… crisis in ANLCA is all about Tony Iju
Chief Ernest Elochukwu is a member, Board of Trustees (BOT) of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA) and also one of the former presidents of the Association.
In this interview with Pearl Ngwama he provides the ‘ABC’ of the crisis in ANLCA stating that the origin and genesis of the so-called crisis stems from refusal of Henry Njoku to accept the verdict of the majority and honourably step down for Taiwo Mustapha as the BOT Chairman and the obviously unintelligent decision by Tony Iju to align willingly with Henry Njoku. He said that it appears that Tony Iju had no agenda for his presidency and also discerned that he is not not prepared for the responsibilities of the office of the National President of ANLCA.
According to him the expulsion of the registered BOT members along with some other members of ANLCA from the Association is nothing but a joke.
What do you have to say about your expulsion, the rest BOT members and some other members of ANLCA?
It’s a joke!
What is the bone of contention as regards the prolonged ANLCA crisis?
It is bad that people will be ascribing to what can be described as figment of imagination. Is Tony Iju the first President so what is so special about his presidency?
In the past we have had presidents like Okocha, I and Shittu – we have tried to build an Association to which is the interest of the members; that was paramount. So, that Tony Iju won an election what is the big deal? I won most of the keenly contested elections in ANLCA but even when I won I did not fail to extend a hand of fellowship to the man who contested against me. Now, in contrast, Tony Iju as declared by the Association Electoral Committee (ASECO) in Enugu on the 8th of March 2018 won his opponent with only three votes and this was when some of the votes of his opponent had been mysteriously smuggled and declared invalid.
One would have expected that having been declared the President, Mr. Iju would have focused his attention on meeting the exigencies of that office. More so, when the man he supposedly defeated conceded and even congratulated him and was even present at his inauguration but, ‘No,’ Tony Iju first started inquisition and vendetta on those he perceived did not vote for him. And while he was on this the issue of change of leadership of the Board of Trustees (BOT) came up and surprisingly, but also not surprisingly he pitched his tent with Henry Njoku who had done over 10 years as BOT Chairman and will not allow the newly elected Chairman, Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha to take over from him.
In essence, Tony Iju converted the BOT squabble to his own problem. So when people say that Tony Iju has not been able to perform due to crisis in ANLCA one wonders if he has fueled the crisis in order to divert people’s attention to his lack of agenda. In other words, many discerning minds believe that Mr. Iju Nwabunike was not prepared for the responsibilities of the office of the National President of ANLCA. Their reason is simple; few months after winning the presidency he abandoned ANLCA to pursue a political venture of going to the House of Representatives and only came back to ANLCA when that political dream could not materialise. So, if there’s crisis in ANLCA is all about Tony Iju.
Can it be said that the crisis in ANLCA is hinged on the fact that Tony Iju refused to accept the election of Taiwo Mustapha as the BOT Chairman?
The issue of BOT Chairman is not even visible in the ANLCA Constitution; that position is mainly for administrative purpose that whenever there are groups of people they should have basic officers. The first nationally held BOT election was in 2007 and that was when I was the National President of ANLCA. I could recollect the scheming put forward by Henry Njoku to be made the Chairman of the BOT then. This is to the firsthand knowledge of Alhaji Olaiwola Shittu, the immediate past National President who was then the ASECO Chairman.
So, when the election of BOT was held in 2014 in Warri nine members were elected as trustees, namely: Tony Iju Nwabunike, Chief Ernest Elochukwu, Chief Henry Njoku, Prince Taiye Oyeniyi, Chief Peter Oge Obi, Chief Dennis Okafor, Mr. Dayo Azeez, Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha and the late Alhaji Sanni Shittu (who was an Acting President sometime).
For administrative purposes Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha was earlier on nominated and accepted as Coordinator when the election to get the Chairman could not be immediately held. He just acted as the interim Chairman of the BOT until the eve of the official opening of our National Secretariat in 2014 when the BOT members met and elected Chief Henry Njoku as the Chairman, Alhaji Are Sanni Shittu as the Vice President and Prince Taiwo Oyeniyi as the Secretary.
So, in essence, it is the members of Board like parliamentarians who determine at any point in time who their chairman is going to be. It was therefore shocking that when the Board members remaining eight (because Tony Iju has gone to become the National President, voted in on the 13th of April 2018) met to change the leadership, the same Njoku who took over from Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha refused to hand over to the same Taiwo who won the election. So, it means that the BOT has the right to change their leadership at liberty.
Just like in the legislators; the members of various houses be it State House of Assembly, the House of Representatives or Senate are at liberty to elect and to change their headship the BOT of ANLCA members are equally at liberty to elect or change its leadership. If not what stopped us from continuing with the interim leadership of Alhaji Mustapha when he was the Coordinator. Therefore, the origin and genesis of the so-called crisis in ANLCA stems from refusal of Henry Njoku to accept the verdict of the majority and honourably step down for Taiwo Mustapha and the obviously unintelligent decision by Tony Iju to align willingly with Henry Njoku because they apparently want to rewrite the general norm that majority carries the vote. They probably want to start a new norm where it’ll be said that minority carries the vote.
I read online that somebody said it is the past presidents, Olaiwola Shittu and I that are fighting Tony Iju. These people (Shittu and I) have occupied this position before. So what is it we will be fighting? Is it his performance that we’ll be fighting?
But the President (Tony Iju) said he was carried along by the BOT being in the same hotel with you the day the election for chairmanship took place?
It is clear that Mr. Iju does not understand the principle of separation of powers. Going by even his utterances he believed that he was still a member of the BOT even after he had been elected the President of ANLCA and this cannot be anything but ludicrous. This hallucination may be because the Constitution of ANLCA did not specifically restrict anyone who is a BOT member from contesting the position of National President of ANLCA; hence, he believed that after he was made the President of ANLCA he was still a member of the BOT. I can affirm that the then sitting President (Olaiwola Shittu) was not present the day we elected Henry Njoku as the BOT Chairman. On not being present at the election of the BOT Chairman, can he (Tony Iju) affirm that the then sitting National President was present the day we first elected Njoku the Chairman of the BOT or is he saying that the BOT is answerable to the National President?
Why is this current NECOM regarded as illegal?
Like I’ve said before, the squabble in the BOT about change of leadership had nothing to do with the NECOM under the headship of Tony Nwabunike but he curiously appropriated those problems to become his own perhaps in solidarity with Henry Njoku who he may have believed made his presidency possible.
Even at that some of us advised him that he could find other ways of appreciating Njoku rather than plunge himself into a matter that does not concern him. Being not someone given to heeding advice he escalated the squabble into a crisis when he declared that he recognised the BOT leadership of Njoku with three supporters against that of Alhaji Mustapha with five supporters so he literally told the world that with him three is majority compared to five in a membership of eight.
Furthermore, there came a plan they now had for Chief Peter Oge Obi to go to court and get a declaration that those of us who are first timers in the BOT (because amongst the nine elected in Warri some were returned as BOT members) are not bonafide members of the BOT simply because our status had not been regularised with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Initially, we felt it was ridiculous questioning our legitimacy as BOT members having been so elected by members of ANLCA in an open election widely publicised and conducted.
However, to our utmost chagrin the verdict of the court came that we could not be regarded as registered trustees of ANLCA since there was no evidence of such in the CAC.
We were later to discover that it was a ground design orchestrated by Njoku and Co. since we had tendered all that were required for us for that registration but they manipulatively scuttled our registration. As providence will have it, we went back to the same court to seek clarification on the meaning of the ruling and it was explained to us that we could not claim the position of registered trustees of ANLCA until our names are registered as such. We therefore embarked on registering ourselves and lo and behold at every turn we met obstacles created for us by Tony Nwabunike and his cohorts including the despicable hiding away of ANLCA file at the CAC Abuja.
Ultimately and finally, we got a registration of the trustees elected in 2014 (with the exemption of Mr. Tony Nwabunike who has become the National President) in a certificate dated 16th January, 2020. In the course of our quest for this registration we discovered that since 2001 the statutory annual return that should be made to CAC in respect of ANLCA had not been done so no registration of trustees had been done since then on the CAC. We paid all those arrears, by the way from our pockets.
Now, with hostilities towards the Board by the NECOM headed by Tony Nwabunike continuing, some members of the Association who felt aggrieved went back to the same court that issued the judgment (that we should not be BOT members ) to ask the court to declare all actions taken by the Board as then constituted illegal (every decision taken before the registration/action taken before the registration of the BOT on CAC) including the appointment of ASECO and the holding of all elections since the existence of the illegal Board. Now, they also sought an order to specifically restrain Tony Iju and members of the NECOM from parading themselves as National officers of ANLCA. The honourable court (the Federal High Court, Lagos) granted this order on the 26th of August 2020.
So ever since then the order has not been vacated or appealed against instead Tony Iju and co had been violating the Order for which contempt proceeding had been initiated against them.
But according to Tony Iju the Order automatically vacated at the expiration of 14 days. What do you say about his position?
It is only in Nigeria that lay men and half-baked lawyers engage in interpretation of the Law. By common sense, the Law courts are not places for frivolities, hence, if a court wants to give an order that will last for a specific period of time it’ll make it clear. In this case, the Order unequivocally said that this restraint will be effective until the hearing and the determination of the interlocutory injunction which ought to have been moved on the 9th September 2020.
So, the question I wish to ask these legal wiskids; ‘was the interlocutory injunction moved on the 9th of September 2020, was it heard, was it determined?’ And by the way, does it make any sense to say that an interim injunction last for one week or two weeks or even one month?
Let’s take a hypothetical case, an order for a certain performance having being given, it follows that the party against whom the order is given can disappear into thin air only to appear one week, two weeks or one month later when the order must have become elapsed. So the question then is what type of judiciary do we call that one? I find the argument of expiration or limited timeframe of the validity of an order to be a stupid one.
What can you do as a person to stop this crisis looking at the fact that Tony Iju is your brother as you hail from the same State?
There are certain facts of life; first and foremost, on the fact of Tony being my Igbo brother from the same Anambra State and from the same LGA I have given him advice as my brother but the other one I will not do is to justify a wrong because the person doing it is my brother. If he’s doing something wrong I’ll not justify him.
I belong to an Order in the Catholic Church which emphasises on many virtues especially the principle of single standard morality. In other words it abhors double standard, which is to say what someone has done cannot be evaluated based on who did it but by the proprietary or otherwise of the action.
So many times I’ll be confronted with such expressions as why are you joining the Yorubas to fight your Igbo brother and I consider it a stupid question because the golden rule says ‘do unto others as you will want them to do unto you. If I’ll support what is wrong because it was done by my brother where lies the principles or moralities upon which I was raised?
If need be, I will give my brother advice, if he walks with it or not that is out of my control. But as regards my position in ANLCA do you think my brother considers it when he now embarked on the sacrilegious exercise of purporting to have expelled me.
Now, the situation of an average clearing agent is pitiable because he’s going through hell to perform his duty because NECOM suppose to protect him but it’s not. When I was the National President I gave agents a voice but now ANLCA does not recognise Tony Iju in the scheme of things and this was what I was trying to stop.
It was actually one of the reasons I wasted my time to advise him to follow the path of sanity but he appears incapable of taking advice.
So how will this crisis end?
Only God can explain because it’s only God that sees the future. At a particular point in time I offered an advice that one of the ways of righting a wrong is by candid admission of fault by an offender or on the other hand making someone who has done wrong realise that he has erred. Thereafter, a simple apology symbolised by ‘I am sorry’ could become the magical wand that erases all the problems.
Of course, this may have been overtaken by events.