By DAPO OLAWUNI
Apparently, the Group Executive Vice Chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi was the “ace up the sleeve” of the Tony Iju Nwabunike led National Executive Committee (NECOM) of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) in carpeting the gladiators in its factionalised Board of Trustees (BOT)
Dr Afolabi has emerged as a member of the factionalised BOT of a crisis-torn ANLCA.
Other elected members of the 9-member BOT are; Chief Kingsley Offor, Elder Abel Ayokunle, Prince Ozor Chukwura, Eniola Igbaruola, Chief Christian Odinaka Igwe, among three others
Many stakeholders have described his emergence as a masterstroke move by the NECOM whom were said to have gone to beg Afolabi to come into ANLCA Politics, while other stakeholders criticised him for allowing himself to be dragged into the dirty politics played among the clearing agents at this time.
During ANLCA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) and board elections that held at Concorde Hotel, Owerri, Imo State on Wednesday, Afolabi was elected as BOT member with 75 votes.
Dr. Afolabi is a well respected and fulfilled businessman with chains of investments, he is owner of Ports and Cargo Terminal at Tin Can Island Port Lagos, Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL) bonded terminals, Hotels and a whole lot of others.
Though he was not present at the election, he was seen in an online campaign saying “I greet all my colleagues that are present at the AGM, I Dr Taiwo Afolabi is hereby putting myself forward to contest as a member of the board of ANLCA, I promise to add value to our association and contribute to take it to a greater height”
Our correspondent gathered that the SIFAX Group boss was also a licensed customs agent before going into ownership of one of the biggest port terminals in Africa. He has helped ANCLA financially, he also had the conference hall named after him at the Inde Dikko House (ANLCA National Secretariat) after supporting the project with a large donation. We however cannot ascertain if he was a card carrying member of ANLCA before the election.
The crisis in ANLCA has been about power play among its BOT on who should become chairman of the board. Two gladiators among the fictionalised board; Chief Henry Njoku and Taiwo Mustapha had held on to the soul of the board until their 6-years tenure expired.
However, after expiration of the six years, Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha is still laying claim to the BOT Chairmanship seat, based on a purported court judgement granted to him and three others to continue their stay in office.
Mustapha and three others; Dennis Okafor, Dayo Azeez, Earnest Elochukwu, quoted a court ruling, saying that, since they were not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) when they were elected six years ago, hence their tenure is just commencing officially on their date of registration which was around 2019.
Meanwhile, Henry Njoku and Peter Obi has bowed out of the BOT after completing their six years tenure. Late Aare Sanni Shittu has also left the board before his demise, remaining the Secretary Prince Taiye Oyeniyi who has since pitched tent with the Mustapha camp.
Our correspondent gathered that there was a gentleman agreement among members of ANLCA that whenever an Easterner Igbo man is National president, the board chairman must be a south western Yoruba man. This agreement has reportedly been in the association for several years, but Henry Njoku allegedly refused to honour the agreement and hand over BOT chairmanship to Taiwo Mustapha, even after Mustapha defeated him in an election conducted among the board members.
Notwithstanding all the arguments, the ANLCA NECOM led by Tony Iju Nwabunike said after all efforts to resolve the crisis in the board failed, the association cannot exist with a vacuum in its BOT.
According to him, officially, the tenure of the Mustapha faction of the BOT expired in February 2020.
With Taiwo Afolabi coming into ANLCA Board, he is likely to become the Factional Chairman of the ANLCA BOT being a South Western Yoruba man. Though he did not emerge with the highest votes at the elections, he scored 75 votes as against two other members of the Board who scored 82 and 81 votes respectively.
He is influential, just like Taiwo Mustapha, Dennis Okafor, owner of Denca Bonded Terminal, Earnest Elochukwu, former President of ANLCA, Dayo Azeez among others.
Money and influence apart, the question is whether Taiwo Afolabi has the experience to play the politics that would, God willing, bring permanent peace into ANCLA.
The battle for the soul of Nigeria’s foremost licensed customs agent association is now between Taiwo Afolabi and Taiwo Mustapha.
Meanwhile, the ANLCA election and AGM was conducted in a historic electronic system style across all chapters in the country.
It had total of 1462 members of the association monitoring while 678 total votes were made with 110 accredited voters.