Yesterday, the Governing Board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) set in motion a committee for the reconciliation of the various factions of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).
Although the news elicited a mixture of dramatic reactions, there were concerns that it may achieve very little unless the reconciliation template is given a neutral composition, which should also involve the Nigeria Police.
But that was not all, there was also a news report that the African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), a relatively young association still finding its feet, had requested the CRFFN to deregister ANLCA, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarding (NAGAFF) and other registered accredited member associations of the Council, noting ANLCA and the others have by law ceased to be known to the Council; for failure to pay its annual dues over the years.
President of APFFLON, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite who made the revelation during a courtesy visit to the Governing Council of CRFFN in Lagos yesterday, also gave the names of other associations which should have have lost their membership of the Council to include the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Nigerian Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC) and the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders Nigeria (AREFFN).
For an ANLCA with over thirty years of historical sanction, and with the widest possible industry voice, its larger than life image, courted by government and maritime players before its leadership transition in 2018, the observation and demand by APFFLON was the biggest and most embarrassing indictment on the Iju Tony Nwabunike/Dr. Kayode Farinto joint led National Executive Committee (NECOM) of the association.
It will be recalled that the Registered Board of Trustees (BoT ) of ANLCA had last week, sacked the NECOM after months of attempt to sit tight in office, among other reasons, which allegedly includes unconstitutional acts and acts considered injurious to the association, among which is the illegal convocation of an Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Owerri on December 16, 2020; illegal creation of a factional BoT; and the illegal extension of NECOM lifespan by an additional one year; all of which according to the Registered BoT Chairman, Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha have been declared null and void by competent courts of jurisdiction.
Mustapha said the takeover of the ANLCA Secretariat was only a logical sequel and done to ensure that the association that has suffered so much dislocation, does not also experience leadership lacuna.
A major feature of the possession of the National Secretariat was the mammoth crowd of the association’s members who witnessed the triumphant entry, singing, jubilating as the Registered BoT proceeded to carry out its urgent duty of the day. To say the least, the huge turn out of the association members represented the most popular decision embarked upon by the BoT; as it appointed and inaugurated an interim NECOM, with Mr. Pius Ujubonu as its National President.
The sacked NECOM and the factional BoT both of which had been invalidated by court rulings nevertheless converged somewhere in Lagos where it embarked on the issuance of known worn out lies, some bit more of propaganda and rough edge posturing; rounding up with some gambit of dramatic threats.
There was neither singing nor trumpet heard; there were no faces of identified members of the association in large crowd shouting “thank you for coming to save us.”
It is instructive to note that the action of the Registered BoT to send the last NECOM packing is sequel to its failed repeated appeals to make the latter toe the path of peace, and to come to the dialogue table to resolve differences between them; and to be responsive in its actions.
The more the Registered BoT sought to talk peace and to end the crisis, the more the Nwabunike led NECOM repudiated all efforts to achieve amicable resolution of the crisis he helped to precipitate.
It is a shame that he allegedly absconded when he reckon the imminent backlash of some of his alleged illegal acts, some of which reportedly bothered on perjury, violation of court processes and contempt.
It is believed that at the point he fled the office, hurriedly handing over to his deputy, Dr. Kayode Farinto as acting National President, he was due to handover after his four years tenure; a responsibility he opted to thwart.
Under his four years reign, those whose business it is to know say he took ANLCA twenty years backward. Under him ANLCA fell from grace to grass. It is said that under his watch, association members were locked out and denied access to Inde Dikko House. He in connivance with his executive committee reportedly reduced ANLCA into an anti-government association, subsumed ANLCA under the lordship of sister association, sowed seeds of discord and dissension; and reduced ANLCA into a pariah and nonconformist group; leaving it without an iota of industry respect.
In four years, the Registered BoT said Nwabunike and his NECOM completely squandered the association’s huge goodwill he inherited under the dynamic leadership of his predecessor, Prince Olayiwola Shittu.
Apt is the aphorism ‘the evil that men do lives after them.’ Yesterday APFFLON brought to the awareness of Nigerians ANLCA’s state of anomie, as a debtor association unable to pay its annual dues. The rumour is rife that for a long time already, the Nwabunike-Farinto led NECOM stock in trade was to attempt to blackmail agencies of government operating in the maritime industry.
While it is on record that the Registered BoT also accused the sacked NECOM of embezzlement of association funds, it has just become known that they were unable to fulfill their duty in respect of its statutory obligations; and subjected ANLCA into a debtor group, that had to suffer public shamed in being compelled to pay its accreditation annual fee or be deregistered.
While one is as reprehensible as the other, one wonders what the sacked NECOM did with the monies it was believed to have farmed everywhere and by whatever means. It has been alleged that the NECOM engaged in money making venture from zones and chapters of the association through sales of illegal election forms and donations.
With the APFFLON disclosure, all doubts should by now have evaporated that the sacked NECOM not only lacked the capacity to build on the legacy it inherited in 2018, it has brought ANLCA on its knee, and justified the allegation by some members of the association that those who took over the association’s leadership in the last election had only negative agenda. “By their works, ye shall know them”, APFFLON has unwittingly given prove of some of these work.
It is now crystal clear that their pretensions to integrity and claim to office during their media engagement after been sacked, is only a question of face saving; as this recent revelation has proven beyond doubt that the peaceful existence of ANLCA was the least consideration in their agenda.
Whereas the only option available to the sacked NECOM and its equal leprous forefinger, the factional BoT is to go to court to argue whatever claims they feel entitled to, the CRFFN current action may yet again save them from total disgrace.
If they bungle this last chance at amicable resolution of the entire crisis, chances are that some persons through their stiff necked posturing and reckless abandon may go to jail. There is no doubt that the Registered BoT that has always been amenable to dialogue will not disappoint in responding adequately to the Governing Council’s intervention.
Only those averse to peace, those with propensity to feed from conflicts and confusion alone may fail to submit to this latest effort, because in the final analysis, the options are measurable. Peace is cheaper than crisis, and either has badge of identity.