Jim Obazee’s Lawyer demands retraction, apology, N10.8bn Damages From Eagle Online For “Libelous Publication”

A former Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN), Mr. Jim Obazee has asked an online news medium, Eagle online owned by Premium Eagle Media Limited, to retract what he described as a “libelous publication” written against his person.

Obazee in a letter written by his lawyer Barr. Anayo Mbah, a Lagos Based Legal Practitioner from the Law Firm of Alpha-Harris Solicitors, demanded an apology and N10.8 billion damages over the alleged defamatory and libelous publication against his Client, Obazee.

Besides, he asked the online medium to immediate delete the said libelous publication on its website and to published an unconditional written retraction of the said libellous publication in three (3) National Newspapers including circulating in Nigeria as well as on its online platform.

He accused the online medium of outright false and untrue statements, relating to the proceedings of the Senate Committee on Public Account, and subjecting Obazee to the shame and infamy of being viewed by members of the public as corrupt and fraudulent while he was in public service.

The medium in its today’s edition had published against Obazee with the caption ‘Jim Obazee: the many controversies of Tinubu’s CBN Special Investigator’, where it chronicled how Obazee was orders by the Senate Committee on Public Account to refund N94m to Federation Account Comprising N66 million paid to Japaul Oil and Maritime Services for an office space at Japaul Building and 64 payment vouchers for the sum of N28,765,842.11 was raised and paid without the internal audit stamps and dates by FRC.

The lawyer in his letter addressed to Dotun Oladapo with the captioned: “Demand Letter For Retraction And Damage. Re: Defamatory Publication By The Premiun Eagle Media Limited On Your Online News Platform Known As “The Eagle Online’ On 31 July 2023, Against The Person And Character Of Mr, Jim Osayande Obazee”, stated that if the above demands were not complied with, they will not hesitate to explore all other options including a civil action to ventilate their Client’s grievances without further recourse to the medium.

Parts of the Obazee’s letter to the medium read: “We are the Legal Practitioners to Mr. Jim Osayande Obazee (hereinafter referred to as “our Client”) and on whose instruction we write this letter.

“Our Client 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 Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC), the 29th Chairman of the International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (ISAR) of the United Nations 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.

“Our Client’s attention has been drawn to your publication on our online news platform known as “The Eagle Online’ on 31 July 2023 to wit: theeagleonline.com.ng/jimobazee-the-many-controversies-of-tinubus-cbn-special-investigator/. Attached herewith as Annexure 1 is a print-out of the online publication by your company.

“We state categorically that the said publication is riddled with false and 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 with a view to decrease the respect, regard, and confidence in which our Client is held in the society.

In a brief statement of facts in the lawyer’s letter, the Lawyer stated, as follows: “Our Client 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.”

“On 22nd day of October 2009, our Client was appointed the Chairman of the National Committee on the Road Map to the Adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in Nigeria.”
“On 4th November 2010, our Client was appointed the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Accounting standards Board that was tater succeeded by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria by the enactment of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria Act, No.6, 2011.”

“On 31st October 2012, our Client was elected as the 29th Chairman of the International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (ISAR) of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.”

“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 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 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.

“To our Client’s chagrin, on 25th March 2021, our Client’s attention was drawn to an online publications by the Punch Newspaper, independent Newspaper and Guardian Newspaper, respectively alleging that our Client was orders by the Senate Committee on Public Account to refund N94M to Federation Account Comprising N66 million paid to Japaul Oil and Maritime Services for an office space at Japaul Building and 64 payment vouchers for the sum of N28,765,842.11 was raised and paid without the internal audit stamps and dates by FRC.

“Knowing that the above allegations were false and untrue, our Client slammed civil action/suit on the Punch Newspaper, Independent Newspaper and Guardian Newspaper, separately and individually with claims for damages at the Edo State High Court, Benin City Judicial Division, Benin City, Edo State before Court 5.

The said civil suits are currently at Trial Stage and for your information, the detailed 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.

“It may interest you to know that by virtue of the above suits, the issue of the authenticity, falsity or otherwise of the report of the Senate Committee on Public Account relating to FRC now published by you, being the gravamen of our Client’s defamation case against the Newspaper Houses earlier mentioned, is sub-judice being the subject matter of the above listed suits, and it is condemnable and totally unacceptable that a media house as yours is publishing a report that its truth is being challenged in Court.

“It may further interest you to know that the publications of the said Newspaper Houses, which you repeated in your publication today is false, untrue and did not represent the true proceedings of what transpired in the Senate Committee on Public Account on that day, as our Client was neither invited to appear before the said Senate Committee nor his hard earned name brought into disrepute by the said Senate Committee; to the best of our Client’s knowledge.
“It may further interest you to know that our Client been relieved of his position as the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria on 9th January 2017 and was no longer working with or serving the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria as at the time the event precipitating your 4 publication eventuated. Furthermore, the rent that the Senate Committee referred to was to run from 1st February 2017 to 31st January 2019, which was a time after our Client’s appointment had been terminated.

“In addition, none of the 64 (sixty-four) vouchers mentioned in the previous publication and your publication of today, relate to the period that our Client was in the service of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria as Executive Secretary as he has been relieved of the office as at 9th January 2017.

“It is therefore crystal clear that your publication of July 31, 2023, was false, untrue, unverified, calculated to ridicule and drag our Client’s reputation to the mud. The publication has caused our client and his immediate family national and international backlash and embarrassment and done incalculable damage to him.

“The Publication has subjected our client to unspeakable hatred, opprobrium, ridicule, scandal and contempt in the eyes of reasonable members of the public and the entire world. All attempt by anyone or institution to profile our Client especially in electronic media ts being met with your malicious definition of him as fraudulent person; even to this day.

“That the Publication has subjected our Client to the shame and infamy of being viewed by members of the public as corrupt, fraudulent and a cheat.

“As a result of the publication, our Client has suffered emotional and psychological trauma, as well as damages in unquantifiable proportion to his character, person, goodwill and reputation that have painstakingly been built over the years in the National and International Services.”

Obazee, through the Lawyer’s letter demanded for the following against the online medium: “We have our Client’s instructions to make the following demands and offer the demands as our Client’s option for settlement of this matter: “That you should with immediate effect cause to be deleted the said libelous publication on your online news platform “The Eagle Online” to wit: theeagleonline.com.ng/jim-obazee-the-many-controversies-oftinubus-cbn-special-investigator/;”

“That you should with immediate effect cause to be published an unconditional written retraction of the said libellous publication in three (3) National Newspapers including your newspaper circulating in Nigeria as well as on your online platform to wit: theeagleonline.com.ng/jimobazee-the-many-controversies-of-tinubus-cbn-special-investigator/, together with written apology for the publication of the false information, statement, communication and accounts against our Client.

“That you should with immediate effect pay to Our Client, the sum of Ten Billion Naira (N10, 000, 000,000.00) being damages for your company’s malicious and defamatory publications against our Client.

“That you should with immediate effect pay to Our Client, the sum of Eight Hundred Million Naira (N800, 000,000.00) being punitive damages for your company’s publications of outright false and untrue statements, account, communications and information relating to the proceedings of the Senate Committee on Public Account against our Client and subjecting our Client to the shame and infamy of being viewed by members of the public as corrupt and fraudulent while he was in public service.

“TAKE NOTICE that should you fail, refuse and neglect to comply with our Demand within Four (4) days of receipt of this letter, inclusive of the date of receipt of this letter, we shall not hesitate to explore all other options including a civil action to ventilate our Client’s grievances without further recourse to you.”

Our check on the said “The Eagle Online” online news platform as at 11:23pm on 31st July 2023 revealed that the said publication has been taken down and deleted by the medium possibly following the receipt of Jim Obazee’s Demand Letter with the following inscription “Page Not Found – We’re sorry, but we can’t find the page you were looking for. It’s probably something we’ve done wrong but now we know about it and we’ll try to fix it. In the meantime, try one of these options:”