BARR. ADA AKPUNONU
IJU TONY NWABUNIKE IS THE PROBLEM OF ANLCA —Ada Akpunonu
*The Association has lost direction under him
* Leaders of the two leading associations are encouraging corruption in the industry
RECENTLY, THE PRESTIGE BLENDED MAGAZINE TEAM LED BY ITS EDITOR-IN- CHIEF, McANTHONY UDOCHUKWU ONUOHA, SOUGHT OPINIONS OF SOME MEMBERS OF ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN LICENSED CUSTOMS AGENTS(ANLCA), ON THE CRISES ROCKING THE ASSOCIATION SINCE 2018 TILL DATE ; LITIGATIONS, VERBAL ATTACKS, AND THE REFUSAL OF THOSE INVOLVED TO SHIFT GROUND HAVE SUCCEEDED IN FACTIONALIZING THE ASSOCIATION AS THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT, CHIEF IJU TONY NWABUNIKE IS IN CONTROL OF ONE SIDE WHILE THE PURPORTED BoT CHAIR, ALHAJI TAIWO MUSTAPHA CONTROLS THE OTHER SIDE.
It was really not an cheering session when the Prestige Blended Magazine met a chieftain and former Vice Chairman of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Barr. Ada Akpunonu, in her Lagos office recently, to seek her view on the lingering crises that has set the Apex Maritime Association against itself. She had a swell time to open up on the root cause of the brouhaha.
BARR. ADA AKPUNONU : “It is all surprising ; I supported Tony not because l don’t know his antecedents. Some of us that supported him did that out of protestation due to some certain things that Prince Olayiwola Shittu did wrong. So, it was somebody like Dr. Okpara, myself and few others. When Tony was coming out, someone , a member of the BoT as well, frowned at it. I was forced to ask him why the opposition; he told me that Tony was interested in contesting for the House of Reps; that he was not ready for ANLCA leadership,and ANLCA is too big for somebody to toy with in that form. And he told me that so many issues were begging for attention in the industry, and that we needed a thorough leader that would be all out to lead ANLCA and also impact those in the field of operation.
Honestly, l felt that with our support he would be able to deliver. I went to him and asked him whether what l heard was the truth, that he was going to run for House of Reps, he swore with his life that there was nothing like that; that if he wins ANLCA election why would he leave the office in pursuit of another office. He promised to deliver once he secured the mandate; l sheepishly believed him .All of us came out to support him; we convinced a lot of people from the opposing side . In Enugu, we all worked seriously for him,we kept awake all night canvassing votes for our brother and because of God too. Good or bad, he won the election. And Emenike, being a peace loving man; l have known overtime, indeed, was so surprised that someone like me could work against him, but l told him l was not working against his person as most of us believed that he would be a stooge to Shittu. He frowned at the assumption, saying that we were all wrong, though he understood that the only thing we held against him was that he had the support of Shittu.
SHITTU got a lot of things right but at a stage, he deviated and then lost some of his followers, so we didn’t believe him anymore. But frankly speaking, we have tested and we have seen also, that no matter where you belong, you cannot compare what we have presently with Shittu’s administration. There is no room for comparison. When he(Tony) was coming in, there was this argument whether he should choose Farinto as Vice or not, but we encouraged him, talked to others too, and made sure Farinto became his Vice . And Farinto ,as at the time he had discussion with us, came up with what he had for the association because we saw operational challenges and some other bottlenecks.
FARINTO came with all his might to do the work, but unfortunately, it was Farinto’s folks that came in-between both of them; and the few of them became suspicious of Farinto. Iju doesn’t know so many things happening in the organization; he needed a capable hand like Farinto to assist him, and he( Farinto) was doing so until these people came in. We even advised Tony not to listen to them as their aim was to pull him down. We told him to allow Farinto to work with him, if there is any mistake or misunderstanding somewhere, both of them should resolve it within themselves, but he refused and was busy fighting. And we all know how Farinto fought back; this their reconciliation as far as l am concerned, is superficial. Let’s tell ourselves the truth. It is just that Farinto has his own ambition , so one or two people might have told him to support Tony after his tenure they would support him in turn , so he agreed to work with him for political reasons. Never on moral grounds did Farinto agree to support what is going on presently, that is not true.
Tony Iju, on several occasions, has never come out to protest plots against his members and things detrimental to the welfare and operational activities of his members, but rather comes out to condemn an executive member for telling the truth.
For crying out loud, we have seen that on few occasions, it is not something hidden. So, in this situation, Tell me how a reasonable person, and someone of integrity would support that kind of act. He is my brother and he is still my brother; we relate so well like l have always said, on personal and other matters.
I am very passionate about where l make my daily bread. What we are all passing through in the industry presently, is as a result of bad leadership.
When they were about going to court. I gave my candid advise , that the prayer he was seeking would hunt him in the end because the Board he said was not properly constituted was the same Board that supervised his election ; invariably, what he was saying was that his election was not properly conducted, because already, there is a defect on the organ that supervised the election. So if that Board is illegal, it also means that your election into that office is also null and void. This is common sense. If the BoT is not properly constituted, not registered, and they conducted the election that produced you, it means there is a question mark on your election . So, whatever they have done is voided and that is the root of the crises we are witnessing today.
So now, he has gone to Court to say that this person is on BoT and this other person is not; we know what our constitution says in respect to that . What do you regard as Board in our constitution, how many people form the Board; so if it is not properly constituted, why should they uphold the election and other administrative decisions so far taken.
He went to court to ask for that prayer by himself, and Court now called both parties to say, since you are not properly constituted, please go home and make amends. For the fact that the Judge knows that if he declares the election null and void, there will be problem . In every judicial matter,as a Judge, or counsel, the first thing is to seek a way to make both parties settle amicably. Where all efforts fail the matter continues. And the judge really wanted us to have peace in ANLCA, so advised them to go to arbitration to see how the problem could be solved. In his wisdom, he knows that if he declares the election null and void, everything will go wrong.
The present BoT now said, we can resolve the crises, they came together and called Tony and told him to face the day to day running of the organization, that he doesn’t need the BoT to function. In the real sense of it,what are the responsibilities of the BoT in any organization. I think they are for advisory role. Are they concerned about day to day running of the organization, no. They bring ideas and suggestions and play their advisory role and also make every member uphold the Constitution of the organization.
TONY IS THE PROBLEM OF ANLCA. I have said it in his presence, even advised him to fix it. I have done enough to see that peace returns in ANLCA; I spoke with those concerned, unfortunately my advise fell on deaf ears. I don’t have anything personal against him , he is a wonderful guy, he is a good guy, but when it comes to administrative matters, he needs to return to the classroom, the records are there for all to see.
Fine, the court advised them again to go and do the needful; people that have stayed six years ordinarily, need to leave office. But after they spent six years, you faulted everything and the Court ordered that they should go and authenticate their registration and all that, before coming back. Based on that, these people now said that the six years they spent was null and void because they were not properly constituted, saying that as they have gone to do another registration authenticating them as members, now their six years has just begun. That is the kernel of the matter.
So, if you go to the CAC today or the Court of law, the only registered Board in the eyes of the Law is that of Alhaji Mustapha ; so, you see where the issue lies.
When he (Tony) met the BoT to give him some time to harmonize everything and restore peace; what he should have done was to pretend, even if he is not neutral, as a father that he is now; it behoves him to bring everybody together.
I know the efforts Shittu made to maintain peace in ANLCA, he was calling randomly, speaking with everyone, and the way he would sound, some of us couldn’t say no to his appeals because he sounded like a real father ; that’s the truth. As president, you are the father of the association. But Tony thought that ANLCA is like PDP or APC or APGA. He would tell this person this, and tell another person a different thing just to knock the two heads together; it doesn’t work that way. This is a professional body, we are not into politics .
No one is feeding anyone; that we elected you President does not make you bigger than everyone in the association. We created that office and gave you the mandate, so what makes you think that you are greater and better than every other person. You are not paying anyone’s bills, you are not feeding anyone either, rather you are even getting from the association. In this kind of situation,where do one stand.
So, this people , on Court order, have gone to register and authenticate their position as Board members of ANLCA, and our constitution had given them the right to supervise elections and so on, and the association will not leave any vacuum. Any election they have conducted so far is legal, it is recognized by law. I can’t see the truth and embrace falsehood, never.
ANLCA has not fallen this low. The crises has affected every aspect of our operations.
There is this mutual suspicion between NAGAFF and ANLCA, so, coming together to chart the way forward for practitioners becomes very difficult. So, that’s why nobody can come out to tell the Shipping Companies and Terminal operators that what they are doing is wrong and unacceptable, nobody. The corruption that Tony Iju is encouraging has caused a lot of damage in the industry. Both leaders of the leading associations are encouraging corruption in the industry.
People are suffering, hardship every where. People are losing their businesses and none is standing up to talk because they don’t keep clean hands. Frankly speaking, if l was Tony Iju, l would have resigned honourably because he has failed and failed woefully. He is not in control.”
Another chieftain of ANLCA, and MD, Lungwu Nigeria Limited, ALHAJI USMAN BABA, added his voice.
“My advise is that the elders of ANLCA should wade into the matter to proffer solution to a lasting peace. Peace has to come back to ANLCA. They should call the two factions together ; we don’t even have any BoT for now because their tenure has elapsed. The best thing is to disband the BoT; they should all go. Whether Henry Njoku or Taiwo Mustapha, both of them should quit and allow us some peace.
For God’s sake, let us give peace a chance. Right from the administration of Sani Kamba, we have been enjoying peace until this administration.
l don’t know why each time an Igbo man mounts the saddle,we start witnessing crises; what is the problem. Let them find out what the problem is by themselves. When Elochukwu, the former President was on seat, there were pockets of crises here and there. Iju Tony Nwabunike has taken over, crises everywhere. Shittu spent eight good years and left peacefully; Iju came, and we are witnessing crises. I am advising my Igbo brothers to put heads together to unravel the mystery behind it; let them find out what the problem is. That is my take”.
EMMANUEL ONYEMA is the immediate former Public Relations Officer (PRO) of ANLCA, TinCan Chapter. He had this to say:
“I must tell you the truth, the issue right now in ANLCA is something l wouldn’t want to delve into because l know the pains l took to leave Lagos for Warri to participate in the BoT election; so, l decline comments on the crises.
All l am looking for at this stage of my life is peace of mind. The cardinal points of my prayers at the end of 2020 were hinged on peace of mind. l want to be humble, and l want that humility to guide me. Besides, the people involved in ANLCA crises are like fathers to me; so l choose to remain neutral. The advise l can give to the elders in ANLCA is that everyone must look into the crises to find ways to end it. We are one family under one umbrella. In a family where husband and wife are having constant misunderstanding, it is the children that suffer it at the end of the day; it affects them negatively. That is what we are seeing right now. The crises in ANLCA is affecting everyone in this field. If you look at the whole thing, you see that we are faced with a lot of challenges. Shipping Companies are milking us because they know that we don’t have any one to come to our rescue. Terminal Operators are doing the same thing as well.
NPA and Shipper’s Council that are saddled with regulatory responsibility are not helping matters. The CRFFN is neither here nor there.
You can see right now that the younger ones only depend on the special grace of God for their welfare and livelihood. When you have issues that have to do with Shipping Companies and Terminal Operators, no one comes to your rescue. Let me cite two shipping companies. Hapag Lloyed and MSC. Today, MSC is using trucks as holding bays. And who are the owners of container deposits that they keep deducting, they are freight Forwarders, Customs licensed Agents and importers. Most of them clear vehicles and it requires that once such Bill of laden is handed to you, you charge everything including transportation and container deposit. So, after offloading, you expect the container to be returned to the terminal within a short space of time so that you get back your container deposit. But unfortunately, at the end of the day, the container stays on the truck for two weeks or more, and MSC as well as other shipping Companies keep deducting the money until nothing is left. No one is coming to our rescue. They don’t have holding bays. Terminal Operators are also milking Nigerians. And it is saddening that whatever they are extorting from the importers, is paid back by end users, the consumers, who buy from the open market.
The consumers are all of us in Nigeria; we are all complaining of high cost of living.
The crises has indeed affected us adversely. Look at what is happening between NPA and Shipper’s Council, it is a game being played, and we know it. Come to think of it, the same function being carried out by NPA is almost the same function carried out by Shippers council. Right now, in the Maritime industry, our hope is on God, because ANLCA crises has really affected our means of livelihood. Shipping Companies and Terminal Operators have capitalized on that to treat us anyhow they like. It is indeed appalling.”
OVIE MICHAEL IMONITE ESQ., is the MD/CEO, Mimov Global Ventures, and presently, Secretary, ANLCA, TinCan Chapter. Adding his voice, he said,
“ANLCA is a big family. The Board under the Chairmanship of Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha, has always been at the forefront when it comes to peace and progress of ANLCA. The Constitution of ANLCA stipulates that the board that is duly registered with the CAC is the authentic Board. So, we have five Board members on one side, under the leadership of Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha; and all issues to the best of my knowledge, he has been handling with humane approach. Since 2018, all efforts have been made to end the crises fuelled by the refusal of Former BoT Chair, Chief Henry Njoku, to step down after 16 years as Chairman after an election that took place in Warri,Delta State. But l believe so long as we remain under the Sun and on the planet Earth, things will definitely continue to take their course.
Truly, no one is happy with what is happening in ANLCA presently; those of us that were duly elected on the 14th of January, will support every effort to restore sanity in ANLCA, so that the so called leaders that are fighting and taking ANLCA backwards will return under one umbrella as one family to settle the lingering crises.
We see ourselves, we embrace ourselves, why then can’t we relate as brothers and sisters in matters concerning ANLCA. we see ourselves as enemies once we gather in the name of association, I don’t think it is proper.
I want the president of ANLCA, Chief Tony Iju Nwabunike, to ask God to give him wisdom to resolve this issue by listening to all parties concerned; it is not by going up and down conducting elections, this faction conducting here today, the other conducting there tomorrow; that is never the way to peace.
Let us shun all these things that are bound to tear us apart and opt for unity. Let’s pray for progress and harmony. I want Chief Tony Iju to do the needful. The fight on ground is not his fight, the fight is for BoT, let the President take a stand and let BoT take their stand . Nobody says Tony Iju did not win the election in Enugu, he won, Farinto is the Vice President, while Mukaila is the National Secretary of ANLCA. But when it comes to Board activities, let the Board be respected, let the Executive respect the Board. And any member that does not want to partake as a Board member again, they should listen to him and allow peace to reign. The last election they went to conduct in Owerri was not proper. There was no circular for it, and there was no notice anywhere that the Board has been dissolved; you don’t just get up and dissolve the Board. All of us that are directors must come together for that to happen. The same way Board members were elected in Warri in 2012, the same way it should be done. We can put our house in order. The problem will continue and the people will continue to suffer; and activities will continue while we remain losers due to the time we have continued to waste . Time they say, waits for no one.”