Last week, Thursday through Friday, the social media was awash with contradictory reports of the presence of the military at the Tin Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Sources which confirm the development informed that the armed soldiers escorted the embattled national leadership of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLC) to the customs command to install a factional chapter executive, but were prevented from going into the premises with their principal, while the military jeep they drove in was also disallowed from entering the office, inside the customs port premises.
While ANLCA has a history of its leaders paying visit to the Customs Area Controller for matters of mutual interest, this particular visit is believed to have been carried out to advance perceived undue political scheme, and to achieve ulterior motives designed to further worsen the crisis plaguing the association.
Instructively, sources explained that the visit was not only an attempt to intimidate members opposed to the leadership style of the embattled National Executive Council (NECOM) of ANLCA, but also intended to brow beat the area customs management into accepting a factional executive the NECOM intended to foist on the chapter, despite the existence of a functional executive validly elected January 14, 2021, and inaugurated by the Registered Board of Trustees (BOT) of ANLCA.
While some reports claimed that some of the military police fired shots in the air at the gate of the customs command, others made no such reference but did not dispute the fact that the NECOM and the factional leaders it aimed at foisting on the command chapter were escorted to the customs office by the full complement of military force, with armed soldiers and military vehicle.
Some of the industry online media practitioners reacting to an online news report on the military involvement in the association’s political activities vehemently disputed the claims made by the online reporter that the soldiers fired warning shots in the air, thereby stirring the hornet’s nest.
When our reporter reached out to feel industry pulse on the development, a number of stakeholders and members of the association who spoke in confidence, said it was wrong for the military to get involved in association’s politics, especially at a time the country is having serious security challenges, amid perception that both military personnel and operational logistics are in short supply. Most of those who spoke on the development said the presence of the soldiers created panic and apprehension within the port business area.
Further findings also indicated that the soldiers were on ground until those they escorted to the customs area command for alleged subversive political activities returned after more than an hour, before accompanying them away.
While it is unclear who authorized the deployment of the military personnel and the Military Police Jeep for the use of ANLCA, the embattled NECOM led by the National President, Iju Tony Nwabunike, succeeded in introducing members of the factional executive to the Customs Area Controller, Comptroller MBA Musa.
However, reports indicate that the customs area boss refused to be dragged into the association’s politics, as he advised them to go and sort out their differences.
It was also reported that the visiting NECOM members were treated to drum beats by their supporters and given carnival like reception inside the port, in spite of the distractions such was capable of producing;
While some analysts and observers posit that the development is a product of desperation; others advised the Nwabunike led NECOM to discard its haughty go-it-alone posturing for a truce with BOT, as the sure guarantee for ANLCA to regain its voice through a united front.
It will be recalled that the Chairman BOT, Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha, on January 14, 2021 after the election of officers into chapters of the Western Zone including the Tin Can Island Chapter, enjoined the newly elected chapter executives to rededicate themselves to the service of members, to eschew bitterness and rancour, and to remain above board in both their professional and leadership duties.
Addressing the elected officers after handing them their Certificate of Returns, Mustapha admonished them to strive to lift up the image and voice of ANLCA once again in their respective chapters, and to continue to cultivate peace towards amicable resolution of the crisis that has bedeviled the association.
While Mojeed Akanni emerged Chairman during the Tin Can Chapter election and returned unopposed with 64 votes in the January 14, 2021 election, Chief Mike Okolichi was elected the Vice Chairman, Barrister Michael Imonitie Ovien, Secretary, and Yetunde Akanbi , Financial Secretary.
Also elected was Olanrewaju Mayowa Taiwo as Assistant Secretary, Adebowale Bare, Treasurer and Idowu Owoade, as Public Relations Officer.
Observers are worried that despite attempts at pretenses by the present NECOM that ANLCA still command’s the amount of respect it enjoyed in the prior administration, the association have lost its voice and so much goodwill.
This is even as those who expressed concern noted that without purposeful reconciliation between NECOM and the BOT, ANLCA will continue to lose relevance to other sister associations, some of which are already positioning themselves to take the lead, while secretly also working with some insiders to destroy ANLCA.
During the visit in question, Nwabunike was quoted as telling the Customs Area Controller that the visit was intended to forge a closer occupational relationship with the customs, and aimed at exploring ways both customs and the customs brokers can synergize to achieve the revenue target of government while facilitating trade.
He proceeded to introduce members of the alleged Tin Can Chapter factional executives to the Customs Area Controller and his management team.
It will also be recalled that recently, some members of the Registered Board of Trustees, officers of the Western Zone and PTML chapter executives were arrested and detained for several days by the Police Force Zonal Headquarters Lagos, on alleged trumped up charges of attempted kidnapping and robbery by NECOM.
Grapevine report that the arrest of the executives is not unconnected with the alleged physical attack purportedly carried out against the Nwabunike led NECOM by members of the PTML Chapter of the association, when the embattled national officers allegedly attempted to introduce a factional chapter executive to the PTML Customs Area Controller; earlier this year.
At the melee that followed the alleged attack, the Vice President, Dr. Farinto Kayode and National Secretary, Babatunde Mukaila, who was believed to be part of the entourage, respectively, reportedly took to their heels, leaving Nwabunike alone until he was reportedly rescued by the customs area controller, Comptroller Festus Okun.
The PTML Chapter executives however denied having anything to do with the attack, noting that members of the association who were justifiably unhappy about alleged leadership incompetence and the high level misfortune the administration has allegedly subjected members, led to the attack, which the chapter leadership loyal to the BOT described as a demonstration of dissatisfaction.
This is the first time in the history of ANLCA that a sitting National President would be seen manufacturing and throwing up factional leadership. In December 2020, NECOM organized a questionable Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Owerri, Imo State, where a kangaroo Board of Trustees was reportedly elected.
The so-called BOT has since falling into disrepute, with frontline appointees, allegedly deceived into the contraption, vehemently disassociating themselves; even as the Owerri AGM has suffered a number of frontal and rude disclaimers, including successive court injunctions that have directed the NECOM to stop parading itself in office.
In 2018/2019, the NECOM also embarked on an abortive sack of the Western Zone leadership, which also led to his own sack as National President by the later; until a truce was called.
Trouble started when Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha was elected after the inauguration of the NECOM as Chairman BOT. But the erstwhile Chairman BOT, Chief Henry Njoku, refused to vacate office, even when the election was fair and square.
It turned out that the National President, Iju Nwabunike, in what can be described as a hooded pretension, made feeble attempts to intervene, while it was apparent that he was siding with Njoku to truncate change of baton. Later he was to plead with the BOT to grant Njoku, his political god father, a grace period of 90days to enable the political maverick to exit honourably. Thereafter, the tunes and narratives changed, and degenerated gradually but unswervingly, until eventually plunging ANLCA into its current state of twisted, indefinable crisis and political hocus-pocus.