The Tony Iju Nwabunike led administration in the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) officially marked one year in office on the 13th of April, 2019. As part of the activities build up to mark the anniversary, the National Secretary of the association, Alhaji Babatunde Mukaila Abdullazeez spoke to some journalists on the achievements recorded so far by the administration. Our correspondent was among the journalists and below is the excerpt;
…Continued from last edition
Yes, we were invited by the EFCC, as God will have it, the previous week before the invitation; we have our audited account for the first one year. This also in deference to what it used to be, there is no audited account that I know unless it becomes a political issue. So, what we have done is to have an audited account, drop it with EFCC, they went through it. I recall the EFCC operatives making some calculations off hand; how much salary do you pay multiply by twelve. So, with that, they have an insight how much has gone into salary payment and then they used their intuitive reasoning to see that okay, if they have this in one year and you pay yhis as salary, I think you are good to go and then we were granted bail to go and come back on the 16th, they demanded the minutes of meetings and all the rest.
So, what we have been able to do in the last one year is to appeal to the conscience of our members, don’t forget ANLCA is the umbrella body of customs brokers’ registered corporate licensed company. So, we have been able to appeal to their conscience to come and pay their dues. Even in the village setting, in town unions, if you don’t pay your dues, you don’t have access to some rights. So, we started depriving people of certain rights and then asking them to pay their dues to get those rights in the last one year and it has been a wonderful experience that people are now paying unlike what it used to be before. So, instead of waiting for the handouts from the chapters, we relied solely on that and we have been very prudent with what we do with the little money we are getting. So, that has been the magic.
Fortunately, our membership strength has been growing. In the last 365 days, I have had reasons to welcome close to 300 new members into ANLCA. The takeaway point in all these crisis is that even when people want us to believe there is crisis in ANLCA, there has never been any association that has bridged that gap convincingly. So, if people understand that there is no one, that means if ANLCA is not there, practically, nobody. So, if there is no association that has been able to keep that moment and even make any difference, then, I think that was what convinced more members to come in. in last 365 days, I have close to 300 new members that have joined ANLCA and more are still coming. Just today, I welcomed a new member and whenever we do that, we send a mail for our old members to welcome our new member.
I think we have been able to make a point that even while there are distractions because I am not going to call it a crisis, the day to day running of the association has never lacked any momentum and that has kept us going.
Impact of suspended members of NECOM
This NECOM, I hope posterity will confirm and validate what I am about to tell you. This NECOM stands to be tested, this NECOM, I will say stands as one of the very best ANLCA could have ever wished for in the sense that we have a team and once you have a team, the lapses or the absence of anybody can quickly be covered up. So, those that were suspended were part of the team, while they are serving their suspension, the NECOM has not lacked any moment. There has never been a dull moment; the secretariat has been open in the last 365 days except on weekends and public holidays. Even some public holidays we are here working. So, we have been able, because we have a team, to leverage on all those differences and the absence of those that are still serving their suspension and I hope they are finding their way back because somebody asked me that with all these crisis, what is ANLCA’s take on it and I said if we are having issues, we are civil and those guys that felt that they have issues with ANLCA have gone to court instead of fisticuffs.
Gone were the days that you see somebody shooting guns, carrying cutlasses, no! We are trying to resolve this because people need to safeguard their rights however, my personal take is that the founding fathers of this association knew that sometime we will be at loggerhead, therefore, section 26 was applied into this constitution – arbitration. Section 26 subsection 3 says that any person subscribing to the membership of this association is deemed to have agreed to this provision as a condition of his membership and that provision is arbitration. That you must, it is compulsory, seek for internal arbitration to air your grievances and if you are not satisfied, you can head to court. So, I believe that our members that are trying to air their grievances and have gone to court, they will surely come back to this section 26.
The first ruling of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi was based on this section, go back, do arbitration and if you are not satisfied, you can come back to the court. That was what the Judge said and I believe we will get there.
Setbacks by National President’s absence
The absence of the President, if I might use that word because the President has never been absent, he has been keeping in touch, he has been throwing his weight around whenever we demanded for it urgently. So, as much as he was in national politics, he has been there overseeing what we are doing and then taking decisions. However, those moments of his not being around, brought out the very best of the NECOM members. The VP was up and doing, NFS was upping her game and I have been doing the very best I can, the SAs were doing according to their own role. So, I think it was a test case, I believe that the President has been able to see that he has a team.
However, he has been a good listener and he has been a team player. So, his absence, if that word has to stick, has actually brought out the best of NECOM and the SSAs and that was what kept the house going. Now that he is back, we are happy to welcome him back fully and I think the sky is the limit in this administration.
Challenges in the last one year
I want to say first, we would have been able to achieve more financially if the chapters have been up and doing, if they have obeyed the constitution and do their remittances as and when due, if they have not been taking what belong to Caesar and pocketing it, I think we would have achieve more because most of the things we are doing as much as we are prudent, we would have been able to do more. Secondly, our members really don’t want to get involved in anything academics. I have observed that. Our members, because it is strange to them, bringing them to classroom, telling them to come and learn this, come and see this. They have not been forthcoming. I have had reasons to have training with customs at Tincan, the turnout was not encouraging. I have had course to write to PCA to give us training, the turnout was not very encouraging. Even last week when the Tax Controller left everything he was doing, the turnout was poor. So, I have observed that anything academic, our people are not out for it but they can blow a whole lot of noise, complaining and they are not ready to bell the cat.
That has been one of the major challenges and I believe that as time goes on, we will build on that and then people will now see that knowledge is power. To be a successful agent, you need to understand what you are doing and then customs will now respect you the more.
I will like to see a more professionally minded ANLCA; I will like to see a beehive of activities that run issue of training and retraining. I want to see a lot of exposures for ANLCA members and then I will like to dig down into the welfare packages; health, a very important aspect for our members because the work we do, the environment is not friendly. So, I will like to see a whole lot of improvements in the way we handle our healthcare system as a member.
And finally, I think ANLCA can reclaim her glory. In the next one year, I want to see ANLCA being at the front seat, pushing for bills at the National Assembly, influencing decisions and policies of government. In the next one year, I would like to have a well-established Institute of Customs Brokers as a bill through the National Assembly so that our members can now appreciate the fact that this is a professional association and then that the business that we do is so technical that we need training and retraining on the go and I believe we can achieve that now that the President is back and is here, I believe the sky is the limit.
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