The Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) led by Alh. Taiwo Mustapha says the major reasons it suspended leadership activities in the Western Zone is to protect the lives of members and save the association from disintegration.
The Board had on Friday announced the immediate suspension of all activities in the Western Zone following penultimate Thursday’s attack on the Tin Can Island Port Chapter secretariat of the association by hoodlums allegedly sponsored by aggrieved faction members, which left a member of the association, Wale Cole severely injured.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos on Friday, Chairman of the ANLCA BoT, Taiwo Mustapha said the decision to put on hold all activities in the Zone became imperative following the rising cases of attacks, which in recent times have turned bloody.
Mustapha said the Board and the Interim National Executive Committee (NECOM) of the association led by Pius Ujubonu have agreed to wait for the report of the Reconciliation Committee set up by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in (CRFFN) to investigate the leadership crisis in the association and come up with a recommendation.
He said the Board has also agreed to wait until all the cases at various police formations and the courts have been exhausted and abide by whatever outcome that is reached.
The ANLCA BoT Chairman was, however, quick to note that the decision by the Board should not be seen as a sign of weakness or conceding defeat to the other faction, but to ensure members personal safety and avoid actions that could lead to the disintegration of the association.
He said, “We have decided that in order to save lives for now, we have appealed to our people that everybody should sheath their swords and calm down, there should be no activity for now. We have also decided that at the end of the day, if the CRFFN comes out with any conflict resolution report, from our own side, we would try as much as possible to abide by it.
“All the court cases are still there, we had agreed at a point that we would withdraw all the court cases, and if for any reason, judgment on any of the cases comes up, we would abide by whatever the court says.
“I am more concerned about members safety and security, not because the expired NECOM wants to over-run anybody, this is not out of being weak, they have tried it before and they couldn’t succeed, they tried it now again and they still failed.
“We are saying it emphatically that we believe in CRFFN, and we believe in the law of the land, whatever comes out of the court or CRFFN, we would abide by it.
“We are putting it to them that, if they want peace, we are ready for peace, but if they want war, let them go to their villages to go and war, we are no longer interested in having anything to do with them if they fail to embrace reconciliation.”
When asked if the decision by the Board would not amount to abandoning the association, Mustapha said, “There is no way we would leave ANLCA for them, but what we are saying is that, rather than any of our own side to keep holding activities that would warrant reaction from them…because if Wale Cole had died, it could have been a different ball game.
“In order to avoid that, this is why we at Board level are appealing to our interim government, all our chapter Chairmen and all our supporters to suspend all activities in ANLCA for now, pending when, either the CRFFN or any of the court judgment comes up to resolve the issues.”
Mustapha debunked claims by the former Vice President, Kayode Farinto that the Western Zone perpetrated the attack on Wale Cole, saying that it is an attempt to twist the narrative.
“The point we are trying to make glaring to everybody is that, the interim body applied to the Nigerian Police that they were going to hold that meeting. There was no way the same set of people would now go and bring hoodlums to disrupt the same meeting.
“Because life is about to be lost, and the crisis is degenerating to where bloodshed is coming in, this is why we decided in the board that it is high time we call on our Interim government to stay action.
“I don’t want it to be on record that it was when Taiwo Mustapha was leading the BoT that ANLCA disintegrated,” he said.
Mustapha expressed worry that the association’s intractable leadership crisis is gradually giving authorities serious concerns and warned that if care is not taken, ANLCA may be proscribed.
He said, “A letter was written by the AIG Maritime recently to all shipping companies and customs area commands to stop associating with any ANLCA members at association level. Even at the government level, if the Ministry of Transportation comes out tomorrow and proscribes ANLCA at the port, what have we gained by killing the association?
“We want the association to bounce back in a better way, and we believe that after this crisis, ANLCA would have a rebirth. The Secretariat would remain locked down because the tenure of the former NECOM has since expired.
“Henry Njoku is the cause of all this crisis, I can tell you, having brought ANLCA to this level, he has gone ahead to register another association” he said.
Mustapha lamented that despite several efforts by the Board to resolve the crisis which has raged the association for over four years, every effort to make peace have been truncated by the Kayode Farinto led faction.
“At the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), it was agreed that we would come back with a consent judgement, whereby both parties have agreed and decided to withdraw all court cases, all police cases, come back and register a new Board.
“The suggestion at the end of the day was that, five of us were still in the Board, we asked them to bring four members of the Board they had elected, so that we could form a new Board and move forward.
“Rather than do this, they used a kangaroo court judgement obtained from Abeokuta to deceive the Corporate Affairs and registered another Board. This is to say that while we were having it in good faith, that we were moving towards ending this crisis, they were doing something else, rather than resolving the issue by merging the two bodies together, they went to the CAC to do a separate registration. The CAC is already in the know of what they did,” he said.