The crisis in the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA) has become immutable and intractable, raging for close to four years now.
The protracted crisis, which was sparked off by a power tussle among the elders of the group for the control of the ANLCA, has done incalculable damage to the association, having been polarised between the two contending gladiators: Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha group and Dr. Taiwo Afolabi-led BOT.
Prince Ozo Felix Chukwurah, who is one of the most visible chieftains of ANLCA and the Vice- Chairman of the association’s BOT, spoke with our reporter in a no-hold-barred interview and made a stunning revelation about the high wired politics among the contending factions and the hair-raising intrigues going on to claim the soul of ANLCA, reputed to be the oldest freight forwarding group in Nigeria.
He also shed light on the controversies on the BOT certificate while unsparing in his response to the personal attacks launched against him by one of the gladiators.
Q. You and Farinto, the acting President of ANLCA, were said to have gone to Abuja to verify if the certificate of your BOT was truly withdrawn by the CAC.
It was further said, upon finding out the truth that the certificate has been canceled by the CAC, both of you slumped and went into a coma only to be revived by the medical team of the CAC. Could you tell us what really happened?
A.(bursts into derisive laughter)I have never been to Abuja in the last three months. Neither I and Farinto have been to Abuja together in the last five months.
Unfortunately, it is only Joe Sanni, who is a loafer and their media attack dog that has been spewing incoherent responses to my clarification of their falsehood over the certificate.
Others in the group have maintained a dignified silence. In my clarifications which I made in my first interview, I made clear references with dates, mentioned names of individuals who are living, and even showed proof of the withdrawal of their certificate with a letter from the CAC.
They should refute it.
I also quoted court judgments, with references, the name of the court, dates of the judgment with the names of the Judge who gave the judgments against them.
Let them refute it.
I don’t want to join issues with a loafer called Joe Sanni.
If you don’t know, let me inform you that the first and only car Joe Sanni used in his life was given to him by Prince Ozo Chukwurah, free.
A lemon-colored Hyundai Car.
Anybody in ANLCA who knows the car Joe Sanni is using, I gave it to him. That will show you how close we were.
He once came to me that Prince Olayiwola Shittu, the former President of ANLCA was not doing anything to enhance his life. It was in my house I gave him that car.
After that, we started relating and I was opportuned to meet one of his brothers whom I complained to that Joe Sanni was behaving in an erratic manner in recent times.
That one told me a lot about his behavioural deficiencies.
Since I came to know his behavioral challenges, there was no abuse he could haul at me that will make me get angry.
Q. Sir, let’s quit being personal and address the real issue. What the other group is saying is that the letter which you mentioned that the CAC used to withdraw their certificate has been contested in court and the CAC has withdrawn it.
A. While the rabbit hardly enters the Lion hole is that he saw legs going inside but never saw the ones coming out.
If I showed the letter withdrawing their certificate, the onus of proof is on them to show the public the one restoring the same certificate.
Not for me to showcase it to them.
They should show us the letter, with dates and reference numbers, restoring the certificate.
They should also cite the court judgment with dates, reference numbers, and the Judge who restored their certificate.
All these I did for verification.
That is the most logical thing for them to do in order to disprove my claims, not resorting to incoherent, inconsequential, and banding falsehood as Joe Sanni was doing.
Our own certificate was signed by the same Judge who signed their 2020 certificate before the CAC eventually withdrew it.
Therefore, the judge is still alive.
It is easy for them to write to the Judge that someone has forged his signature and stamp. It would then be possible for the judge to cause my arrest and possible prosecution for forgery.
They know my house, am ready to face the consequences.
I never said their own certificate was fake or forged but at a stage, it was withdrawn.
They were registered January 2020. They were removed, and they became inactive 26th of August, 2022.
The Taiwo Afolabi-led BOT became active in September 2022.
This is the issue I want them to react to, they should prove that am lying.
We all went to the police to meet the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State and the whole document have been submitted to him and the Area Commander, Festac.
And I submitted the document with a letter that the police should investigate if the certificate is fake.
Q. What is your group going to do to stop the other group from parading themselves as the authentic BOT despite the withdrawal of their certificate?
A. ANLCA is an association for voluntary members.
Many of these people fomenting trouble in the association have been sacked in accordance with the constitution of the association. They are not paying the mandatory annual subscriptions, so they are no longer our members.
The truth is that they know they have no standing. We remain the authentic BOT members, recognized under the constitution, for the next four years and there is absolutely nothing they could do about it.
Q. But they are still causing problems in the association.
A. Is Boko Haram not causing problems in Nigeria? Have they taken over Nigeria?
The minority will have their say but the majority will have their way. They are in the minority.
The most intelligent person among their group, in fact, the most intelligent freight forwarder in Nigeria that i recognize is Sir Ernest Elochukwu.
He knows the truth. If he is not saying the truth now, one day he would say it.
I know him and he knows me. We know ourselves and we have a group that is loyal to him.
Why he decided to join the Mustapha group is still a puzzle for some of his loyalists.
Q.Who is in control of the secretariat of ANLCA?
A. For now, the secretariat is a biblical child in the hands of King Solomon.
When we went to the Commissioner of police, he was asking for solutions, if we can do the 4-4-1 reconciliatory arrangement.
I was the one who told the Commissioner of police that we are no longer interested after the collapse of our initial reconciliatory efforts which they jeopardised.
Musthapha’s group is like a rampaging bull in a Chinese shop. The bull in a Chinese shop is for destruction.
In the biblical child in Solomon’s hands, the real and authentic mother is protecting the child while the other woman who is fraudulently claiming the ownership of the child when her own is dead, was saying the child should be divided into two. She preferred the child dead because it doesn’t belong to her.
So for those who have the interest of the association at heart and do not want it dead, we want it protected, but for those who do not have the interest of the association at heart, wanted it to die and many of them were not born when the association was formed.
Q. If this matter is not resolved, don’t you think they will make ANLCA ungovernable for the authentic BOT and NECOM?
A. Yes, they have already made ANLCA ungovernable for Tony Iju Nwabunike and his executives.
But I would not be able to tell you what will happen after the expiration of Nwabunike tenure in April 2023.
That will be when there will be proper clarification of who and who are the authentic BOT of ANLCA.
Our constitution is very clear on this.
If there is a crisis and there is no NECON, who should take over?
Our secretariat is under lock and key because the Mustapha group has no stake and that is what they want.
Q.Do you think there would be a peaceful transition after the expiration of Nwabunike’s tenure in April next year if this crisis is not resolved now?
A. When we get to the bridge, we shall cross it. They are not immuned to the laws of the country. The law will take its course at the appropriate time.
They can go their separate ways while we go our separate ways.
They can answer ANLCA 2 while we answer ANLCA 1.
Q. So you want them to factionalise ANLCA?
A. They have already fictionalised it.
They are answering ANLCA Western Zone but could not factionalise it in the East or North.
It is only in the Western Zone here that Musthapa can come to foment trouble. He dared not try it in the East.
Q. But how long will this destabilisation continue and be condoned?
A. As long as it is within the ambit of the law not to cause violence.
The inordinate struggle for power in ANLCA does not worth the drop of any member of the association.
Q. Are you now saying that the window of reconciliation is now closed after the initial peace move collapsed?
A. They are the ones who asked for a reconciliation in the first instance. Before the peace process ever commenced, they started to bring stringent conditions which eventually make the effort for peace dead on arrival.
Q. What happens if they now offer the hand of fellowship for reconciliation after the collapse of the first move?
A. The way things are now, I can’t see any possibility of reconciliation.
This is because we have made so much efforts at reconciliation which they sabotaged. The last peace move was the one we said they should bring four members, excluding Taiye Oyeniyi, to form a joint BOT.
That is the only one available but they seemed not interested as they were foot-dragging.
Q. Are you going to pardon those who you said were sacked if they show any interest in reconciliation again?
A. Why, Yes, the same process through which they were sacked will be activated for their pardon and reabsorption.
Q.But they said they never recognised their eviction from the association
A.But it is on record. It is still hanging on them. For life, the record is there.
Assuming ANLCA ceases to exist and you want to write the history of the association, that decision to sack them will be recorded for posterity.
Q. From your narratives, are you now foretelling that ANLCA will remain factionalised since you said they could bear the name ANLCA 2 while your group bears ANLCA 1? And you know other associations like NAGAFF have taken advantage of the crisis in ANLCA to wax stronger than the association reputed to be the oldest freight forwarding group in Nigeria.
A.Let me say this, NAGAFF is very powerful and has been able to square it up with ANLCA because of the crisis which did not even start now.
There have been crises intermittently from time to time in ANLCA which led Dr. Aniebonam to pull out from ANLCA to form this formidable association called NAGAFF.
But despite this, ANLCA will continue to exist.
Q. You said the Mustapha group has succeeded in factionalising the Western zone of the association. Does that me there will be two NECOM elections in the Western zone, having conceded the Western zone to them?
A.They have been doing their thing in the Western zone. They have been appointing people. But I am not interested in who they appointed.
They are entitled to their own decisions and actions and what they want.
Q. So they can be running parallel executives without any challenge from the authentic BOT?
A. They are entitled to what they want to do
Q. That means you have already conceded the Western zone to them
A.You are talking about conceding but am talking about legality.
Q. Why am saying this is who do the members defer to, the Mustapa group or your group?
A.That is where the main crux of the issue is. How many of the members believe in them? and how many believe in the authentic BOT?
If we have about 1000 members but about 10 or 20 are pulling us back, does it makes ANLCA collapse? Nigeria is moving forward, is there peace in Nigeria? Boko Haram and bandits are terrorizing the people.
Do you think President Buhari like the way these bandits are terrorizing the people? He would do everything within his power to stamp them out.
Q. Are you by any chance regarding the Mustapha group as terrorists of ANLCA?
A. I only make a proverb. I am not linking them to bandits or Boko Haram. I am only telling you that as big as Nigeria is, a few small boys are terrorising us in Nigeria.
Q. Are you then regarding them as dissidents in ANLCA?
A. I don’t, but you did. I told you one of them is my boss who I respect so much. So there is no way I can regard such a referred person as a dissident. Denis Okafor is also my friend. I must choose the right words to describe them. I still have respect for them.
Q. Despite doing what you thought was wrong in the association?
A. They could be making a mistake because they have been provoked by somebody. Not by Prince Ozo. Their provocation came from somewhere
We met the anger on the ground and what we need to do is to calm the anger down. However, every attempt to bring their anger down is not working. But that does not mean I should disrespect them.
Q. Despite all attempts to pacify them, they are still angry. Don’t you think there is more to it than meets the eye?
A. When a man is provoked, there should be a way of pacifying the anger. But if he insists to be angry despite your efforts to pacify him, it will get to a stage when you turn your back on him and ask him to do his worst.
So we are getting to a stage where we turn our back and tell them to kill the association so that it will be on record that they kill ANLCA. That is the stage we are at now, It is not a personal fight. It is only Joe Sanni that is taking it personal, hurling abuses at me.
But as I said earlier, I don’t want to bandy words with a loafer.
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