‘Igbos Should Produce ANLCA Next President’ – Oduntan
Worried that Iju Tony Nwabunike, the embattled National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) was not allowed to enjoy his tenure by entrenched interests within and outside the National Executive Committee (NECOM), a chieftain of the association, Prince Segun Oduntan has said it is only fair that an Igbo candidate be elected to complete Nwabunike’s second term of four years.
The former ANLCA Tin Can Chapter Chairman declared that the Nwabunike led NECOM completed its term of office on April 16, 2022, as he disregarded the Owerri AGM that reportedly altered the tenure-ship structure to a single term of five years; purportedly giving Nwabunike’s led NECOM one additional year, due to lapse in 2023.
Oduntan also appealed to the Inspector General of Police to streamline conflicting directives emanating from his office over ANLACA’s leadership tussle; believed to be giving the NECOM protection to perpetrate itself in office.
In this interview with Eguono Odjegba, Oduntan also spoke on burning industry issues, including efforts by past ANLCA leaders and elders to end the crisis in the association.
There has been so much motion and confusing actions aimed at resolving the leadership struggle in ANLCA, is the resolve still on course or not?
ANLCA is one big family and there is bound to be disagreement, but at a point in time, we still have to come back and start relating as a family. But you can see, some people do not want settlement, rather they want to become a kingdom to themselves. This is the problem we are having right now. The issue of association becomes bad when you allow self interest to override the general interest, at this stage the centre can no longer hold. When we met at the peace meeting with the Lagos Commissioner of Police, all the leaders were there and they all spoke, but I can tell you categorically that nothing has been done, there is a stalemate, and we are still at the same spot.
So, what is the next plan of action?
Well, the NECOM is time bared right now for any reconciliation with the registered Board of Trustees (BOT). I am a critical stakeholder, am not a board member, but the time they had to negotiate with NECOM is statute barred.
But there was a constitution amendment which NECOM claimed permits them to stay in office till 2023
That constitution amendment was dead on arrival. As of the time they went for that amendment, who and who was involved? There is a procedure in place for constitution amendment in ANLCA, let them come and tell us who and who were present in that meeting. As at the time they sat for that meeting, they have been sacked by a Federal High Court, which directed them to stop parading themselves as national officers, the matter was not vacated.
As at the time we did the election that brought the NECOM into office, there were nine of them, but right now, it is only two people that are left. Even the President has left, he said that he is going for further studies when his house is on fire. The only people left right now are Kayode Farinto and Babatunde Mukaila. If you talk of Bola Muse, she is with Barge Operators today, WIMA Nigeria tomorrow, WILAT the next day, so, they are just two people remaining.
But we have Dr Taiwo Afolabi and Ozo Chukwura claiming to be ANLCA Board members, Afolabi is a heavy weight that cannot be dismissed just like that.
Leave Dr Afolabi out of this, he is a respected stakeholder in this industry, he has told them that he is not interested in ANLCA Board, he is only (interested) about peaceful environment, where there is no peace, he cannot operate. So, he has not come out since the crisis started, to state categorically that he is chairman of ANLCA board. I have told the other person, Ozo Chukwura who is my good friend, I told him the only problem he has is that he is not consistent. I said to him, “you are not consistent in this association, you have served as a chairman and served as zonal coordinator. If tomorrow they are nominating you into the board, yes it is good, but don’t try to come in through the window, it is only dead people that are brought in or thrown out through the window. Why do you want to jump the line? Let them bring you in through the normal process.” Which Board are they talking about? Tell them today to do a letter headed paper and sign as board, and communicate to the public. Let Ozo Chukwura do a letter and sign as Vice chairman of the board, and he will see real action, he will know that the judiciary is still working.
The registered BoT is not following up as expected and your people are in disarray, the other day when members of the Tin Can Port chapter planned to protest the NAC 15%, NECOM called them impostors.
Our board members are respected leaders in this industry, they are taking these issues in sequence, when the time of the NECOM expired on 16th of April, it coincided with the Muslim fasting and Hajj, there is a lot to it. The strike action you talked about at Tin Can Island Port and what our people are going through, it all boils down to engagement, the method that the NECOM under them are using is to first of all go to the media and speak without finding out the true story first. This is why they are always at loggerheads with customs. The customs are the ones that licensed us and if we have issues with them, we have to write them. The customs have what is called Dispute Resolution Committee in all command and even at the headquarters. The 35% that customs have been collecting from us for a long time, did the NECOM address it? Is it not when ECOWAS insisted that customs had to now comply by reverting to 20%? The 20% directive has been there all along during their take over as NECOM, they left that and started pursuing shadows. This is because they are not revenue agent to customs; they have no locus to engage customs.
Yes. There is what we call personal recognition, when you are a practicing agent, when you speak to your customs controller, he would listen to you. During the tenure of Prince Olayiwola Shittu, when anything goes wrong in our practice, the President picks his phone to call whoever is DCG Trade and Tariff, immediately they make arrangement and listen to us. What does the President do then? He would pick two chairmen from the Western Zone, one from the East, pick the Zonal Chairman West and East, including two board members. By the time we attend that engagement, you would see that the problem would be solved same day. That was when ANLCA was still ANLCA. The customs today have history of our transactions, they know what your company has contributed in terms of revenue generation and accords you that recognition.
When said the NECOM tenure has expired, why has the BoT not taken over the affairs of the association and the national secretariat?
Like I said, the BoT would take its decision as at when due and in a lawful way. Everything is aground right now, out of nine NECOM members, only two people are left, some have handed over since the courts asked them to stop parading themselves in office. It is an issue for the board, and I cannot speak for the board. I think they have their own way and approach which they want to follow on this issue. The only thing I am appealing for now is, that we are appealing to the Inspector General of Police, there has been conflicting directives coming from his office. The NECOM had gone to court to obtain a fraudulent injunction when two outstanding and subsisting injunctions are still in place. The NECOM divided themselves into two groups and deceived the court to appear as plaintiffs and defendant, the kind of judgment that is usually issued against anyone owing house ren, or in favour of a landlord, it is called a Jankara Judgment. This is very bad emanating from a Federal High Court Judge, he was deceived to give the judgement but we are handling it. The lawyer and the Judge has been reported appropriately, and the people that perpetrated that act too.
You were talking about conflicting directives from the office of the IGP
There has been conflicting directives from the IGP office and we are appealing to him because he knows about this case, even before he became the number one police man, he was aware of the case, but due to one engagement or the other, he might have delegated assignments to some people and whenever the letter goes out, it would be assumed that he issued the directive. Anybody that is capable of obtaining a fraudulent judgment can as well commit forgery by using the IGP logo to convince a police commissioner. We want all police formations to be aware, anybody that brings any issue concerning ANLCA crisis to them, should be looked into genuinely. The judgment the expired NECOM is flaunting is a fraud and we have already challenged it. The judgment gave provision that their NECOM should be allowed to run without hindrance, meanwhile their time has expired; the judgment did not talk about tenure elongation. So the people they are presenting the judgment to cannot know when their tenure expired. We are not sure if the directive is coming from the IGP, so we have made representation to the IGP’s office.
What efforts are concerned members of ANLCA making to recover the national secretariat?
When you occupy somebody’s house as a tenant, no matter the number of years you spent there, you are still a tenant, the document of the house would not be changed into your name. The fact that they occupy the secretariat today does not make them the owner of the property, the owner of the secretariat is the registered Board. As at the appropriate time, necessary actions would be taken by the registered BOT.
How soon should we expect ANLCA to get back on its feet?
Very soon, could be before the end of June 2022, ANLCA should be on his way to a recovery under new structure. You must have been reading what the former President’s of ANLCA have been saying, all of them are now eager to come together on a particular day and take a decision on this matter; even Alhaji Kamba, Inua Muhammed and others. I believe that their position as stakeholders would hold water, when they left office, they never gave us this shambles we have today as an association. Don’t forget that some of them have children practicing this trade.
The VIN Valuation has been fixed to recommence in May, do you have any reservations against it in any form?
I don’t have any reservation, with what we have on ground, l believe the customs are really working, they have sent their officers on training to ensure that mistakes are not made. Where we are going now is total automation, so that we can have some respite as par our clearance process. If you have vehicle to clear, you would already know how much the duty to pay. Today, we have association leaders calling for Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) to return to the ports, when people are already on the fast lane, you just woke from your slumber and you want to draw them back.
Since the struggle against VIN Valuation and the 15% NAC at the port commenced, how has it affected importation of vehicles?
It has affected it a lot, because people that travelled during that period for importation are just finding their way back, demurrages have accrued, the Nigerian working populace in the maritime sector, their work loads are being reduced, people are getting thrown back into the labour market. Meanwhile, we are not asking customs not to do automation and technical advancement, but they have to do it in sequence and carry everybody along. As customs brokers, we also love comfort, we don’t like running around aimlessly, but don’t just bring a policy to us suddenly. The Act that recommends 2% of NAC says that it should be paid on new vehicles and new spare parts. So, now that ECOWAS reduced duty on vehicles to 20% from 35%, is the Nigeria Customs Service going to return to us the 15% difference they have been collecting from us for several years? Now, what law is backing 15% NAC?
According to a statement by the customs on the matter, every country has the prerogative to set its tariff.
So, why does the government want to set such a tariff when they know the hardship we are going through in Nigeria? Why must it be this sector? The only languages the customs understand is revenue, there is terrible eye service going on in the service today.