A faction of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Licensed Agents (NCMDLCA) led by Chief Festus Osaji Ejiofor had been embroiled in change of leadership crisis for some months now with a group known as the founding members calling for an election into the various offices of the Council including that of the National President by the end of this month. In this interview with our correspondent, the embattled President, Chief Festus Ejiofor explained his position on the entire saga warning members to clear of the said elections describing it as illegal, null and void. Excerpt;
Your people have alleged that you have been their President for more than six years and counting and that within that six years, you have not been able to conduct elections into the various chapters of the council across the nation, you have not been able to convene any meeting for members of the council and that you have not been able to give account of your stewardship as well as accused you of corruption and then they wanted a change. How do you react to these allegations sir?
They are all big lies. You see, what triggered off this change they are asking for is because of POF (Practitioners Operating Fee); they want to take charge of the council so that when the POF comes they will have the control of the money.
The first accusation that I have been in the office for the past six years, they were talking of eight years before, I corrected them. I have been in office since 2010 and November this year will be the end of my tenure for six years. But it is not about the issue of tenureship, you know that Lucky Amiwero is in court, Lucky sued us to six cases, we have defeated him in four, remaining two. One of the cases still pending in court is challenging his removal in Federal High Court. That has not been determined. The second one is the one at Igbosere where he said he doesn’t know me, that he was not the one who issued me certificate of membership, that I forged it. That are the cases in court and you cannot talk of election when those cases are not dispensed off. If you are talking about election, you are doing disservice to the council because the statement that they overthrew Lucky Amiwero, the question I want to ask them is, has Lucky really gone? Has lucky been really defeated in these two cases? So, let them tell the public how they overthrew Lucky.
The second one is that they are not interested in the wellbeing of the National Council, what they are interested in is to call for elections, sell the forms and eat the money. That is what I said no to and majority of the who are talking, they never knew how we rented secretariat for ourselves, they never contributed ten Kobo to the National Council, they are not card carrying members of National Council. They have not contributed in any way to make the Council grow.
Talking about not conducting elections into the chapters across the nation, how do you conduct elections when you have cases in the court? You cannot conduct elections because you have not either been approved by the court or anybody. Though we are registered with CRFFN and we said once the cases are over, even myself will like to step aside in order for another person to takeover. But as long as the cases are in court I am going nowhere and they have no right whatsoever to call for elections.
Are you saying that if the cases linger till fifteen years that you still going to b the President until the cases are dispensed off?
Yes because in the court, you should have asked me why am I talking of court cases? In the Federal High Court, the Judge there said let the status quo ante remain which they are aware and this is the status quo ante, that is you stay where you are until the determination of the cases.
Could confirm that there was a time you asked for more time from the Board of Trustees of your Council to enable you dispense off the cases in court which they turned down?
Never a time. Who are the Trustee members? Kelly claimed to be the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, ask me who made him Chairman of Board of Trustees. Go to CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission), go and check the status of National Council and see whether Austin Kelly is even a member of Board of Trustees not to talk of him being the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. You cannot jump down from the moon and claim what you are not.
There was never a time I begged the Board of Trustees. If you go to CAC, the person who registered himself as the President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees is Lucky Amiwero, go there and check. If you want to do a good a reporting, can you send somebody there to check whether Kelly is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, he is not even a member.
Do you see any outsider manipulating what is currently happening in the National Council now?
Of course yes! It is clear for the whole world to see. Festus Ukwu was planted into the National Council by two persons; Kelly and Aniebonam. They asked me to give him a position in the council and Ndee and others objected to it that this Festus they were asking me to give appointment in the Council or take into our council must be a destroyer, somebody who act as a proxy to these people and I refused to heed the advice and went on to give him National Publicity Secretary.
Festus Ukwu in our office was running another association which led to us expelling him. There was a time when our former Secretary duped somebody of 12 million naira, which we expelled him too, the whole members insisted that if such a person should remain in the National Council, all of them will pull out and it was unanimously agreed that he should leave the Council. I without consulting appointed Festus Secretary and there was a strict resistance that Festus has no credibility. That is where the problem started. Festus said that I shouldn’t have listened to the general members, that I should have stick to my position that I made him Secretary. I said well, the whole members are bigger than myself, I am not a dictator, that once members disapproved of your being the Secretary, how do you think I will still stand? That was where the problem started.
Aniebonam and Kelly said that I should have stick to my point that Festus is the Secretary and I said it was not my decision but that of the general members of the Council.
I discovered that most of the meetings done of recent by these your members were held at the NAGAFF village even when you have earlier told me in this interview that you have a Secretariat. What could lead to your members abandoning your Secretariat and opted to hold meeting at your sister association’s Headquarters?
That is where the whole problem started. At a time this thing started, somebody called me and told me that I should read one publication online, that the National Council members have abandoned their secretariat and they are now meeting at the NAGAFF village and when I read it, I was very furious and angry. If you hold any meeting outside our secretariat, it is illegal meeting. If you want Ejiofor to go, come to the secretariat, call members to a meeting and discuss my going and not NAGAFF village.
There and then, I wrote a petition to CRFFN to give them security alert, to which CRFFN is still attending to. So that answers that your question.
Have you been able to convene a meeting of your members to intimate them of this development?
We have called meeting and we are going to have another meeting next (this) week. We called meeting where all of them pledged their loyalty to me.
They said they have appointed electoral commission, the person they said they gave the Chairman of the commission is Bontex and Bontex has never been our member. His name is neither in our register nor is he carrying our card. So, how can you appoint somebody who is not a member, a clown to head an electoral commission of the National Council?
Some names we saw in that list as electoral commission members like Stephen Ibe, Chris Agbawodikeizu, Alhaji Lameen Aliyu and some other names that sound like names of other associations’ members. Can you confirm those members of the Commission as your members?
They are not, they are NAGAFF members. Alhaji Lameen called me and we spoke, he told me that he can never do anything under Bontex, that he himself cannot be a part of it because he is not a National Council official. Lameen called me and it is recorded if he wants to deny that.
What do you expect from the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) to do in view of this problem?
CRFFN is our regulator, before we take any further step like going to court or doing any other thing, we have to report to CRFFN first which we have done. They said they are investigating, we will allow them and give them chance to investigate on what we wrote and come up with their findings and that is what we are waiting for.
And these people are now announcing on radio that they are selling forms, yes, in 2012, they took a step in which they brought one Okaro who is a retired Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) official, Kelly siphoned and duped him because he wanted to be a President where he is not a registered freight forwarder. They did it in 2012, this is 2016, they are repeating that same thing again.
So, CRFFN should investigate, we even copied Shippers’ Council.
So, what is your advice to your members in this regards?
My advice to my members is for them to disregard that radio announcement about closing the sale of forms on the March 20th, 2016. You cannot patronize illegality, the whole people selling those forms or calling for elections are illegal. None of our members should listen to them. Any election conducted on that platform is null and void and illegal.
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