ANLCA Crisis: Why Chief Henry Njoku Should Excuse Himself
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Everyone in the clearing and forwarding industry knows Chief Henry Njoku, or at least, has heard about him.
More than being a member of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), manifold are the stories associated with his personality and idiosyncrasy, and indeed, his acts, perceived odiferous and domineering attitude; apart from his legendary craft at perpetually seeking to reinvent his relevance in the affairs of the association; all of which defines his person, character and public image.
He also has the dubious reputation of constantly desiring to have ANLCA under his control, undoubtedly as the god father, without wanting to be at the official driver’s seat; such that despite that he runs the show from behind the curtain, there’s always someone like the National President to take the blame, should things not turn out as planned.
His penchant to also seek to take the glory or else share the glory with the real performer over remarkable successes is not a secret. And yet, much of these tendencies are perceived to be counterproductive to the good and image of ANLCA, in the long term. Regarded as a strange personality with seeming voodoo grip on everything ANLCA, Chief Henry Njoku it is believed has been unrelenting on his hold of the soul of the association for close to two decades.
Equally regarded as a shrewd player in the association’s politics, many see him as operating what passes for political deceit, under inimitable decoy. Indeed, those whose business it is to know say part of his strategy includes imposing himself on the association’s leadership as a freeloader, and thenceforth, stealthily using what some perceive as his oppressive and unwanted closeness to such leaders at undermining their authority: physical, psychological and otherwise, and which is believed to produce an enervating effects on his victims, through a gradual but steady unethical erosion of the concerned persons overall alertness to the apathetic sharing of his authority.
Although above sounds incredulous like a fairy tale, those familiar with the politics of ANLCA in jaw-dropping disclosures also accuse the ANLCA Patron of penchant for barefaced lies, purportedly without the slightest moral scruples, should such predisposition serve his immediate, personal purposes, they alleged.
Also well connected outside ANLCA politics, for example within the Imo State political arena, Chief Njoku, it is said, utilizes his political contacts to further enhance his perceived iron grip on ANLCA, by pretending to be furthering the interest of the association and its members.
It will be recalled that he was instrumental in getting the Imo State Government through his friend, Governor Hope Uzordima to grant the association the use of the state owned Condorde Hotel Owerri, for its December 16, 2020 controversial Annual General Meeting (AGM).
Indeed, it was at this event that Chief Henry Njoku was appointed ANLCA Patron, his current official position in the association. He also got his faction of ANLCA to name Senator Hope Uzordima, Grand Patron of ANLCA.
During the said 2020 AGM, his governor friend reportedly pledged to assist ANLCA achieve some panned projects, it is unclear what has become of such projects; and to what extent Governor Uzordima’s promises has been fulfilled.
Chief Henry Njoku had been ANLCA Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT), for more than fifteen years spanning four administrations, and is also on record as refusing to relinquish his last chairmanship position in 2018, after the board election he lost to Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha by 2 to 5 votes.
It is said that in his quest to wrestle the board chairmanship position from an erstwhile Chairman BoT, Chief J.O. K Idornigie, Chief Njoku got the police to harass the old man, including allegedly detaining him at a police station in Ikeja Lagos, where he allegedly paid the police to forcefully recover the Board Certificate of Registration from the elderly man; all in the bid to secure the position for himself.
According to insider sources, problem started after he persuaded Chief Idornigie to hold the association’s Emergency General Meeting (EGM) at the Presidential Hotel Port Harcourt in 2004; where he reportedly obtained the then chairman’s consent to make him his successor.
Sources within the association say every crisis in the past nineteen years is either orchestrated or traceable to Chief Henry Njoku, either as direct architect or else, as sponsor. In 2015, it is on record he attempted to start a fresh crisis by giving the then National President, Prince Olayiwola Shittu a query about a purported financial mismanagement, even as he reportedly demanded that Shittu replies the query within a stipulated time frame.
It took the intervention of the Western Zone executives who threatened to remove him as Board Chairman, before he abandoned that planned crisis. After losing the board chairmanship bid in 2018, he allegedly sponsored Peter Obi to enlist the services of the zonal and chapter leaderships of ANLCA not to take order from Alhaji Mustapha as Board Chairman.
Although he woefully failed as the Western Zone gave Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha a vote of confidence in addition to pledging their loyalty to him; the man many regard as a sphinx nevertheless sat tight in office and refused to handover, despite having been elected Vice Chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).
The Mustapha led BoT once accused him of paying officials of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), to hide the Certificate of Registration; in addition to impersonating members of the registered BoT, during an alleged illegal transaction at the CAC Abuja.
He did not stop there; he sponsored Peter Obi to deploy court cases challenging the eligibility of Mustapha and others as board chairmen, which was the last known basis for the ongoing protracted crisis.
Obi had in a media report urged zonal and chapter leaders of ANLCA not to recognize Alhaji Mustapha as the Chairman Board.
It was by special providence that key leaders of the association insisted that there is no legitimate challenge to the authority of Alhaji Mustapha as BoT Chairman. Secretary of the Board, Prince Taiye Oyeniyi; court suspended Western Zone Co-ordinator , Chief John Ofobike; then Chairmen of Apapa and Tin Can Chapter, respectively, Chief Obokun Olumide and Prince Segun Oduntan effectively warded off his attacks on the new Board Chairman.
In view of the legal battles that were obviously not in his favour, in 2020, he master minded the Owerri/Dr. Taiwo Afolabi led factional BoT, where he elevated his status to the rank of ANLCA Patron. Also in 2021, riding on his friendship with retired police chiefs, he allegedly bribed the police to detain chieftains of the association, including Chief John Oforbike, Prince Taiye Oyeniyi and two PTML Chapter executives, on a trumped up charge of armed attack the then National President, Iju Tony Nwabunike, and for gun running.
Faced with the prospect of losing his grip at the National Secretariat located at Amuwo Odofin, through the them embattled National Executive Committee (NECOM) of the association, Chief Henry Njoku allegedly bribed officials of the Federal High Court Abeokuta, to grant him a fraudulent ruling for the NECOM to remain in office.
The supposed lawyer who purportedly filled their application have since denied taking their brief, and have also in an affidavit accused Chief Henry Njoku and his faction, including the Federal High Court Abeokuta of identity theft. That scandalous judicial case is perhaps the most trying embarrassment the National Judicial Council (NJC), faced in 2022; the case is still under investigation by the Nigeria Police Force.
The vast majority members of ANLCA are also embarrassed and least served by this gaping dishonesty, perjury, truancy, violator of lawful orders, and forgery everywhere; as ANLCA’s name has become synonymous with gangsterism and impunity; and on the last count, the ANLCA that was rebuilt and repositioned by the administration of Prince Olayiwola Shittu, have hopelessly fallen apart.
Sadly, and contrary to his plans, Chief Henry Njoku merely remained as a king without kingdom, as the two factions he aided their creation has been unable to function with the efficiency, visibility and influence that ANLCA is known for.
Nor did his connection with Imo State Government through Governor Hope Uzordinma or the wall chest of fund Dr. Taiwo Afolabi made accessible to his faction been able to secure peace or establish any meaningful pathway since 2018 when he was believed to have created the current imbroglio.
Recall that after the controversial Owerri AGM, Chief Henry Njoku, who announced he has finished his tenure as Chairman Board, some days earlier, arrogantly asked the registered Board led by Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha to step aside and give opportunity to younger people to take the stage.
He didn’t remember that there was need for younger blood to drive the affairs of the board for the twelve years he run its affairs, both in acting capacity and as substantive board chairman.
Glutting over his perceived conquest at raising a parallel board, which he had imagine will phase out all the vestiges of legitimacy of the Alhaji Mustapha led Board, he imagined himself as being on a higher pedestal, having persuaded his state governor friend, to attend its illegal AGM, and thought he holds the ace.
With pretentious swagger, he talked down on the registered board the affairs of which he refused to relinquish two years before, after the infamous Owerri AGM sad commentary.
He said, “If they really wanted to come back into the board, they should have attended the AGM we did recently. He (Mustapha) was saying that we deceived the Governor (Uzordinma), if it is easy to deceive governor, let him go and deceive one governor and let’s see.
“I am no longer in their grade, ANLCA now has a new BOT, if Mustapha is feeling bitter, let him go and meet Kinglsey Offor and the rest that are now in the board. I am happy that I am seeing people who can take over from us, I don’t want to remain there till I die.
“I don’t think we should continue to fight over these things, rather, the young ones should be given opportunity, rather than destroying the association for them.”
Then he said the incredulous: “Even the Patron they gave me, if I had known they were planning it, I wouldn’t accept.”
As though there is a time frame honourable people decline offer of ceremonial ranks or appointment, they feel is better given to another out of piety.
He then went on to boast that “the Corporate Affairs Commission is already aware we held the AGM”, as though getting the CAC to do its bidding by way of recognition was a foregone conclusion.
As at today, the Owerri AGM stand annulled by the Federal High Court Kano, which ruling subsists, until and unless it is lawfully vacated. Same goes for the Abeokuta Federal High Court ruling apparently obtained through fraudulent means. The status report on the registered BoT is in favour of Alhaji Mustapha’s camp.
Like Hardly Chase’s blockbuster novel ‘Come Easy, Go Easy’, for Chief Henry Njoku, the cookies are crumbling. Overly ambitious, there are side murmurings some of which have become very loud of recent, that Njoku’s quest at remaining relevant is rubbing off negatively on the association.
Those who think he is always scheming to reinvent himself in the political life of ANLCA may not be wrong, as he has again, riding on Senator Hope Uzordinma’s patronage, came up with another infantile programme, purportedly to partner the Imo State Government with the development of an Inland Dry Port and Container Terminal at Oguta.
By the middle of January, Njoku in tow with the embattled National President of ANLCA, Dr Kayode Farinto and others paid a courtesy visit to Governor Uzordima at Government House Owerri, where Farinto reading from a prepared speech, promised to give free Consultancy Services and other supports to the Imo State government for the quick development of the said dry port.
What is the business of clearing agents with port operations, if the entire effort was not self serving and myopic? But beyond that, members of the association have already started asking questions about this unclear relationship, in terms of naira and kobo, and in terms of proper accountability of the state’s public fund.
Of course, soon after that visit, the plot to hold the Benin City AGM came on stream, and some insiders swear that Njoku must have initiated the plan; with the sole aim of yet again, reversing the gains already recorded in the collective desire of the two factions to put behind the five years crisis, to which Njoku’s name remains a recurring decimal.
Those familiar with ANLCA politics say the proposed controversial AGM has all the traits of Njoku’s trade mark; and that they believed he is working in concert with the last two standing members of the expired NECOM, to manipulate the peace process to emerge as new leaders of the association.
Thus far, concerned members of the association have condemned the AGM as a plot by Chief Henry Njoku to undermine the advanced peace process already recorded by the two factions.
While outlining the convoluted plot in its grand design, the interim National Secretary, Joe Sanni warmed the general public and members of the association to be wary of the activities of Njoku particularly, and the other collaborators; describing them as desperate and cunning.
So far, the registered Board has taken the bold initiative to cancel the vexatious AGM which was earlier slated for Benin City and later Lagos on the grounds of procedural violation and alleged incompetence of Dr. Kayode Farinto to convey the said AGM.
The statement signed by Prince Taiye Oyeniyi, Secretary of the Board on behalf of the Board Chairman, Alhaji Taiwo Ibrahim, clarified that only the Board has the constituted authority to call an AGM, even as he said that the tenure Dr. Kayode Farinto as National President of ANLCA has expired; and therefore, not in no position to act in the name of the National Executive Committee (NECOM).
The release canceling the meeting reads: “The cancellation is consequent upon the Resolution of the Registered Board of Trustees of the Association, which declared the scheduled AGM illegal on the ground that the tenure of the purported conveners has expired since April 16, 2022. By Section 13, Subsection 4 (a-d) of the Supreme Constitution of ANLCA 2008 (as amended) the tenure of the National Executive Committee (NECOM) elected in Enugu on 8th March 2018, expired on the 16th April 2022.”
Whatever it is worth, ANLCA has since falling apart and out of industry reckoning. Both camps are suffering, except that the camp that has so far been law abiding, and have been greatly amenable to peace concerns and sincere reconciliation, have suffered more; which is an irony; since those who are naturally law abiding ought to be protected and spared the uncertain fate that befalls trouble makers and law breakers; as well as those who sees impunity as a way of life.
In saner clime, no leader would feign ignorance when his name represents disorder and anarchy, he would retire and give others chance to rebuild and repair. As the Vice Chairman of CRFFN, Chief Henry Njoku has failed in both his personal and official capacity to end ANLCA’s crisis.
Similarly, the failure of CRFFN in its pledged last year to resolve the crisis is as much his own failure; even more than the Governing Board Chairman, Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar’s failure. But we shall return to that in subsequent edition.
In fact, one would have expected that the former ANLCA Board Chairman of two terms and more than fourteen years on the board seat should have thrown in his resignation letter, long before now.
But having not done that, Chief Henry Njoku should in the light of the current allegations that he is involved in trying to frustrate the ongoing peace process, tow the path of honour and resign from further activities of ANLCA.
His continued involvement in ANLCA affairs in whatever capacity and description has proven to be inimical to the wellbeing of the association.
He should therefore consider excusing himself from every affairs of the association without delay, and should take the back seat as a former leader.
In the event he is unwilling to do so, his friends should impress it on him that he has overstayed his usefulness in ANLCA; and let him know the truth that he has nothing more to offer.