By Frank Odinukaeze
Since 2018,the Association of Nigeria Licenced Customs Agents (ANCLA), has been engulfed in seemingly intractable crisis that has almost crippled the foremost association.The crisis which stemmed partly from ideological differences,individual positions and atavistic tendencies of others, observers believe, are largely the reasons why this crisis has lingered this long.
Having been polarized along factional divides,ANLCA crisis appears to have defiled all logical peaceful solutions,as the gladiators have remained adamant and unyielding despite various interventions by both groups individuals and and even government agencies.
Just when everyone and maritime stakeholders thought that there was light after all for ANLCA at the end of a very long tunnel, following the peace move orchestrated by the CRFFN,under the leadership of Alhaji Abubakar Tsani,led governing Council, which eventually brought about the much celebrates peace settlement and the subsequent appointment of BoT members,all that now appear to be inconsequential as SIR EARNEST ELOCHUKWU,one of the appointed BoT member ,and a member of the Alhaji Mustapha led faction has picked holes in the whole process branding the peace meeting as a fraud.
In this interview with Frank Odinukaeze,SIR ELOCHUKWU,the GMD/CEO of Nestello Gateways Group and former president of ANLCA, advanced reasons why he and his colleague have rejected the CRFFN peace initiative.What are his reasons for this action? Why did he lose faith in the CRFFN’s ability to resolve the ANLCA crisis?What does the former president of ANLCA want? Find out his thoughts on the future of ANLCA and his unwavering trust in the Minister of Transportation ,Engr Mu’azu Sambo to resolve the four years old crisis.Sir Elochukwu also gave the way forward for the association and other important views.Enjoy the reading.
Sir, Barely one month after the peace meeting of ANLCA and the subsequent appointment of BOT members of which you were duly appointed,you are rejecting the peace settlement.What is your reason for this?
Well, I want to say that the issue involved is not about appointment or who is appointed to be whatever.The issue is that the so called peace said to have been made by the chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), governing board is a fraud.I said it’s a fraud , because first and foremost,the issue of Association of Nigeria Licenced Customs Agents (ANCLA),first of all involves two factions. You cannot claim to have made that peace when you are dealing or acting exclusively with one faction.
And then at the end, because you either coerced ,cajoled or one way or the other took some members of the other faction to the so called AGM,then you said a peace meeting had taken place.I think it’s a fraud.And that’s what I stand on.
In a recent interview with a maritime publication,you claimed that members of your faction, were “hoodwinked” into accepting the peace move .Why do you think so?
Well to explain it better,when you say members of my faction , it’s just like three persons out of the group were somehow convinced to come to a meeting with the chairman of the CRFFN governing council.And they came to that meeting,all with the mindset of looking for peace.After the meeting,there were things that they discussed ,and when they were going to go back and inform their constituency of the outcome of the meeting, somehow,Alhaji Abubakar Tsani convinced them to go into the hall where already 250 members from other factions were already seated on what they dubbed an AGM and which he,Alh. Tsani had endorsed. And when our three members expressed reluctance ,he assured them that he wouldn’t allow an AGM,since most of the people seated were not registered with the CRFFN,only for the same event to be reported as AGM ,by Alhaji Tsani So I want to emphatically say that what happened there was a grand deception,and hence a fraud.And so the outcome from such meeting is not substantive and cannot be binding on us. However I want to make one point : that whenever there is a grouping,one person cannot be the group .Three persons,or even ten persons depending on some factors cannot be taken to be the group.Why all these were going on ,Alhaji Mustapha was seen as the arrow head of the group.But that does not mean that he is the executive president of the group.
In other words,it means as a member of the group ,I will accent to whatever that was discussed by those representing the group,if there were adequate consultations,and communication.So if Alhaji Tsani had allowed Mustapha and co to have come back to us with the information that so and so were proposed and that they were suggesting this or that,it would’ve made sense saying we were party to whatever decision or arrangement .But then in a situation whereby you called a representative or even some representative of the group and said we are trying to work out something to make sure that we end this problem,and along the line there are underhand activities in which some people are being shortchanged cannot subsist.And like they say ,you can’t put something on nothing.And again, please remember we had a meeting with the Area Commander in Festac on the 13th of January this year and when they said they want to hold an AGM,we thought that it was going to be based on what we agreed at the meeting with the Area commander in Festac.We were later to learn that the AGM was for some ulterior motives hence we made a disclaimer when they attempted it the first time.Because if it was a really well intentioned motive,the first thing would have been to call those who stopped the earlier AGM,and know why they stopped that earlier AGM,and why there is need to hold a new one.I think that would have been the way to start it.But when they still went ahead and got CRFFN to authorize and later claim to sponsor , naturally,it calls for suspicion,as to what is the motive of that meeting.That’s the issue.So, it’s not about coming out to tell the world that peace has been made in ANLCA.
Without sounding explosive,I want to say that the CRFFN as a body and the governing Council,did not initiate ,talk less of superintending a peace meeting.What type of peace do you tag on a process where you come into a dispute pretending you are making peace ,but only just did everything you did to the whims and caprices of one side?
ANLCA is a very huge and important organisation as far as the Maritime industry is concerned .As a former president of this foremost association and as one who had seen it all ,and given you stature and pedigree,what actually do you want ,and how can an enduring peace be achieved in ANLCA?
Well I have answered this question over time.I want to say that may be it’s my love for ANLCA is actually driving me,in the sense that I have seen the prospects of ANLCA ,what we could do for the stakeholders in Nigeria particularly given our peculiar system where the private business man or private practitioner is at the mercy of a lot of forces.And so ,a focused ANLCA is very much needed to bring about some level of expertise that we may need to have because of the dark forces.And like I said , it’s not about what I want.Becaise I don’t want anything.As far as I am concerned,I believe I have attained the highest point in ANLCA.I happen also to be one of the few persons that have gone through the ranks of chapter Secretary,chapter Vice Chairman,a chapter Chairman and ultimately the president.So I want an ANLCA that is focused ,and formidable.An ANLCA that is not tied to the apron spring of one man or few men.An ANLCA that the members would be proud to say yes,we belong to this association.And that is actually what I want.And that’s why I think that we can’t get there without doing things right.- without doing the things the right way.What we have been seeing is nothing but cut and join.And we cannot achieve anything with this.For your information,ANLCA under my leadership,played a very important role in the making of the Bill that gave birth to the CRFFN Act.
And why we did all we did was because we believed that the professionalization of the practice would bring a lot of benefits to the members as well as those in the freight forwarding.But unfortunately,the CRFFN is now being run at the whims and caprices of some persons ,contrary to what the Act intended,and what happened at the so called peace move is an indication of how CRFFN is being run.
The Honourable Minister of Transportation,Engr.Mu’azu Jaji Sambo,is said to have taken over the mediation of the ANLCA matter.Do you see this as a viable alternative?
The action of the Hon.Minister taking over the issue is premised on the report myself and my colleague ,Chief Dennis Okafor made to the ministry ,the supervisory body of the CRFFN,that the CRFFN has done wrongly.And it was after hearing our presentation, that they said that they would look into the whole issue ,and chart the way forward.Ordinarily,the matter is not one that the ministry should come in ,but then because the CRFFN that is actually the eye of the ministry has left it’s role as the regulator of the industry and not doing right.And because they didn’t do right,they want to force on us a cut and nail situation again.And we said No!And that was why we reported to the ministry.That’s how the ministry came in.
In other words you have faith in the ministry to bring this matter to a logical and amicable conclusion?
Definitely! definitely because in our presentation to them,we made it clear that everybody in ANLCA wants peace.But not the kind we are being cajoled into.We want a peace that would be enduring.And the only way to have peace that will be enduring is to look at the cause of the problem in the first place and tackle it.
You see ,part of the problem we have in institutions and in our country in general is that sometimes people used to imbibe that idea of let’s not bother about them.The truth is that forgiveness gets more enduring if there is repentance to it.In other words,it’s like the parable of the prodigal son.We all know what happened afterwards.And that is the fact that the father whom he had wronged forgave him.But there is something a lot of people don’t know.The fact that the prodigal son realized his error in far a way county,and despite all that was going ,he still went back to apologize to the father.We could understand something from there and that is: no body is above making mistakes,but then it is best that mistake made is admitted You don’t try to cover a mistake with another mistake.It is like covering a lie with another lie.
The issue we are talking about affects the totality of the wrongs that have been done.Even staunch members of ANLCA have always come up with such faceless approach- oh we want peace in ANLCA.But they have not sat down to ask what actually is the problem? Because when you ask about the problem and then look at it critically you will be able to fashion the way out.You must look and know the cause of a problem before you proffer solution.
The last AGM which you described as a fraud .You were appointed as a BOT member along side others.Where you not consulted before the appointment?
Well there is something I want you to understand.Since 2018,when the ANLCA was thrown into crisis just because the BOT in a usual manner changed its leadership and the result was rejected by the occupant.Certain developments had made the purported appointment of trustees at the so called AGM rather a mundane exercise .For instance ,since after the justice Aikawa’s judgement and the follow- up registration we did,the issue of tenure had long been established to assert that the trustees registered on the 16 of January 2020 are the subsisting trustees,(which was speedily cancelled when queried) ours had been on the status of ANLCA in Corporate Affairs Commission(CAC),as Registered Board of Trustees till this year.So after we had a meeting with the Area commander,on the 13th of January,2023 ,at Festac,we agreed on some plan of action to move our association forward.This include joint formation of ASECO and awaiting the outcome of the inquiry by the police from the CAC.This would culminate in a jointly organized AGM,where members of ANLCA would be happily informed that peace had returned to the association,and we are now one united family.That was what we agreed on the 13th of January 2023,But in February,one party started talking about AGM.We said No! that was not our agreement.So when it is being said that an AGM was held, what actually is the AGM that was purported to have been held?Who appointed what? If at the end of the day the things we have already started to receive by amicable discussion became truncated by an ill- advised AGM,do you think something reasonable has been achieved?So for me and my colleague ,that is Chief Dennis Okafor,we didn’t believe in what happened at the CRFFN AGM,and that is why we jettison it.
As it is now,what is the way forward,and how soon can an enduring peace return to an embattled ANLCA?
I can only guess, because I don’t know all the answers.But my good guess or informed guess is that peace is very close to ANLCA.First,let the members of ANLCA be ready to tell the truth.And when they say the truth,they’ll be able to tell whoever that has done right that he has done right.And whoever that has done wrong that they have done wrong.And they should go further that no matter what anyone may have done ,for the interest of peace and the members we should move on.So for me,it is about what the members are willing to do.