“I am disturbed that an association older than Nigeria cannot resolve its crisis”, those were the word of a former Customs Area Controller in charge of Tin Can port; Comptroller Mba Musa. The occasion was a courtesy visit by the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Aegnts (ANLCA), Western Zone Coordinator, Mr John Oforbike to his office sometime in August 2019. The ANLCA Chieftain was accompanied on the visit by notable leaders of ANLCA in the western zone.
The Customs boss had expressed shock that an association founded in 1954 and which is six years older than Nigeria, could not resolve the crisis that had bedeviled the association for over 15 months (as at the time of the visit).
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".
The Comptroller’s admonition which came more than one year ago, is not different from our position as a media organisation, when we (out of empathy) wrote recently and asked if there were no elders in the association.
Rather than accept our well-thought-out appeal, attack dogs were sent after the publisher of this newspaper. Sadly, the dogs lampooned the personality of the publisher, even without faulting the various positions that were taken as one of the way forward for the troubled ANLCA.
It is noticeable also that, after the publication, some ANLCA leaders who were expected to come out strongly in defence of their association, started the blame game again. From Lagos to Port Harcourt, drums of war became louder.
And by last Tuesday, it became loudest; 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.
Sadly, the incident may have well signaled the near-end for ANLCA; we doubt that, after last week’s attack, ANLCA can regain its cohesion, its rating and the loyalty of its members.
Arising from the attack, names of suspected masterminds have started coming up, this will lead to Police investigations, and eventual court trial. After this, another layer of enemies and enmity will be added.
As we wrote in our earlier piece, the current crises did not start ‘today’; it is actually about two years old. It is a fall out of the election that brought the incumbent President; Mr Tony Iju Nwabunike and his co-executives to power in 2018.
But, is it not taking too long to come to terms with the fact that a new executive is already in place and that, in about two years, another election would be due? If this matter is not resolved before then, there may be no elections in 2022, may be not the same ANLCA!
Unfolding events give credence to the fear expressed above. There are several cases in different courts, the Police is already involved and now thugs have been invited to settle scores that would have been settled within and amicably too.
It was a visibly shaken ANLCA President that told this newspaper in an immediate response to last week’s attack that: “They (thugs) have burnt all our documents. You can see what I have been saying, they took us to court, court has not finished, they took us to the Police, the Police have not finished their work, they took us to OPC”.
But, as a maritime media organisation, we remain resolute in our position that there is no alternative than a peaceful resolution of the issues at stake; it will involve give and take.
In the word of Jack DuVall, “those for whom peace is no more than a dream, are asleep to the future”. ANLCA leaders of toady are prosecuting this war as if theirs would be the last in the history of the association. In the history of ANLCA, there had been far bitter crises that the current one, if the then-leaders had stuck to their guns and were unyielding, there may have been no ANLCA to fight over today.
Even though we may not agree with all that he said in response to last week’s invasion of ANLCA secretariat, we see sense in the advice that was given by the Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF); Dr Boniface Aniebonam. He advised that leaders of ANLCA should help to resolve the lingering crises.
"What is happening in ANLCA cannot happen in NAGAFF, because there is a structure, why is it difficult for the elders to call the association to order" he had said.
The current Board of Trustees can not resolve the crisis, because its members are parties to it, the NECOM can not also resolve it, because it is divided.
For the umpteenth time, we restate that, if the ANLCA President, Mr Tony Nwabunike wishes to end the festering crises, he knows what to do. If the factional chairmen of the board want an end to the crises, they also know what to do.
Finally, if the elders; past Presidents, past Vice Presidents, past National Secretaries want to end the face-off, they know what to do. But, since they are all seating on the fence, for ANLCA, the journey to the end may just have neared.