By DAPO OLAWUNI
The registered Board of Trustees (BOT) of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has said that it is calling for a fresh Annual General Meeting (AGM) where acting National Executive Commitee (NECOM) would be appointed to run affairs of the association.
Chairman of ANLCA Board, Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha stated this at a press conference in Lagos yesterday, saying that the associations’ President, Tony Iju has since been suspended from office by the court.
He said the BOT is the apex body of the association, in terms of any crisis within ANLCA, the constitution allows her to take over the day to day running of the association.
The board also has constitutional responsibilities to appoint acting national executives when there is a lacuna.
Mustapha condemned the several illegal conducts of the current NECOM members led by Mr Tony Iju Nwabunike among which is disobedience of a court order, conducting illegal chapter elections including a recent and laughable parallel BOT elections.
He also said that some of the erring members of the Tony Iju’s NECOM might face jail term at the end of court cases instituted by the registered BOT.
Speaking, the ANLCA Board chairman told journalists 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 remained 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”
“They (Tony Iju’s NECOM) 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?”
Giving details of how the crisis started, Mustapha recalled how nine of them were elected as BoT in February 2014 in Warri, Delta state with five as first-timers and four were returning to the board.
He said the nine elected officers kick-started the smooth running of the board until Nwabunike left to contest the Presidency of ANLCA leaving the membership at 8.
He however, alleged that trouble started when the chairman of the board as at that time; Chief Henry Njoku refused to relieve the position of chairmanship; a position he said, was not recognized by the constitution of the association but reached on a gentle man agreement that for the purpose of administration, the board should have a chairman.
He also informed that the gentlemen agreement also stated that two men from same ethnic group cannot be the President of the association and at the same time be the Chairman of the board.
He said the gentlemen agreement made the western zone not to contest against Nwabunike when he picked up the form to contest for the President of the association.
He further explained that after the election that brought the Nwabunike administration in, Henry Njoku who has been the chairman of the board for 10 years prior to the election, refused to agree and handover the chairmanship of the board to a Yoruba man, even after the five members out of eight voted for the Yoruba man to become the board chairman.
Mustapha informed that despite all the gimmicks, he forged ahead to enlist active support of Nwabunike who was inaugurated on the 14th of April 2018 having declared winner by Association Electoral Commission ASECO in the elections held at Enugu
Speaking further, he said, “I and some other board members went to register with CAC in order to legitimize our membership of the board.” This is because this is the only way we can be legally-recognized as Trustees.”.
“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 where by 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.” He noted.
“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 by making unguarded statements denigrating the actions of the Justices that issued the orders”. he said.
Mustapha stated that this is not the first time ANLCA has been facing crisis, but that each President takes decisive step to ensure that they have a smooth administration.
“Rather tow this line, he embarked on vendetta against those whom he perceived did not support him during his elections”
Also reacting, 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 “I 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 us including other western representatives for four hours.”
Oforbike, however alleged that at another gathering Nwabunike vowed to be the last President the association will ever have, alleging that the plan of the current NECOM is to destroy ANLCA.
Also speaking at the press conference, Secretary of the registered BOT, Prince Taiye Oyeniyi stated that more than 25 letter have been written to NECOM for reconciliation but all of them were rebuffed not replied.
“Tony Iju has been removed and he stands removed” he stated
Vice Chairman of the BOT, Chief Dennis Okafor stated that Tony Iju has been removed by the court and warned not to parade himself in office, hence all actions carried out by him is illegal.
On his part Chief Ernest Elochukwu, a former President of ANLCA, said the reason why the board has kept quiet is because “We don’t have to dance naked in public like Tony Iju and his group are doing”
He said the board would not allow Iju and his team to destroy ANLCA as an association that has raised great men in Nigeria. He said it has 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 ”