The President General, Association of Igbo Maritime Practitioners in Nigeria (ASIMPIN), Eze Damian Emeka Obianigwe has reacted to a comment credited to the Coordinator of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders Importers Exporters Coalition, Osita Patrick, in which he accused him and his executives of refusing to vacate office after eight years at the helm of affairs.
Patrick, who is also the convener of a socio- cultural group, National Igbo Maritime Advocacy on Accountability and Leadership had issued a 14-day ultimatum to the President General of ASIMPIN to conduct election into the association and vacate office failure of which the group would seek redress in court.
“We are angry with this development because we don’t know why he is occupying this position for so many years. That is why we want him to organize an election within 14 days or we might be forced to seek redress in court,” Patrick had said.
But speaking in an exclusive chat with Maritime Today Online in his office, Chief Obianigwe, who is also the Group Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Fano Shipping Group described Patrick as a charlatan and blackmailer, saying that he has no locus standi and constitutional right to issue an ultimatum as he is not a registered member of ASIMPIN.
“I have been carrying him for years, maybe I stopped carrying him, so he wants to blackmail me. He is a charlatan. As the President General of Igbo Maritime Practitioners, I can categorically tell you he is not a registered member of ASIMPIN. So, he has no locus standi, no constitutional right to issue any ultimatum except he wants to go to jail. What he does is to go about blackmailing people,” he said.
Explaining why the association is yet to conduct a fresh election for a new set of executives, Chief Obianigwe blamed the COVID-19 pandemic, saying “We are in the third wave of the COVID -19, so there is no pressure that will make me call for a meeting now. The pandemic slowed down all operations yet we are trying to see how we can carry all members along,”
He, however, assured that plans are underway to conduct a fresh election as a committee that will roll out modalities for the electioneering process has been constituted.
“Before end of the year, something will happen and if he wants to be the President General, if he can get one vote, let him (Patrick) come and contest. They are surprised I am not quarrelling with my executives. You can see some of the associations quarrelling with their executives, fighting for positions but in ASIMPIN it is not like that, nobody has heard our voices,” he said.
Also speaking, Senior Special Assistant to the President General, Geoffrey Nwosu, confirmed that Chief Obianigwe had directed elders in the association to work out modalities for election but members had insisted that the FANO boss continue in office.
“Since inception of ASIMPIN, members have not had any reason to complain. Members were the ones that pleaded with Chief Obanigwe to hold on to leadership so that we can get to where the association should be.
“Plans are on the way to ensure a redirection of leadership, which is going to go by way of election. Perhaps, he (Patrick) is talking from 2019 experience. In 2021, there is a serious plan with which elders and critical stakeholders have been called by the PG to look into the possibility of the formation and even the welfare of members.”,” he said.
Nwosu who chided Patrick for failing to consult the leadership of the association for whatever grievances he may have had said he has no authority to issue an ultimatum to a constituted authority as the President General, saying he risks litigation for his action.
“Before he can discuss issues that bothers on ASIMPIN, you must be a member. How far has he gone to address his grievances at the internal level or escalate the issue to the national executives? He is risking litigation because by the time the national executive council looks into the matter and found out that he is not a registered member of ASIMPIN, they will take it up legally,” he said.