By DAPO OLAWUNI
Leader of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) in the West, Sir John Oforbike has ridiculed the newly formed compliance team set up by the association President, Hon Tony Iju Nwabunike, urging members in the western zone to disregard the new group.
He said in this interview with DAILY TREND NEWS that the association already have a Taskforce in place, working at Zonal and Chapter level. The taskforce was established amidst fanfare by the Vice President, Kayode Farinto in 2020 at Apapa Port.
Oforbike also criticised the “unholy” alliance between ANLCA and sister association, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF)
What is your reaction to the new compliance team set up by ANLCA?
I have said it times without number that Tony Iju told me, that he is going to be the last President of ANLCA, this was when u was still friends with him during his fight with Farinto, he said he would destroy ANLCA and make it unworkable.
If you see the way he is behaving now, you would understand that he wants to accomplish what he has said. I was elected alongside Tony Iju, I was in the camp of Emenike Nwokeji, but when Tony won election, we all agreed that the interest is all about ANLCA, so we came together and started working.
However, when the court said we should stop parading ourselves, I gave it to my lawyer and he said the order is valid, I have been using him for the past 28years, hence, I decided not to contravene the court order. This was how I fell out with Tony Iju, he is bent on destroying ANLCA, he is like a rebel soldier setting houses on fire and killing people everywhere.
We on our side are law abiding, the person that is in charge of the association today is the registered Board of Trustees led by Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha. I was appointed Zonal Leader in the West because I cannot address myself as Zonal Cordinator until determination of the court, my office is still running. But Tony went ahead to appoint a Zonal Cordinator, meanwhile I am still the latest and elected Zonal Cordinator, but because the court asked us not to parade ourselves, he said he has sacked all of us.
Take for instance today, PDP and APC are political parties with their different ideologies, you are now trying to practice the manifesto of APC in PDP which is not possible.
Tony Iju is saying that he wants to partner with NAGAFF, knowing that NAGAFF as a body broke out from ANLCA and they are part of our crisis, they don’t want it to abate, they know that if ANLCA comes together, they are finished.
Tony has said he is an undertaker who would bury ANLCA, but he cannot do it.
For instance, he formed a compliance team, going about to harass customs and other government agencies, if at all you want to form a compliance team, the team is supposed to go and be meeting the traders, you are from the traders zone and not from the customs zone.
Does it mean the compliance team is illegal?
You are setting up compliance team to monitor customs, for what? Check the records of those people who are behind the compliance team, what are their antecedents in the past? Everybody has the right to associate, but what is behind their motive?
What has become of the Task Force you set up in 2021?
We had set up which my friend Farinto came to commission, the mandate of the task force is to help agents sort out their problems, for instance, you have made payments to the shipping company for your container to be dropped and you discovered it cannot be dropped, and if it is not dropped, they would tell you that the money you paid have expired, we set up such taskforce for overzealous personnel tying to extort our people, we set it up for agents that do not want to comply, they go to a place, claim they are member of ANLCA and causing problems, this was the purpose of setting up our task force, to make sure our people are assisted.
You saw what happened at KLT Terminal where an agent was killed and his intestines were ripped open, my taskforce had written a letter to the management of the terminal to put equipment in place. This is why we set the task force up, and they are still in place till today, working in different terminals.
Each of the chapters have their own task force, and the Zonal Taskforce is still on, it is only when there is something that they have to do generally that they all come together, after they finished, everyone is back to their base.
Now that a separate Compliance Team has been set up, don’t you foresee a clash?
My friend, let me tell you something, if you are on ground, you are on ground, and we are the ones on ground, look at what happened at KLT Terminal, we are on ground, it was the Chairman and his executives that went there to have a meeting with the terminal operator, the family of the deceased agent was paid N8million.
If you go to Tin Can Port Chapter, we have a Taskforce that help people in solving their problems, if you go to the PTML Chapter, they have their taskforce.
Now look at these other people, do they have base?
When they said they threatened to shut down the port the other time, I told you that these people do not have capacity to close down the port, what they do now is to intimidate shipping companies and seek waivers. The compliance team they are binding around is just a name, have they themselves complied? What are their antecedents? Who are the personalities involved? All their activities is just to armtwist stakeholders, they are featherweight.
What is the way out?
There is a freedom of association, ANLCA has been factionalised under Tony Iju which he said he was going to do, but I can assure you that ANLCA would come back strong and stronger.
Look at agents walking around today as sheep without shepherd. Tony Iju is going everywhere but he has been unable to solve one problem.
On the controversial issue of tenure elongation, what’s your take?
You are aware that there is a court order asking them not to parade themselves in office, the order has not been vacated, so most of the things they are doing is in contravention of the court order.
The amendment of a constitution is not about writing letter and you erase a word after making a mistake, before we amended this current constitution, it took us time to read through over and over again, but they now gathered in Owerri to say they have amended constitution. The question is, which constitution were they sworn it with? Even if there is a constitution amendment, are the NECOM supposed to benefit from it? It supposed to be people coming after them that would enjoy it.
What if the constitution of ANLCA permits the general house, which is NEC, to take decision that overrides the constitution?
The constitution of ANLCA is supreme, before you go to NEC, you must form a constitution amendment committee, they would collate people’s opinions.
Like I said, they are making noise in the air, without having the followers or the law itself on their side.
What is the latest on the out-of-court settlement that was proposed last year?
It is a delay tactics they have engaged, the two lawyers were given a date for meeting but their own lawyer failed to show up, thereafter they asked us what we wanted, we gave our lawyer our own terms for settlement, and they went ahead to publish it everywhere that Taiye Oyeniyi is the one begging. It was just a ploy, a delay tactics, they do not really want to settle out of court. We are going back to court on 9th of February, all letters our lawyer wrote their lawyer on the illegal elections they conducted at the airport is already filed to the court.