“Jim Obazee vowed to oust Adeboye” – RCCG Spokesman

Jim Obazee, the sacked executive secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC), “vowed to remove Enoch Adeboye as general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG)”.

According to Segun Adegbiji, the church’s head of media and public relations, Obazee, who willingly resigned as a pastor in RCCG and was “neither suspended nor sacked”, is on a vendetta mission against the general overseer.

“Obazee was a teacher at the School of Disciples, but he voluntarily resigned. Afterwards, he started attending RCCG Province II Parish on Acme Road, Ogba, Lagos. He was neither suspended nor sacked by the church,” Adegbiji said on Thursday during a media parley with journalists at Redemption Camp, Mowe, Ogun state.

“There was no feud between him and the church that I know of, although I can confirm that I heard the story that he vowed to get Pastor Adeboye out.”

Adeboye recently appointed a new national overseer for the church as a result of the corporate governance code stipulating a term of 20 years for heads of not-for-profit organisations, although he remained the worldwide overseer of the church.

Adegbiji further noted that despite the suspension of the FRC law, Adeboye would not reverse his decision to step down.

“If you know Daddy GO (Adeboye) very well, he does not make such an important decision without consulting the Church Council, and most importantly, God. That decision has been made and it does not in any way affect his position as the General Overseer of the RCCG.

“So, there is no need to reverse the decision after the Federal Government has suspended the implementation of the FRC law.

“The RCCG is a fast-growing church and as of the last count, we are in 192 nations of the world and most of these countries have their national or country overseer. So, there is nothing wrong if Nigeria, which also has the blessing of hosting the world headquarters of the RCCG, has its own national overseer.

“However, this does not, in any way, affect the position of the General Overseer as all other national overseers of the church in other countries report to him.

“He has been and he will continue to perform his role without let or hindrance. So, he (Adeboye) has never stepped down as the General Overseer of the RCCG.”

Joshua Obayemi, the new national overseer, was a deputy in charge of finance and a member of governing council in RCCG before his appointment.

Opinion: Obazee and Accounting for God’s Money On Earth – By Jibrin Ibrahim

His rashness aside, Mr. Jim Obazee has raised issues of accountability that should not be disregarded in the review process that is to follow. He argued that: “In keeping other peoples’ money, you have to prepare accounts. That is why churches fought me so badly, took me to court as a person and then my office too…”

Jim Obazee, the recently sacked Executive Secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria is a man with unlimited capacity to provoke agency. He got an alarmed President Buhari only a few hours to leap into action and sack him over an impending war he was provoking between the Administration and Nigeria’s Christian Community when people woke up to realise that the revered general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God was not retiring from office due to divine revelation but due to injunctions from Mr. Obazee.

It would be recalled that when the Emir of Kano was governor of the Central Bank and made major revelations of mega corruption against the then Jonathan Administration, in the comfort of law which guarantees the tenure of central bank governors, it was the same Mr. Obazee who emerged out of no where to create conditions for the sack of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Obazee had no qualms or fear in accusing him of financial recklessness and seeking to interrogate him.

In October 2015, the FRC under Obazee also suspended Atedo Peterside as the chairman of Stanbic IBTC, citing infractions in the 2013-14 financial statements of the bank as the reason for its decision. He directed the bank to restate and to re-issue its 2013-14 financial statements and imposed a fine of N1 billion on the bank. He also suspended Sola David Borha, the group managing director and other staff. He is a man with no fear of action, even if often the actions he takes are misguided or not clearly thought out.

One of Obazee’s most dramatic actions was in relation to civil society and religious organisations. Late last year, he directed not-for-profit organisations, including churches and mosques, to comply with a corporate governance code stipulating a maximum term of 20 years for heads of such entities. It was a decision that normally should have been considered and taken by the Corporate Affairs Commission, which regulates charities in Nigeria, but as they were not willing to act, Obazee acted. On the basis of his action, Enoch Adeboye, who had spent over 20 years as the general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), decided to hand over the baton to Joshua Obayemi to head the Nigerian church. When people realised that the change of guard was an Obazee, and not a spiritual, revelation, there was deep anger, which President Buhari understood immediately, and for once acted fast by removing Obazee and approving the reconstitution of the board of FRC. The government also immediately suspended the Corporate Governance Code issued by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria pending a detailed review and extensive consultations with stakeholders.

Nigeria, according to Forbes, is the world leader in terms of the wealth of pastors… There is a debate to be held in Nigeria about the accountability of public resources collected by religious organisations. Can such resources just be disbursed as the boss decides?

His rashness aside, Mr. Jim Obazee has raised issues of accountability that should not be disregarded in the review process that is to follow. He argued that: “In keeping other peoples’ money, you have to prepare accounts. That is why churches fought me so badly, took me to court as a person and then my office too. Mosques and orthodox churches freely complied, but those Pentecostal churches called me to ask questions. They said: ‘This church is church of God and we are accountable to God.’ And I told them: ‘Very good, so you must take this church to heaven, you can’t operate it here’. When public funds are involved, government needs to ensure proper accountability.” We should think about this.

In this regard, it’s worthwhile recalling the story of Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, general overseer of a pentecostal church then based in a disused cinema in north-east London. He was running one of the United Kingdom’s richest religious institutions, the Kingsway International Christian Centre, in Walthamstow. It emerged in 2009 that he had filed company accounts, which revealed a £4.9 million profit over the previous 18 months. It also had asset of £22.9 million – more than three times the amount held by the foundation, which maintains St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. As the boss, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo had placed himself on a salary of £100,000 in conformity with his preaching that God wants his people to be rich. The British asked some questions. The Church was registered as a charity and its wealth was derived mainly from its 8,000 congregation that gave £9.5 million in tithes and offerings in the 18 months to April 2008, dwarfing the £33,000 that the average Church of England congregation gave over the same period. Maybe the British were jealous. While British Churches were dying, this Nigerian Church was flourishing with active members who were paying money to the Church.

The British Charity Commission objected to how the Church leadership was using the money of the Church, which they believed belonged to members and not the leadership. They ordered Ashimolowo to repay £200,000 after it emerged he used church asset to buy a £13,000 Florida timeshare and £120,000 on his birthday celebrations, including £80,000 on a car. The Charity Commission ordered the Church to appoint new trustees and removed Ashimolowo as chief executive of the Church. The Charities Commission also queried Ashimolowo for earning royalties from sermons published in books and on DVDs through his own company – Matthew Ashimolowo Media Ministries, which was making a lot of profit. They insisted that as Churches were charities, it was public money for the benefit of members and people in need not Church bosses. Obazee’s script was therefore not totally crazy. Nigeria however is not the UK and Ashimolowo moved back to Nigeria and God blessed his Nigerian Church with even more wealth than the one he left in the United Kingdom.

Nigeria, according to Forbes, is the world leader in terms of the wealth of pastors. They claimed three years ago that our richest pastor is Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith World Outreach Ministry, aka Winners Chapel with an estimated net worth of $150 million. He is followed by Chris Oyakhilome of Believers’ Loveworld Ministries, a.k.a Christ Embassy with an estimated net worth of $30 million to $50 million. Then comes Temitope Joshua of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) who is worth $10 million to $15 million. They are followed by Mathew Ashimolowo and Chris Okotie. There is a debate to be held in Nigeria about the accountability of public resources collected by religious organisations. Can such resources just be disbursed as the boss decides?

The Nigerian church and its contradictions – By Niran Adedokun

I am hoping that the church in Nigeria does not see Monday’s sack of Mr. Jim Obazee as the Executive Secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria as some sort of victory.

I am still in the process of convincing myself that the hullaballoo, which followed Pastor Enoch Adeboye’s decision to step down from his position as the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria, did not inspire President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to send Obazee home at this time. I try to justify the action by the fact that there e loads of boards of government agencies and parastatals not yet reconstituted and that this was just one of those actions that the President remembers by the day.

If that is not the case, I hope the former ES got fired for insubordination, coming from his alleged refusal to follow a ministerial directive to suspend the implementation of the Not-For-Profit Organisations Governance Code, 2016. Either of these would save the church from the public angst on this matter even as one concedes that they are propositions Nigerians are reluctant to consider. And, it would be foolhardy not to understand. The Yoruba say when the neighbour’s baby dies the morning after the witch shrieked, you need no fortune teller to arrive at the conclusion that the witch killed that child!

Obazee’s sack comes across like an  aftermath of Adeboye’s relinquishing of his position two days earlier,  and it is a sack that did untold harm to the already beaten reputation of the church! It does not seem to me that the leadership of the church realises this though, and that is unfortunate.

In response to Obazee’s sack, way ahead of the expiration of his tenure, General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Musa Asake, was quoted by The Nation as saying: “The sack of Jim (Obazee) is good riddance to bad rubbish. Anybody that wants to fight the church will find himself where he does not want…”

Although this distasteful statement appears to be Asake’s personal opinion since the same news report cited CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, as saying that lawyers of the organisation were still studying the situation, it nevertheless suggests that the NFPO was a personal war against the Christian faith. This position is untrue.It also suggests that the Nigerian Church is a sovereign entity by itself.

Otherwise, bodies like CAN that feel aggrieved by the code would adopt the normal course dictated by the laws of the country in the pursuit of justice. To submit that the premature dismissal of a man who only seemed to demand good corporate governance in the country was appropriate deepens the suspicion of opacity and mammon mongering that many Nigerians, including a lot of faith adherents, hold against church leaders!

In addition to this, the Church would have taken the pains to deliberately communicate its disputations as well as processes that it had put in place to obtain reprieve and retain the confidence of the people by being open and accountable. It is a duty that a body serving God and man owes and dereliction at it is bound to send wrong signals.

For instance, discussions in the public domain have restricted these issues to the refusal of church leaders to pay taxes, open their books to scrutiny and preserve the leadership of churches for their family members. Beyond the commendable step taken by Pastor Adeboye in compliance with provisions of the code, the church has made no effort to put a contrary perspective forward. A section of the church even blames Adeboye for being so forward! And I am unable to understand the grouse.

First off, this code is not just about the church as it also talks about leaders of the Muslim faith. Second, while the idea of government stepping into the arena to dictate the tenure of religious leaders sounds absurd, I found that the regulations provide a lot of latitude for founders and extant spiritual leaders of such organisations. If the Church however finds unjust provisions in this code, it owes the public the presentation of superior arguments to that effect. But there are many reasons why the Nigerian church would be unable to do that.

Prime amongst this is the appalling lack of cohesion within its fold. No matter how much it pretends at it, Christendom in Nigeria is unable to approach issues with a single mind and this seems to have diminished its impact.

Some could argue that the level of discord in the Church derives from the number of denominations creeping on us daily, but that is beside the point. Since unity hinged on selfless love for one another is the very essence of the faith, those who start new churches would be forced to fall in line if they met functional structures on the ground.

If the preaching of Christ remains the focus of the Church, His ministers should aggregate opinions and speak with one voice on issues that affect the effective propagation of their Commission. But here is where the problem is- the Church in Nigeria is a big but disorganised enclave where every man feathers his own nest or so it appears.

A corollary to this is the low or no entry barrier into ministry. Capitalising on the ethereal and personal nature of the invitation into ministry, innumerable people wake up daily to claim that they have been called by God whereas, many are inspired by nothing other than existential reasons and accumulate the wealth that they assume churching brings to them.

They then go on to perpetrate lies by concocting all sorts of out-of-this-world doctrines that find no foundation in the Bible. This is the origin of abominable conduct of spiritual manipulations, fortune telling, dissentions, embezzlement and such immoral acts that should, ordinarily not be spoken of amongst believers.

What is worse is that neither CAN nor the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, which pretends to give a sense of oneness to the Church in Nigeria, has any structure with which to deal with members who fall short of the very clear precepts of God. I do not even think that any self-induced code governs the administration of churches in Nigeria.

As far as it runs, Christians and their leaders are a body of free souls with everyone doing what they like without repercussions.  It is an irony that church leaders who teach the eternal truth that nature allows no vacuum, forget that a church that does not regulate itself invites secular scrutiny.

To fail to self-regulate and then go on to reject external intervention is to cast yourself in the shadowy image of a dodgy group of people, engrossed in every other thing but the limpid gospel you represent and preach.  This becomes more intolerable when you get triumphant at the termination of the duties of a man who, even if overzealous or misguided, only sought a decent country. That can be no victory at all.

Victory for the Nigerian church lies in for starters, leading the nation in the very important task of good corporate governance; finding a voice, united in the promotion of the selfless love of Christ; creating an effective internal self-check mechanism; maintaining an irreducible standard of decency and accountability to the faithful and nation as well as committing to persistent prayers on behalf of the faith, the faithful and the country that fathers us.

What we currently see of the Church is a power drunk, money mongering group, striving for the preservation of personal fiefdoms, none of which benefits God who made the call or the man, which the Church is called to bring good news to. We only see the embracement of vanity, all in contradiction of the profession that leaders of the Church say they committed. It is a contradiction that begs for urgent and godly attention.

Follow me on Twitter @niranadedokun

Christian Association of Nigeria thanks President Buhari for firing Jim Obazee

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has hailed Jim Obazee’s removal as executive secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC).

He was fired by President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday night.

Speaking to NATION, Musa Asake, general secretary, of the organisation said: “The sack of Jim (Obazee) is good riddance to bad rubbish. Anybody that wants to fight the church will find himself where he does not want.

“Jim got to the position by the grace of God, but set out to probe and destroy the church of God. I spoke with him several times on this issue but he wouldn’t listen. He was going to take the church to what is worse than Armageddon.

“Thank God the authorities have stepped in to right the wrong. He should have been fired a long time ago and we don’t know why he was left alone, but God’s time is always the best.

“That code should be thrown out completely because government should not interfere with the church. The church is a no-go zone for the government.

“Doing that has serious implications. If they attempt it, it will lead to confusion in the nation.”

Femi Emmanuel, senior pastor, Living Spring Chapel International, Lagos, said: “It is a right step in the right direction. Government has no business meddling in the internal structure and governance of the church.

“There is no government in the world that does that.

“Anyone who does that is incurring the wrath of God. Yes, there could be financial regulation of churches but never in the internal structure of the church.

“Everything that has to do with the internal structure and governance of the church must be expunged from the code.”

Obazee, a former pastor of the RCCG, said only 89 of the 23,216 registered churches in the country had complied with FRC provisions.

The leadership of CAN has slated an emergency meeting on the FRC code and other related matters.

Samson Ayokunle, CAN president, said the organisation’s lawyers would review the issues and make their position known to the public.

Ayokunle spoke through Bayo Oladeji, his media assistant.

“CAN will react at the right time and make its decision public. We are studying the situation. CAN leadership will meet. Our lawyers are studying the situation,” he said.

Jim Obazee’s sack: Should churches be regulated? – By Ebuka Nwankwo

The anger, as well as surprise, which surrounded the announcement that Pastor Enoch Adeboye was relinquishing his position as the head of the Nigerian unit of the Redeemed Christian Church of God was palpable. Some couldn’t understand why the government was getting involved in the activities of the ‘righteous’.

The revered pastor attributed his resignation to the rules set by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN)—an agency established by an Act of Parliament — on the tenure of heads of all not-for-profit organizations. (This rule stipulates a maximum of 20 years, or a 70-year age limit, for heads of churches and mosques, who have occupied all major governance positions.)

Ordinarily, this would have been a non-issue to many because successors would still have to come from the ‘righteous’ within these churches and mosques, and can never be imposed on them.

Besides, for some organizations, like the Redeemed Christian Church of God, you could argue that such change of baton might not mean much. After all, Adeboye is still the world-wide leader. A bishop can never be as powerful as a pope.

But the leading opposition party took advantage of this confusion. They argued that the intent of such rule was to weaken the church. Even the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) joined in condemning the ‘government’ – it didn’t matter to them that the rule also applied to mosques. (Some members of CAN had earlier contested this rule in court, but lost.)

And the number one culprit, which they wanted people to know of, was the President. He has always been labelled as someone who had an Islamic agenda.

But the President had absolutely nothing to do with this rule. Apparently, noticing the rhetoric being used to cast him in a bad light, and in order to make a point, the President quickly went ahead to fire the executive secretary of FRCN, Jim Obazee.

The Obazee-led FRCN had released a modified code of corporate governance for public, private and not-for-profit organizations last October. While the private sector was required to mandatorily comply, not-for-profit organizations were required to comply or justify non-compliance.

These new codes of conduct had been vehemently criticized: The private sector, even religious organizations, felt the rules were too harsh. Some even felt FRCN had overstepped its bounds by increasing fines and levies for corporate offenders.

Little wonder, therefore, that many saw Obazee’s sack as ‘good riddance to bad rubbish’. He had been accused of buying a house in America after it was alleged that he was used by former President Jonathan to ‘’sack the former CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi’’. A staff of FRCN had accused him of sexual assault and he had been recently interrogated by the EFCC on the finances of FRCN.

But what really are the intents of this code of conduct for religious bodies.

Most churches and mosques are registered with CAC as Incorporated Trustees in Nigeria, just as NGOs are. Thus, assets of churches are placed under the trust and confidence of their Trustees. And unlike a shareholder, a Trustee is not supposed to earn a profit, but expected to promote the objective of such organization.

A corporation status is conferred on Trustees, who could be sued instead of the church or mosque. With this status, churches can go into businesses, such as running schools and hospitals, as far as they are not for profit.

It is important to note that churches and mosques which are incorporated grapple with issues normal businesses do, such as disputes within employees, membership tussles, property disputes, contractual disputes, negligence claims and even outright theft by members.

And the FRCN, just like the Charity Commission in the UK, intends to use codes of conduct to ensure that leaders and founders of churches do not became dictators in their organizations. (The codes set by the Charity Commission in the UK for churches are even more stringent.)

One reason propounded for government involvement in regulating not-for-profit organizations is this: Organizations and individuals who enjoy tax exemptions should be prevented from using their offices to attain excessive benefits for themselves and their families. (There have been many instances where leaders of charities [churches are referred to as charities in the UK] paid themselves outrageous salaries and got involved corruption, despite having the privilege of not paying taxes.)

Ordinarily, religious organization are expected to be ethical but in some cases they have fallen short. Sadly, government – which ought to take examples from these organizations and could overstep its bounds – becomes the only institution left to ensure probity.

And here is the lesson in all these: In order to minimize the interference of government in religious organizations, faith-based organization should come back to the basics, which is nothing but selfless and genuine commitment to the teachings of their faiths.

Government should learn from churches and mosques, and not the other way round.