FRONT PAGE COMMENT: ANLCA, Please Enough Is Enough

Last week, two things happened in the life of the once-fancied Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).

Tony Iju Nwabunike

First, news of the injunction of a Court in Kano on the association’s National Executive Committee (NECOM). Second is the suspension of some key members of the association by the same NECOM.

The controversial NECOM of ANLCA came into office in April 2018. This means that, it is already in the last lap of its four-year tenure

About a year after coming into power, that is in 2019, the then-Customs Area Controller in charge of Tin Can port command; Comptroller Mba Musa lampooned the leadership of ANLCA for not being able to settle their differences, which had not festered so much at that time.

Apparently perturbed that the then one-year old face-off had not been settled, he told the ANLCA delegation who was on a courtesy visit to him that: “I am disturbed that an association older than Nigeria cannot resolve its crisis”. The ANLCA delegation was led by its Western Zone Coordinator, Mr John Oforbike.

He lashed out an embarrassed ANLCA delegation: “I am disturbed that an association older than Nigeria cannot resolve its crisis, and we have elders in the association”

“Looking around, I don’t see Customs agents that I used to know back then, which means we are not mentoring the younger ones. So if we, for any reason have to leave crisis for our children, then we are not successful”.

Not done yet, Musa lashed out at the ANLCA leaders: “You can’t have seven court cases in different courts and expect development, its better we do away with these court cases, so that we can move ahead”. Presently, the number of court cases in ANLCA is uncountable!

The Comptroller’s admonition is not different from our position as a media organisation, when we (out of empathy) wrote sometime last year to ask if there were no elders in the association.

While the crises festered, last year, the most unthinkable and despicable thing in the history of ANLCA happened. The symbol of unity and the pride of ANLCA was violated; its national secretariat was invaded and vandalized by hoodlums allegedly sponsored by some aggrieved senior members of the association.

Not being able to resolve the largely ego-and-ethnicity-driven crises, the secretariat that was built out of the good corporate governance and rebranding efforts of the immediate national executives led by Prince Olayiwola Shitu, was violated by hoodlums and their paymasters.

From its history ANLCA has always been one indivisible association, with one National Executive Committee (NECOM) and one Board of Trustees (BoT). Even at the chapter levels, ANLCA was one indivisible association.

Never in the history of ANLCA have things degenerated to what it is. Yes, there were instances of disagreement, yet they were resolved; yes, some people felt aggrieved, but they didn’t pull down the association. The worst that had ever happened was that such people pulled out, and ANLCA matched on. Sadly, this is no longer the case.

Perhaps, the biggest sign that ANLCA may have escalated its nearly three-year old crisis was the contentious election of a parallel BoT in December 2020 in Imo State. The election saw the emergence of nine new members of the board, even when the current occupants of the office still lay claim to being the authentic BoT members.

Of course, after the election, the factional BoT chairman; Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha called the executives and those who organised the election jesters, who should not be taken seriously.

Since the Imo state development, there have been parallel actions by both the embattled BoT and the association’s National Executive Committee (NECOM) led by Mr Tony Iju Nwabunike. These actions have led to the emergence of two parallel executives in the Western zone chapters of the association.

This has also heightened tension in the association, the climax of which was the arrest of some of the association’s chieftains in Lagos. Top among those who were arrested was the Secretary of the BoT; Prince Taiye Oyeniyi.

The leaders were arrested for allegedly masterminding the 2020 attack on the association’s secretariat in the Amuwo Odofin area of Lagos, and for masterminding an attack on the association’s national president; Tony Nwabunike.

With several court cases, two parallel BoT members, parallel chapter executives, the arrest and detention of these notable leaders of the association, and the suspension of key members, ANLCA has again dragged itself further down the cave.

How long will it take to get the gladiators to understand that their approaches will not solve the problem.

Most importantly, how long will take to make the NECOM of the association to understand that its approach to the issues at stake is further driving a knife into the soul of the association.

In the years that ANLCA has been, it has never been this bad; that an executive council will spend three out of its four years going from court to court, on issues that could be resolved like family members.

It has been said on this page before that, ANLCA has finally caved-in (in the middle) and has indeed become a 2-in-1 association!

Perhaps, at this time, a convocation of a meeting of past Presidents of ANLCA will not be a bad idea. They are the elders that ANLCA needs at this time before it’s too late to remedy the situation.