this is where the UK is today without knowing when the UK started. If the government can extract a commitment from the churches as to when to start, I will be all for it”
Pastor Tunde Bakare’s comment “On the Opposition From The Church to the 2016 National Codes of Corporate Governance as published in the “Lagos at 50” (Culled from Page 100 of Lagos@50):
Question: On the role of the church as salt and light with respect to city development and nation-building. Recently, the body of Christ in Nigeria went into an uproar over some form of regulation especially for accountability that came from the Financial Reporting Council (FRC). What is your take on that because it is perceived in some quarters that it was a means of persecuting the church leadership?
Pastor Bakare’s response: It is unfortunate that there are people who give names to children whose conception they know nothing about. The FRC code you are talking about went through a lot of processes and public hearing. The then Executive Secretary/CEO of FRC was brought to our church and introduced by one of our Deacons.
The reason they brought him was that a new organisation has just been established by law and churches like other Not-For-Profit organisations will have to abide by its rules and regulations to function under the law for accountability purposes. I immediately called the external auditor and the accountant of our church to go meet with them with our audited accounts from 1990 to date to see if we are doing things right or wrongly.
After checking our books thoroughly, they gave us a certificate of compliance. I later arranged for other men of God in the city to meet the FRC CEO, a man I did not know at all, before that time, because it was much later that I got to know that he was a senior pastor in one of the Pentecostal churches around. I just wanted to comply with whatever the law says because lawless people can never make progress and will be controlled by the anti-Christ spirit which is a lawless spirit whose operational tool is called the mystery of iniquity which is lawlessness.
I remember arranging meetings privately between the then CEO of FRC and Bishop Mike Okonkwo, together with Pastor Taiwo Odukoya of the Fountain of Life Church and Pastor Yomi Kasali, and they all said they would like him to come and educate them too and throw light on the Code. He met with them in a private hotel together with many Pastors in the city to give explanations about the Code. The meeting gave the opportunity to examine the Codes and allowed for inputs by everyone as a form of agreement on the content. It was after this that the man went into the publication of the Codes that now became a subject of controversy.
It is unfortunate that some just open their mouth and talk about what they don’t understand and many, because of what they would like to hide. Let me put it on record that for those indicted, you may run away from it today but it will catch up with you someday. There is nothing in that law that stipulates when a man leaves his Church or resigns from his church, but really when will a man, not retire from work. The General Overseers of today took the churches from someone if they are not pioneers of those churches. Moses led Israel, died, and passed the baton to someone else in his lifetime as an example for us to follow. Why don’t we run the churches in a way that will command the respect of the corporate world? That’s why they called churches “In the name of God Plc” today because we just pocket what comes in and there is no accountability, no records. Many of the churches do not even have audited accounts. The situation is so bad that money laundering is even going on in many of the churches. So what moral right do they have to correct the excesses of the public office holders in the city and the nation?
I knew nothing about the law as it is being mentioned in some quarters. Mind you, the law was not even passed in the Buhari administration. It was passed in Yar’Adua and Jonathan’s administration as a valid law. Really, you can’t stop men from making mountains out of molehills. The last time a donkey spoke with a human voice in the Bible was by the intervention of God but I think since it is established, many donkeys have been speaking with a human voice on the pulpit. That would be my comment, let them continue to blow grammar and not put their house in order forgetting that the decision you don’t make will eventually overtake you one day. A king will arise that will not know Joseph, that day you will give an account of everything you have done.”
Comments from Tunde Bakare showed that Churches were involved in the processes but comments by Taiwo Odukoya in the video showed that many church leaders have disdain for the codes which if allowed to be implemented, would have laid bare the income and operations of Churches’ businesses. This, they do not want.
Further findings from both the FRC and the supervising ministry also revealed that Obazee is still assigned, full government escorts and security although insiders at the FRC confided in InsideBusiness that his name had since been removed from the payroll.
“Obazee’s removal was one of the approvals given by the V-P when President Buhari was away on medical treatment. We are not sure that the president is happy about it because a letter of disengagement has not been issued to him by the President who is the only person that is so authorised by the FRC Act 2011 and the Nigerian constitution”, says a source at the presidential villa.
The president, it was learnt, knew about the sack when he ordered that a special investigative team be drawn from the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and to be headed by Obazee owing to his superior accounting and audit knowledge. The idea about the investigative team was immediately aborted.
The role ascribed to the Vice-president in the video by Pastor Odukoya also gave insights into why nobody, especially the Vice-President would want to defend or comment on the removal of Obazee, who stood stoutly against several onslaughts against the codes that the works on it started on January 17, 2013, when a 19-man steering committee was inaugurated. This effort, the approval from Osinbajo thrashed away on January 9, 2017.
Members of the committee are Victor Odiase from Andrew Rusell Consulting who is the chairman, E.A Okolo from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mohammed Yola Datti from PenCom, Nicholas Opara from NAICOM, Mrs F. Onwuegbuchulam from the NCC and A.M Adeyemi from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.
Others are Adedapo Adeleke from the NDIC, R.A Adams from the CBN, Abubakar G, Abubakar, the current Registrar-General at the CAC, Dele Togunde of the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria, I. Olushola Dada of the IoD, Nat Ofo of Igbinedion University, Okada, and Demola Odeyemi of the Guaranty Trust Bank.
Other members of the committee that was inaugurated by Olusegun Aganga who is the then Minister for trade, investment and industry are Dimeji Salaudeen from the KPMG Professional Services, Mrs Uto Okpanah from MTN Nigeria, Benedicter Molokwu from the IoD, Ibrahim Rafindadi from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and Yomi Adebanjo of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria.
The works and efforts of these important personalities from every sector of the economy and the important regulatory bodies in the country, with inputs from eminent statesmen like the Head of Service of the Federation of that period, the Finance minister, Sulaiman Ndanusa, and captains of industry like Christopher Kolade, Late Gamaliel Onosode, Jasper Christian Hamakar, Fabian Ajogwu SAN, and Olusegun Osunkeye were rubbished by Enelamah’s recommendation to remove Obazee.
Laolu Akande, the media aide to the V-P when contacted by InsideBusinessNG on the allegations by Pastor Odukoya against his principal in the video requested for the details so as to draw an informed comment from the V-P.
“What is the name of the minister? and which event and date is this?, Also what did he say that the VP did specifically”, Laolu Akande inquired from InsideBusinessNG to serve as the basis for further talks.
InsideBusinessNG replied, stating that, “Pastor Taiwo Odukoya of the Fountain of Life Church, Ilupeju in Lagos at the Leadership Conference in February 2020, said the VP and former minister, Enelamah helped the churches to Suspend, rework and re-issue the 2016 National Codes of Corporate Governance that was instituted by the FRC”.
Laolu Akande has since gone mute.
Efforts to draw comments from Okeychukwu Enelamah was also not successful as findings showed that the former minister has since been on exile immediately he left government to avoid prosecution by the nation’s anti-graft agency, the EFCC over the fraudulent allocation of N42.09 billion to a non-existent private company, named Nigeria Special Economic Zones Company NSEZC but which Corporate Affairs Commission document showed its actual name as Nigeria Sez Investment Company Limited of which two of his aides, Olufemi Edun, and Oluwadara Owoyemi are directors together with Bakari Madinga, the Director of Finance and Accounts at the Bureau of Public Service Reforms.
The company which its document showed that it is a private company with limited liabilities and with 75 per cent equity to private individuals and 25 per cent to the government, was later discovered by the Senate Committee on Industry, Trade and Investment to have received N14, 376,027,584.65 transferred from the 2017 capital vote of NEPZA which was meant for the upgrade of the existing two Public Free Trade Zones to World Class standard.
The entire development has, therefore, brought to the fore, the true colour of some of the Nigerian church leaders who are expected to show examples by leading uprightly. These Church leaders always want public servants, government leaders and the entire Nigerians to emulate their teachings but are failing to show examples. Interestingly, some of these church leaders who fought against accountability, will between now and January issue out prophesies for 2021 which they will want every Nigerians to follow and observe.
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