…to appoint national exco
…maintains Iju Nwabunike is suspended
…nulls recent expulsion of BOT, others
…to pursue court cases to logical end
By PEARL NGWAMA
The Board of Trustees (BOT), Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has announced its plan to hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM) where it will elect executives to run the affairs of the Association.
The BOT also “urged members of ANLCA and the public at large to disregard the so-called expulsion by the suspended NECOM since is a contrivance in the fertile imagination of a clique whose insidious missions is to destroy ANLCA.”
Chairman of the BOT, Alh. Taiwo Mustapha, while announcing these in a Press Conference, Tuesday in Lagos, stated that it had become imperative and urgent to inaugurate a new executive in order to move ANLCA forward.
He stated that the purported National President, Mr. Tony Iju Nwabunike, had been suspended by the Court from parading himself and his executives as the NECOM of ANLCA in a Suit number FHC/L/CS/921/2020 dated 26th August 2020.
He said the registered BOT had waited for a probable peaceful resolution but the way it had been the other party was not ready for peace.
He said: “The BOT is the apex organ in ANLCA and has the constitutional power to take over the administration of the day to day running of the Association tentatively when there is issue but we have been waiting to see if probably there would be a peaceful resolution but all to no avail.
“The Constitution that is newly amended is the recognised one and that is the one we have. The Constitution gives us the power to run the affairs of ANLCA.
“So also, the Board has the constitutional power to appoint acting national executives when there is lacuna; we, as the registered BOT members have the power to appoint new national executives to run the affairs of the Association, I emphasise that.
“We want to re-emphasise it here today that as far as we are concerned in ANLCA, and as far as majority of our members are concerned, Tony Iju Nwabunike remains suspended as ANLCA President.
“Secondly is that, whatever they have done by way of appointing anybody as Board members becomes null and void.
“We have also decided that in as much as we are not ready to take law into our hands, we would continue to pursue the court cases to a logical conclusion, and even if it means jailing any of them, we would do that.
“Today, ANLCA has become a laughing stock in the Maritime Sector, but on our own, we would start repairing all the damages done.
“One action we are going to take now is to call for an AGM where we are going to appoint acting national executives.
“When they saw they were losing out they came up to say that we were jeopardising the interest of NECOM, and that they are inviting us to a Disciplinary Committee, and I ask myself, who supposed to invite who for a Disciplinary Committee?
“Is it you that is disobeying the law of the land or some of us who kept quiet in the interest of peace in ANLCA and allowing you to keep parading yourselves and dancing naked in the market Square?
“We, as the only and authentic registered trustees of ANLCA, have decided to handle the shenanigans of Nwabunike with maturity so as to bring to naught a certain boast that he will be the last President of ANLCA.”
In a detailed account he said the current crisis in ANLCA is hinged on vendetta on the part of Tony Nwabunike against those that did not vote for him at the election that brought him in as the National President on April 13, 2018.
Going down memory lane, he said the Association on February 14, 2014, elected nine BOT members including himself and Tony Nwabunike with five as entirely new members and four as returning members.
However, he said the membership dropped to eight with the emergence of Nwabunike as the National President at the 2018 election.
He informed that Board Chairman not written anywhere in the Constitution but that it was informally agreed among the BOT members that “we should always have a chairman,” hence, Henry Njoku was the Chairman of the Board at the time.
There was also another gentlemen agreement according to Mustapha that two people from the same tribe cannot be the President of the Association and the Board Chairman as well, reason that nobody from the Western zone contested with Nwabunike for presidency.
Continuing, the Chairman said that at the time, three key positions were in the hands of the Igbos so there was need to concede one position to the Yorubas, but that they decided to wait until after the election in Enugu.
With Nwabunike emerging winner at the election with three votes against his opponent, at the next BOT meeting it was raised that now the Association has Chairmen of the BOT and the Association Electoral Committee (ASECO) as Igbos and the National President Nwabunike is also Igbo. So the BOT decided that he (Taiwo Mustapha) should take over as the BOT Chairman.
“We met the night before the inauguration of the NECOM that brought in Nwabunike, eight of us now (Nwabunike out as the President) but the decision was resisted by Henry Njoku,” he said.
According to him, the body decided to put it into vote but that the ‘late Are’ decided to abstain from the election, so it was a case of five against two in favour of Mustapha as the Chairman eventually.
“Subsequently, we met with Nwabunike and told him we were going to work with him but he said he wasn’t going to recognise that election we did that night. We wrote several letters to Nwabunike which he did not reply,” he stated.
He said the current crisis therefore erupted with Njoku refusing to relinquish the position of Chairman BOT and Nwabunike pitching tent with him as vendetta against those he felt did not vote for him.
“Then Joe Oge Obi (on the side of Njoku) went to court that we were not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as BOT members of ANLCA, so we were asked to stop parading ourselves as BOT members until we register,” Mustapha said.
However, he said there was a gimmick presenting Henry Njoku and Joe Oge Obi as registered members of the CAC.
According to Mustapha in order to become legitimate trustees, they had to forge ahead to do the registration with much struggle before it was discovered that Njoku and Obi archived the ANLCA file at CAC, so it took a long time to discover it.
He added that in the process it was discovered that ANLCA paid last in 2001 but they made up to date payment by themselves and registered the entire eight BOT members, “not minding.”
Muatapha said he put up a call to Nwabunike that same night not knowing he went at the back to cancel that CAC registration, impersonifing him and others that they were no longer interested in the registration.
He said: “Even with the certificate of registration with us, Nwabunike and his cohorts still engaged ill actions against the leadership of the Board which provoked action contained in suit number FHC/LCS599/2020 whereby the court issued an order on 29th June, 2020 restraining Nwabunike & Co from interfering with the operation of the BOT of ANLCA as constituted in consonance with the certificate dated 16th January, 2020.
“As if that was not enough, going forward, some aggrieved members of ANLCA went to the same court that gave Obi the judgment to get the court to nullify all actions taken by the Board prior to the registration since it was illegally composed.
“Reacting to their prayers, the court gave an order on 26th August, 2020 restraining Nwabunike and his backers from parading themselves as national officers in the suit number FHC/L/CS/921/2020.
“It was noted that since then the suspended President and Njoku have been ridiculing court orders and making unguarded statements denigrating the actions of the Justices that issued the orders.”
Mustapha stated that this is not the first time ANLCA had been facing crisis, but that each President takes decisive step to ensure that they have a smooth administration.
“We had crisis before Prince Olaiwola Shittu became the President and he worked at settling it, rather tow this line, Nwabunike embarked on vendetta against those whom he perceived did not support him during his elections.”
Also speaking at the Press Conference, Secretary of the registered BOT, Prince Taiye Oyeniyi, stated that more than 25 letters were written to NECOM for reconciliation but all of them were rebuffed, not replied. This, he proved with documented evidences.
“Tony Iju has been removed and he stands removed” he stated
In his own reaction, the ANLCA’s Western Zonal Coordinator, Chief John Oforbike, recounted how he made many efforts in reconciling both the Board and Nwabunike-led NECOM but failed.
He said he visited Tony Iju 18 times, one of which he had the company of the current Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, who prayed for them including other Western Zone representatives for four hours.”
Oforbike alleged that Nwabunike vowed to be the last President the Association will ever have, saying that the plan of the current NECOM is to destroy ANLCA.
His words: “In a nutshell the BOT has spoken and you have heard from the horse’s mouth about what is happening in ANLCA and like I said and I’m saying it again I met Tony Iju (Nwabunike) 18 times for him to see reason, to see that the presidency under Igbo does not become a mess so that any other time an Igbo man is coming we can have it.
“He told me then that they want him to resign so they can take over and that all these crises everywhere that happening everywhere that it was the Yorubas that were making him not to do his work.
“That when we will know that this is the last stage of ANLCA is when his tenure is coming to an end, that he will show he’s a politician; are you hearing me, that he will be the last President of ANLCA.
“I met him face to face and I asked him why? He said there are crises left and right and people are taking sides, I said no it is you the head; that we have had crisis under Kamba, Elochukwu, even Shittu.
“ANLCA is a big family and when you have a big family you must have some different voices so what you do is to settle it as the head.
“He said he will show that he is a politician, that he will be the last President of ANLCA, quote me and if you see what is happening now you will know that the guy is head bent in making sure ANLCA is destroyed. Has he at the President made any leadership move for a change?”
A former President of ANLCA, Chief Ernest Elochukwu, while speaking, pointed out that the claim by Nwabunike’s NECOM that they (the registered BOT) have been taking them to courts was in reaction to the court suit they started.
He noted that court suits were initiated by Peter Oge Obi when he declared the BOT members impostors.
“The truth is that we did not start taking them to court but they started it with Peter Oge Obi to declare us impostors. So every other thing about court was a reaction.
He said the reason the Board had kept quiet is because “we don’t have to dance naked in public like Tony Iju and his group are doing.”
Elochukwu maintained that the Board would not allow Iju and his team to destroy ANLCA as an Association that has raised great men in Nigeria, stating that it had been on the agenda of Tony Iju from the onset to destroy ANLCA.
“ANLCA has been an umbrella that has covered many agents and given them hope, but what do we have today, our members are vulnerable because of the clueless leadership of Tony Iju.”
However, responding to the question if the Board would forgive and accept Nwabunike and his group should they come with an apology to the Board, Elochukwu answered in the affirmative saying what they seek is peace.
“We’re all for peace; one of the reasons we have not agreed to dance in their market place. If they come back, what the heck? We’re for peace, let the right thing be done and we move forward.
“The answer is yes, we forgive them but then it’s ‘go and sin no more.’
L-R: Sir John Oforbike, ANLCA’S leader in the West, former President, Sir Ernest Elochukwu, Chairman of BOT, Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha, Vice Chairman, Chief Dennis Okafor and Secretary of the Board, Prince Taiye Oyeniyi, during a press conference in Lagos yesterday