“The position of the Chairman of ANLCA BOT is not constitutional”
Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha is the factional Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA). In this interview with Shipping Position Daily’s Dapo Olawuni, he talked about the crisis rocking the association’s board, even as he gave assurances that the association would soon overcome its leadership challenges.
“We held the BOT election that same day in his (Henry Njoku’s) room, eight of us were there and he also participated”
“Peter Obi did not show any interest on the day of the election, why is he now canvassing and calling himself the Secretary of the BOT? Who elected him? “
How do you think the crisis rocking this ANLCA BOT can be resolved?
As far as we are concerned, there is no crisis in ANLCA, rather, what we have is a kind of misunderstanding within ourselves and which very soon it will be resolved. Let me also clear that as against the impression that anybody may be having that this board is against the leadership of the new ANLCA President, Tony Iju, we are not in any way against his leadership, rather, we are there to solidly support him on how to move ANLCA forward, but then, whatever the issue within us, it would surely be resolved. However, I need to let you know that from 13th of July, this new leadership under my humble self; Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha and my Vice Chairman, Chief Dennis Okafor and the board secretary; Prince Taiye Oyeniyi has taken off as new leaders of the board. Irrespective of whatever feelings anyone may express against it, the point remains that, this is a democracy and it is a game of numbers, where you have eight members and five of them agreed that there is need for change in leadership after 10 years of Henry Njoku as the Chairman, I think this is enough and it subsists, there is no reverse.
I want to also let you know that as against the impression that anybody may be having that this board may be coming back to have another election after the 13th of April, it’s not true, what we have done at Durba Hotel on 13th of April remains, and until when and where the board decided later in the future that we would have another change, it remains for now.
What value would this new BOT under your watch add to ANLCA?
We are out to move ANLCA forward, wherever the previous administration under Olayiwola Shittu must have stopped, our focus today is to join hands with Tony Iju to move the association forward. It is not about being half-baked, what we want after Olayiwola Shittu is to perfect what he has done, and wherever he has left ANLCA, in the next few months, we want to see it going beyond that.
What measures are you putting in place to unite the BOT and move the association forward?
The issue is that under this dispensation, the truth has been told to one another and that was why at the election we held on 13th of April, all of us came out frowning and not happy with ourselves, but the issue is not really about individuals, we should not be self-centred or selfish, even if you have a whole lot of ideas on how to move ANLCA forward, you can never be too sure, somebody else may have a better idea. So what we are saying is that we are not running a parallel government and we are not sending anybody out of the fold, Henry Njoku is part of us, Aare Sanni Shittu is part of us, Peter Obi is part of us, and we are making efforts on how to bring ourselves to the roundtable to be able to talk more and agree. But then, we cannot force anybody to agree to every opinion, if I have an opinion on how to move the board forward and somebody else is having a counter opinion, you allow the person be for a while, after a while, a better reasoning will come to play and we would have ourselves back on the same table.
We were told that the April 13th meeting did not have election as part of its agenda, is that so?
That is a wrong impression, for every meeting you must have an agenda, and in the agenda you must read the minute of the last meeting, and this happened in that meeting. And on the agenda for that day, we had the change of leadership as part of our agenda. The April 13th election was not even the first move to hold an election, we have been having the issue within ourselves for a while that there was need for us to have a leadership change. When this board came in from onset , at our inaugural meeting in 2014, we agreed that every two years, we are going to have a change of leadership, even as at when Henry Njoku took over as the chairman. I was made to be the coordinator for nine months, and when I felt that the tension within us had already gone down and we have known ourselves better, we threw it open and this was when Henry Njoku emerged on four against three, to become the Chairman, and it was agreed that after two years, we were going to have another election, Henry cannot deny that. So, three years thereafter, we started raising the issue, we held a meeting in Port Harcourt where this issue came up and we agreed to give it a little more time, we had another meeting in Lagos here and it was finally agreed that after the NECOM election, we were going to have our election. The idea is that after our NECOM election in Enugu, we actually wanted to hold the BOT election, but we felt everybody was tired that night, so we decided to suspend it, we also felt that it was going to be an opportunity on the inauguration of Tony Iju as president, having our own election a day before would have been a good opportunity for Henry himself to come out and announce then that with the change of leadership in NECOM, we have had another leadership in the BOT and that he would be stepping aside. This would have given him a standing ovation. The Oodua Maritime Forum wrote a letter to the board, saying that the two candidates for the NECOM election were from Igbo, they requested that the BOT chairmanship should be given to the Yorubas, and in our meeting then we agreed that it was going to be, but then let us hold on, Peter Obi suggested that because he couldn't trust the Yorubas and that before the NECOM election, any Yoruba man could still pick forms, so we waited. At the meeting at Durba , we purposely made the election to be the last item on the agenda, it was when we got to that point that Henry felt uncomfortable for us to hold the election that day, he had no cogent reason for refusing. However, we all decided that he cannot overrule everybody because he is just one among equals, and this was why we held the election that same day in his room, eight of us were there and he also participated.
How come you agreed to be rotating the chairmanship every two years, and yet you allowed him to stay this long?
Remember that Henry was chairman for six years in the tenure of the old board, but when this board came in, at our inaugural meeting, the current president, Tony Iju was the one that suggested that because of the interest between Sir Ernest Elochukwu and Henry Njoku, in order not to cause division among us, we should step down the issue of electing a chairman for the board that day, we all saw reason with him that this would afford us know ourselves better instead of rushing, so we left it. It was the same Peter Obi that suggested that we should make it two years.
So, after the two years of Henry Njoku's second tenure, we wanted to hold the election but we kept postponing it for one reason or the other, but as at the time the Oodua group wrote to us, then it became clearer that it was time to hold the election.
One of the board members, Peter Obi has said that Prince Taiye Oyeniyi should step down as Secretary of the BOT
The question that should be asked was that, was there any second nomination when the election was coming up? We threw it open, who is interested in chairmanship of the board, there was nomination and there was somebody else to second it, for the position of vice chairman, there was nomination and there was somebody to second, for the position of secretary, there was nomination and there was somebody to second it, to this, there was no counter nomination, it was an election. The same people who are canvassing this position now are doing so on second thought, it wasn't there before, we never had that, all the three position were elected unopposed. I have said it that whatever happened on that 13th of April remains, as far as we are concerned, if any change must come at all, it must have to be when eight of us have finally agreed between ourselves. Peter Obi did not show any interest on the day of the election, why is he now canvassing and calling himself the Secretary of the BOT? Who elected him?
I also need to let you know that the position of the Chairman of ANLCA BOT is not constitutional; it is purely for our own administrative purposes that we felt the need to have a board chairman, vice chairman and board secretary. For every ship you need a captain, what the constitution recognized is our president and all his team, so I wonder after 10 years why somebody would still be holding on to a position that is not constitutional.
What will happen, should the ANLCA president fail to recognize this new board leadership as a result of the crisis?
I don't think the president would say that he would not recognize this new leadership, this is because, for whatever reason anybody might have been canvassing, each time we meet, the president has not given me that impression that he doesn't want peace within ANLCA, all he kept saying is that he wants peace within ANLCA and he wants ANLCA to move forward, so I would not believe that he would say he is not recognizing this leadership. Secondly, as somebody who believes in destiny, I am sure that whether anybody believes in this leadership or not, God has recognized this leadership and it is going to stay.
Some of the members have said that officially your name is not recognized at the CAC as a board member
Who conducted the election that brought in Tony Iju as president? It was this board that conducted it and I was part of those who supervised the screening, so what you are simply saying now is that the election we supervised is null and void. I quite agree that the registration process at the CAC is ongoing, but this does not nullify the fact that we were elected at Warri in 2014, the records are there and nobody can deny it.
How do you intend to unify everybody and save ANLCA from breaking along ethnic lines?
For every association, especially as big as ANLCA, there is the tendency for misunderstanding at one point or the other, we have seen worse than this in the past and we came out of it strong. I believe that this one is a question of a little more time and we would come out of it. One thing I have seen is that, when there is crisis like this, what is more important is for the president who happens to be the overall leader in charge of running the association to be open-minded and be objective when there are issues on ground, this is when it would be easy for us to resolve the issue. We as a new board executive also intend to hold a meeting with the president very soon where we would ask him to invite the other parties and let us sit down and talk, there are better issues to resolve in ANLCA which is better than all what we are doing now. Sincerity of purpose is very paramount in resolving the issue; I believe that very soon, you would see ANLCA coming out of its BOT crisis stronger than it used to be.