THE EMERGENCE OF TONY IJU NWABUNIKE AS ANLCA PRESIDENT WAS AN ACT OF GOD
—– SIR NZERIBE EBERE
It is no longer news that the foremost umbrella for Customs licensed Agents has been tossing around by violent storm for the past two and half years now, this has made peace of mind to elude the entire membership, as what used to be a single formidable force at the Maritime policy making roundtable is now factionalized by bitter rivalry which has increasingly dwindled its overwhelming influence and encroached on the massive membership it used to parade. The crises rocking the association has left ripple effects on the industry as those policies and industrial challenges the leadership is often expected to stand up against with one voice now beg for attention while Clearing agents and their importers seem abandoned and helpless. Indeed, things have fallen apart and the center no longer holds. Whether the crises would be resolved anytime soon, is left for the major actors to decide.
On the same issue, The Prestige Blended Magazine online engaged the MD/CEO, of Eliton Nigeria Limited, and Secretary of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents- ANLCA, TinCan Chapter, Sir Nzeribe Ebere, on an exclusive interview in his Lagos office. The Maritime Practitioner and prominent member of Association of Igbo Maritime Practitioners in Nigeria-ASIMPIN, took his time to unveil the Genesis of the lingering crises in ANLCA –
GENESIS OF THE CRISIS :
This crises started immediately after the National President’s election in Enugu where Tony Iju Nwabunike emerged with three votes higher than that of his opponent to become President of ANLCA. After that election, the opponents did not take it lightly because they anticipated the election to go their own way but as it is, man proposes God disposes. Tony Iju Nwabunike emerged beating Emenike Nwokoji, his opponent, with three votes in Enugu. Immediately after that election, the now dismissed members of ANLCA felt that they have lost it, even though they were in charge of ANLCA for eight uninterrupted years, and still see no reason why there should be a change of guard. Eventually, they started fomenting troubles at different fora. Prior to the inauguration of Tony Iju Nwabunike at Golden Tulip Hotel Festac, these people tried to unseat the then BoT, under the chairmanship of Chief Henry Iheanyichukwu Njoku, it took them a lot of time to understand that God gives and takes power. Even though, our out gone President, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, pleaded with them; if you watch the video clip of the inauguration, you will believe that he wholeheartedly aligned with the provisions of ANLCA Constitution as regards electioneering and office holding, he urged everyone to tow the path of peace and work with the NECOM, until their tenure expires. But all his plea to them fell on deaf ears. They were bent on unseating Henry Njoku,bringing tribal sentiment to it.
They started protesting asking why an Igbo man should be the President of ANLCA and another Igbo man, Chairman of BoT, saying it was an aberration. But there are ways things are done in ANLCA. Tony Iju, after his inauguration,pleaded with them to give him three months to settle every issue, and they granted his plea. After studying the situation on ground; he discovered that probably, those guys were wrong because events had overtaken some certain things they were demanding for, that was how the misunderstanding came about and they started fomenting troubles here and there.
The then Western Zone Coordinator, Chief Ofobuike(Dan Kastina), now led some groups from Western Zone to make a publication in the National Newspaper disclaiming Tony Iju Nwabunike as their President. Nwabunike in his magnanimity, being someone that is very kind hearted, didn’t want to use a sledgehammer to drive home his points, rather he was still extending the olive branch to them, calling them to come for reconciliation, but since they already made up their minds to tow that path of violence, all efforts made was in futility, even at a point, Iju Nwabunike constituted an investigative panel which he duly balanced its membership, to come up with a communique on what and what should be done, what are their grievances and how to address them, eventually they committee sat, and some members of the association were called for questioning, that was when l was serving under Segun Oduntan as Secretary, ANLCA, TinCan Chapter; that was during my first tenure, l got a message that Segun Oduntan and some of our members were at the Secretariat and thought it was a chapter issue; when l got there, l discovered that l was not invited for any questioning but it was a meeting of some aggrieved members, so l went back.
Furthermore, in a NEC meeting at Barcelona Hotel in Abuja, where all the Chapter Excos were present, the first meeting Tony Iju Nwabunike’s NECOM organized. While we were there, we could see the way and manner these crop of people were behaving; l could recall it took Tony Iju ,the National President, some hours to arrive at the venue of the meeting; l guess he didn’t make up his mind to attend prior to that meeting; that was in 2021, Tony Iju was reluctant to attend that meeting. At a point, he was compelled by the majority to take a decisive action. When we came back from that meeting, the first action of these dissidents was to attack the National Secretariat with hoodlums that armed themselves with lethal weapons and charms. Fortunately, principal officers were not at the Secretariat that morning, and at the end of the day the police were alerted and they were rounded up and arrested, that was before the “END SARS” protest. The personnel that picked them up were SARS operatives who were later disbanded, immediately after their disbandment the hoodlums were let off the hook .
Going further, before the last meeting we had at Marriott Hotel Ikeja, where the NEC decided to expel most of the key actors, but prior to their dismissal as members, they had the opportunity to utilize the internal mechanism of the association to ventilate their anger . There is arbitration panel which was inaugurated by the National President, and chaired by the National Vice President, Dr. Kayode Farinto. The internal mechanism is for conflict resolution but they never turned up. Joe Sanni, Taye Oyeniyi, Taiwo Mustapha and Ofobuike were all invited but they never turned up. So the panel took a decision which was total dismissal; though during that meeting at Marriott Hotel,it was put to vote, at the end of the day, the NEC overwhelmingly opted for dismissal which the NECOM carried out.
Again, prior to this time, these dissidents had instituted so many court cases, more than six against ANLCA, and the BoT, at a point, they became a big distraction, the court cases were coming at random. But due to the fact that we have a competent legal team, they were able to handle those court cases; and out of six of them,we have got judgement on four, yet these elements have refused to see reason why they should allow the sleeping dog to lie. They are bent on shedding blood. Tony Iju Nwabunike is a man of peace, Dr. Kayode Farinto and Alhaji Abdulazeez Mukaila are peace loving gentlemen, but the fomentors of these troubles have ignorantly embraced thuggery and gangsterism, attacking individual members and the National Secretariat, carting away whatever they lay their hands on.
Just recently, while the NECOM were in Abuja to trash out some industrial issues, they went back and attacked the Secretariat yet again, inflicting injuries on some workers, to me, I describe the dastardly act as sheer cowardice . Confront these men when they are around; you don’t lay ambush on a Secretariat; what mandate do they have that they are jubilating to have taken over the Secretariat while officers were in Abuja, what manner of coup is that ?
It was when they wanted to unseat Henry Njoku that so many issues came up; and those trying to unseat him were not properly registered . From what we were able pick from the information available, Taye Oyeniyi was given money on two occasions to perfect the registration of the BoT members at the CAC as one of the rules that authenticate BoT membership, but on those two occasions he ate the money and couldn’t do that. It was when the issue of registration came up again that he started looking for a way to get it done, and when he couldn’t do that he ran to Oluwale to perfect a fake CAC Certificate which was later trashed by the court after confirming from the CAC that it was not authentic. With the fake certificate, they started claiming that their tenure started the day the certificate of registration was obtained and that generated a lot of confusion. If so, what happened to the money he took for the previous registrations that he was assigned to carry out ? What happened to the decisions taken before they were registered ? What happened to all the actions they took before their registration? Were they valid or voided ? He needs to answer those questions. You can’t have your cake and eat it. If you sweep over your right you bear it. Most of them have lawyers as sons and daughters, they should ask them to interpret those legal terms to them rather than behaving like thugs in the motor park .
We are in the 21st Century, our children are watching us. Taye Oyeniyi is above 70 years, what legacy is he going to leave as a man who has served ANLCA in different capacities and at different fora; to me, l look at it with a lot of nostalgia though l don’t blame Taiwo Mustapha, l blame the people that threw him up in the first place. Because if they had known the stuff he is made of they wouldn’t have done that, he has an ‘agbero’ attitude, forget about his money. I blame Sir Elochukwu and Prince Olayiwola Shittu for throwing up that manner of man. Who knows Mustapha in Portharcourt? He has never been a Chapter Chairman before, from no where they foisted him to be a BoT member, it’s unfortunate.
ON TRIBAL COLOURATION :
I would say no, if you ask me. It doesn’t have any tribal colouration because both factions are peopled by the major tribes. Both the Yorubas and Igbos are in both groups, so it is not a tribal thing. Those in Mustapha’s group are core Shittu’s loyalists, they tested power for eight years and don’t see any reason why they should relinquish it , they never envisaged Tony Iju Nwabunike winning that election, they never expected it to happen. Nwabunike’s emergence was an act of God, but the power mongers are bent on making him not to succeed.The three votes that gave him that victory were from TinCan; I, Emma and Wasiu gave him the votes that made that difference. On the day of that election, these people went with witch doctors(Babalawo)from Lagos to Enugu, and even brought them right inside the hall. It was Wasiu Oshilowo that was able to identify there bags one after the other. They went into the election for formality sake believing it was a done deal. But God proved Himself and gave Tony Iju victory, it was unbelievable and that is why they are still extremely bitter, and l can tell you that that election contributed to the death of prince Kayode Oyinlola because he ran as Vice to Nwokoji. He put all his mind in that election believing it would be a smooth sail, but was disappointed by the outcome.
The truth of the matter is that the dissidents, prior to this crises, resolved to distract Tony Iju Nwabunike so as to make him not to have a fruitful tenure.
Initially, the tenure was four years and one could run for a second term. But the recent Constitution amendment made it a single term of five years which Tony Iju is the first beneficiary; so he has only next year to bow out, now tell me why these people can’t see the reason to allow him finish his tenure ? When they were there for eight years nobody challenged them; all these guys have been holding one office or the other at various times for more that two decades in ANLCA, and nobody challenged them. It is amazing seeing them take up fights against Tony Iju Nwabunike while the main opponent that contested against him , Emenike Nwokoji, accepted the outcome wholeheartedly, and even as they keep causing distractions, he moved on very peacefully, that goes a long way to tell you the quality he is made of, Nwokoji is a complete gentleman. Why are the purported registered BoT members fighting Iju Tony Nwabunike while as it was the Court and the CAC that retrieved the certificate and not Tony Iju. If they believe it was done in error why not sue the CAC, why fighting Tony Iju ?
ON THE SEALING OFF OF ANLCA SECRETARIAT:
I think the Inspector General of Police was misled. There is no Police command within Lagos State that does not know about this crises that has lingered for over two years now. Zone 2 is aware, Panti is aware, Alagbo Close is aware, Festac and Apapa are all aware of the crises. Even if a report went to the I.G of Police, did he try to find out the real situation before he passed an order? Police is not a Court; he should have invited the other party to hear from them rather than take immediate action, he should have carried out investigation first; if possible involve the Court to get a bailiff attached to his men to give the operation a legal face. The judgement they are parading was obtained in 2019, of which ANLCA appealed against. They did not make any findings, the Police should be more professional in handling some of the issues brought before them; they should not be used to carry out dirty assignments.
If you take someone to Court, allow the Court to handle the case, don’t take laws into your hands.
John Ofobuike has been going about telling lies in other to keep afloat.
All l want to say is that where two elephants fight, the grass suffer, some people are benefitting from the ongoing crises, it is being sponsored by some stakeholders in the industry for selfish gains; as they know full well that if the association is speaking in one voice, they can’t do some of the things they do and get away with them, so they keep fanning the embers of discord to their advantage.