BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Barely four weeks after the Customs Consultative Council (CCC) pulled a major successful peace accord between warring factions of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and secured an election timetable and date, the association appears headed for the rocks once again, as the self same peace keepers may have thrown spanners in the works.
This is coming on the backdrop of purported reversal of the appointment of the erstwhile National Secretary, Alhaji Mukaila Abdulazeez as ANLCA’s Administrator by the CCC, which has queried the association’s Board of Trustees (BoT) for the said appointment; noting that the appointment is a violation on ANLCA’s laws.
The CCC also in a news report unilaterally extended the electoral exercise, mode of election and date, which it has fixed for August 31, 2023 as against the earlier August 15, 2023 it recommended. According to an online news medium, not Pinnacle Time, the mode of election shall be AGM (Annual General Meeting); even as the CCC reportedly condemned the BoT for allegedly going against the laws of ANLCA in relation to the appointment of a sole administrator.
However, some members of ANLCA have accused the Chairman and Secretary of CCC, Aare Hakeem Olarewaju and Dr. Eugene Nweke, respectively, as the arrow provocateur, with a further allegation that they are acting arbitrarily without the authority of the CCC.
The said news report with headline “Customs Consultative Committee Upholds ‘NEC-Mode’ for ANLCA Election” reads: “The Customs Consultative Committee (CCC) has said that upcoming elections into the National Executive Council (NECOM) of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) shall be conducted using the NEC-mode.
“The CCC during its zoom meeting held on the 8th August 2023, equally canceled the recent appointment of former National Secretary of the Association, Alhaji Babatunde Mukaila as Sole Administrator by the Board of Trustees (BOT).”
The online newspaper quoting the communique reached after the meeting reportedly titled “UPHOLDING THE TENETS OF THE 19TH JULY 2023 PEACE ACCORD RESOLUTIONS” and signed by the CCC Chairman, Alhaji Hakeem Olanrewaju on Thursday reads:
“The Committee reviewed the two contentious issues in the constitution (the adoption of an “AGM” or “NEC” mode of election) which the two political camps are hinging on.
“CCC observed technical flaws associated with either of the model, however resolved to uphold that which is a near compliance to ANLCA constitution under the prevailing circumstances.
“In this instance, Committee also observed that consistent with the constitutional provision and procedures, that only the NEC as being constitutionally composited and presided over by a National President has the power to swear in members falling under the category of NECOM.
“Against this backdrop, the Committee in its wisdom recognizes the phrase “Sworn in” (as an oath of allegiance) to mean that, an elected or appointed officers are duly sworn in by an elected National President as noted in Section 7 of the Constitution 2013, under the subtitle; “Powers Of The National President. “For emphasis sake, section 7, (1) (g & k).
“Therefore, in strict adherence to the ANLCA Supreme Constitution 2013 as was agreed, the Committee hereby pledges its full support to ASECO and urges ASECO to go on with a Constituted and sworn-in NEC mode of election, which includes the; National President; National Vice president; National Secretary; National Assistant Secretary; National Treasurer; National Financial Secretary and National Publicity Secretary; The Zonal Coordinator & Secretary West; The Zonal Coordinator & Secretary East; The Members of the Board Of Trustees; Members of ASECO; The Chapter Executives (Chairman, Secretary, Financial Secretary and Treasurer)”
The CCC urged members of the ANLCA BOT to support the Associations Electoral Committee (ASECO) to achieve its mandate and to respect the Peace accord resolution of 19th July, 2023.
“While pleading with the BOT to give peace a chance, it is important to reaffirm here that the Committee too shall not shy away from the sole responsibilities of implementing the peace accord resolutions to its logical ends, which is to ensure that the ASECO conducts and deliver a transparent, credible, free and fair election on or before ending of August 31st, 2023.”
In particular, the CCC in subtle manner accused the BoT of acting contrary to the Abuja Peace Accord, even as the Council from its posturing is short of sacking the BoT and taking over the leadership of ANLCA; while it purportedly has reversed the appointment of Mukaila Abdulazeez as administrator.
“To this end, the appointment of an Administrator, either interim or otherwise is alien to ANLCA supreme constitution and the peace accord. It is a ploy by its proponents for the elongation of the election and inauguration time table. It therefore cannot stand and will not be allowed to stand.”
Reacting, Chief John Ofobike, a chieftain of ANLCA said going by the position of Olarewaju as reported, the CCC appears to be going beyond its brief which is advisory and urged the Council to retrace its step.
While casting doubt on the composition of the reported virtual meeting, Ofobike said any pretense to ignore the BoT in the ways and manners the forthcoming election is conducted is a recipe for fresh crisis, and urged the CCC to be neutral and to restrict itself to its advisory role, and show greater responsibility by refraining from making provocative statements.
“The CCC is not Hakeem Olarewaju and Eugene Nwoke and the CCC is advisory in role, and why people look at them, listen to them is because the new custom CG called us and asked us to resolve, that he would like to work with us, front and back. Hakeem and Eugene, they are the one who gave themselves chairman and secretary. Having said that, other people that constitute the CCC are very honorable members.
“Austen Warrikuro is a fine man, I worked with him from all the ranks until when God promoted him to DCG and he retired meritoriously as a great man. He was a fine officer. Then you talk about that ACG lmam, his name is just his character. You know how lmam behaves, he is an lmam and he’s called Imam, he has an absolute Islamic character, a pure Muslim in all his conduct. We work with him before he retired, he is a member of CCC. Also Comptroller Dimka, a man who calls truth, truth, and calls yam, yam, he does not bend. And the other woman, she retired from Federal Ministry of Transport, she’s a graceful woman, an absolute civil servant who retired meritoriously. Olawale Shittu our former president is also a member, everybody knows his character, he does not taint the truth. Is it Alhaji Innua Mohammed, a great man, a man of peace, a man who will tell you the way it is. So tell me among them, is it Ernest Elochukwu that you will play over by his intelligence?
“Like I have advised Eugene Nwake and Hakeem, they should do everything humanly possible to make sure their name is written in gold. ANLCA crisis is a man made crisis by the crisis merchants in order to propel themselves into the power…created by Henry Njoku and signed by Tony Iju before he ran away and left Farinto to be executing the crisis to the letter and he is benefiting from it. So this is a man made crisis and they want to kill ANLCA…they already have other associations waiting to go to. They never know that if it’s not panadol it can never be panadol, and if it is not ANLCA it cannot be ANLCA.”
Ofobike said it will be a tragedy of history if the CCC turns around to truncate the peace process they initiated through the leader of the Nigeria Customs Service, noting that their body language suggests that the CCC is trying to rival the BoT.
“So when the CCC called everybody we look at the new CG as a good man. He was a controller of crisis, everywhere there is crisis, he is always the one who comes to talk to people. He’s always the one who mediates and talks and he’s a man who has known it all. God has given him that gift of leadership and l appeal to all of us not to derail what he has started. He appealed to us to give him the opportunity to settle our quarrel and all of us agreed, everyone agreed and they know the truth.
“Like l said, CCC is not about Hakeem and Eugene, chairman and secretary… as individuals I have called them on their phone and said, ‘come try to maintain standard so that at the end of this crisis your name will be written in gold.’ That if you have a magic touch and if a session come back, it’s a wonderful thing…the crisis has taken years and only one call and everything became calm because you spoke truth to the fact, remain so, never you bend.
“It was from there they brought out the 2013 constitution which was discovered by Mukaila who was able to tell everybody that was the constitution that was registered with Corporate Affair Commission and the 2008 Constitution which we have been using and which was used to swear us in before they went to do their own adjustment to one section in 2020 which became issue of litigation. And they saw it and said okay, 2013 constitution…the only thing that is different there is where Henry Njoku went and put in 2008 Constitution that the NEC should be reporting to the board because Henry Njoku believed that as he is there, he cannot leave the board, he went and insert that one there. And anytime NECOM wants to do a meeting, Henry Njoku must be there before the meeting starts. That’s what they did to us during the tenure of Shittu.”
The ANLCA chieftain said it smacks of double standard for the CCC to introduce NEC mode for election as against Collegiate, which has been the norm, and accused the Council of playing to the gallery. He cautioned the CCC should not play the devil’s advocate by encroaching on the powers of the board.
“They now brought the Constitution 2013, which everybody adopted. And now they say, go and do the same. Now, how can you come as a CCC and take advantage? You now want to take over the role of the BoT, are you suspending our constitution? It is either you tell us, see, see, see… and it is either we tell you we agree or we don’t agree. We accepted you and you’re now taking over us. The mode of election is in the constitution and it is collegiate and not NEC, there have never been any time in history of association they use NEC.
“It is made out there that when is it available and they cannot appoint an administrator who will be doing that today on collecting letters and everything until it’s conducted and when this election is conducted it is this administrator and the cook that will organize this worry and a handover that’s how it been done. The board of trustees is not supposed to be seen; they’re supposed to be heard. It is when there are problems like this the board come over and you are saying the appointment of board is void? How can you say that? They called you to mediate and you’re trying to lord it over them, it’s not possible. l think somebody is trying to misguide the chairman to do something that is not possible. I know him as very intelligent man, I think somebody is trying to play the devil’s advocate. They should be very careful. That is my advise for them.”
There are indications the CCC Chairman, Olarewaju has sought to introduce own sentiments in the lead up to the board administration of the electoral process and how best to achieve results through fair and just exercise.
While the ANLCA Board reserves the right to run the affairs of the association the best way it deem fit in line with constitutional dictate, Olarewaju it is believed have been interfering to the extent he thinks he can dictate, even as some insiders have accused him of plying the script of certain interested parties.