The peace recently enjoyed by the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) may be on its way to the rocks as the association’s Board of Trustees (BOT) led by a former National President and Chairman, Dr. Frank Ukor and the interim National Executive headed by Alhaji Bala Lawan Daura are on collision course.
Recall that crisis engulfed the association on the expiration of the tenure of Dr. Ukor as the National President on the 11th of August, 2017 when two members of the Board namely; Mr. Innocent Elum and Mr. Ejike Metu appointed an interim National Executive to oversee the affairs of the association for one year, conduct election and hand over power to the elected officials, an action that did not go down well with Dr. Ukor who on one hand claimed that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the association extended his tenure by six months with a mandate to reunite the members, summon the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and conduct election and hand over power to elected officials.
However, following consultations and series of meetings, Dr. Ukor late in March 2018 surrendered his position and accepted the interim National Executive led by Alhaji Bala Lawan Daura pledging to work with them thereby restoring peace to the entire association with many stakeholders believing that the dust has settled.
But in a twist of event, it appeared that all may not be well with association once again with the interim National Secretary, Mr. Chidi Anthony Opara alleging that Mr. Innocent Elum and Dr. Frank Ukor were becoming a burden to the interim executives with their constant request for money, the recent being the demand of one million naira (N1, 000,000) from the President.
In an internal memo made available to our correspondent and addressed to Mr. Elum and Dr. Ukor with the title,” Re-Your Verbal Request for Money for Personal Purposes”, Mr. Opara wrote, “I am directed to inform you that your constant verbal requests for money for personal purposes can no longer be accommodated. Also, that your recent request for one million naira each for yourselves for personal purposes cannot be met.
“That our association is insolvent and so, cannot meet some of its basic financial obligations. That the interim National President has been meeting some of these requests of yours from his personal money and does not intend to continue doing so”.
Opara pointed out that following their refusal to release the sum of one million naira, the duo of Elum and Ukor who are two out of the three member Board of Trustees of the association purportedly wrote them informing them of the their removal as National President and Secretary.
He however said,” The appointment of the AREFFN interim National Executive Committee was ratified by the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of 21-10-2017 with a provision that the administration “will be in office until a credible, free and fair election is conducted”. Going by this, the interim national administration cannot be removed (except by AGM) until a credible, free and fair election is conducted. Decisions of the AGM are final”.
He further clarified that the interim National Executive did not recognize Dr. Ukor as the Board Chairman as he claimed in the said letter of removal noting that,” The election of Ejike Metu as AREFFN Board of Trustees Chairman was also ratified by the AGM. So, until another Board of Trustees Chairman is presented to AGM and ratified, Ejike Metu remains AREFFN Board of Trustees Chairman.
“Please take notice of the fact that Bala Lawan Daura’s letter of appointment as Interim President of 26th September, 2017 was signed by Ejike Metu as Chairman, Board of Trustees. The fact that Ejike Metu continued to function as AREFFN Trustee even contested and won the BOT Chair and his election ratified by AGM, means that his supposed resignation was not accepted.
“Please, take notice of the fact that in the so called dismissal letter, Bala Lawan Daura was addressed as Interim President and was purportedly dismissed as such. The above scenario is an acceptance of the fact that Bala Lawan Daura was Interim President by Messrs Frank Ukor and Innocent Elum (who signed the so called dismissal letter as Board Chairman and Secretary respectively).
“The bottom line is that Messrs Frank Ukor and Innocent Elum accepted Ejike Metu’s appointment as Chairman, Board of Trustees but at the same time rejected his status. Lastly, please, take notice of the fact that Innocent Elum, as Secretary, Board of Trustees, forwarded Ejike Metu’s name to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of 21-10-2017 for ratification as Board of Trustees Chairman; Ejike Metu’s status was of course ratified. So far, no other name has been forwarded to AGM to be ratified as Chairman, Board of Trustees.
On the claim by Elum and Ukor that the failure of the interim President to be a registered member of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) disqualifies him from holding any position in any of the registered freight forwarding association, Opara alluded that,” Article 4 of AREFFN constitution which deals with membership did not specify registration with CRFFN as a condition for membership. The qualification for holding any office in AREFFN is membership (according to article 4). However, Bala Lawan Daura had completed his CRFFN registration and is awaiting certification”.
Reacting, the former National President of AREFFN, Dr. Frank Ukor disclosed that both Daura and Opara had been removed as interim National President and Secretary by the Board and had been replaced with his Vice President, Mr. Okey Egwuatu.
Ukor revealed that Daura and Opara were removed for gross incompetence adding that Daura and Opara were majorly concerned about the East even as he said that since Bala was appointed, he has never done anything here in the West because he believed that everything about association starts and ends in the East which he said was not proper.
“He was removed because of incompetence; he doesn’t know anything about association which is the worst part of it. The first time he smelled an association was when he came to AREFFN and I appointed him the Chairman of Onne chapter and that is the only experience he had. He went and brought Chidi that was sacked by AREFFN as Presidential Adviser on Publicity. I want to tell you that the entire problem that is happening in AREFFN today is caused by Chidi. ANLCA sacked him, we didn’t know because if we had known that ANLCA sacked him, we wouldn’t have accepted him.
“As this was going on, we made our investigations because if you want to occupy a position as an executive member of association, you must have to be registered with CRFFN. We investigated and CRFFN told us that he was not registered. We are waiting for him when he will use it for election. But something happened that precipitated it.
“We have been having series of meeting to move us forward. I have accepted Bala to be the President but he was going to work for one year and it is remaining six months, I will agree, continue for this six months, after that we conduct election, if you want to come in, you come in. The next thing we heard was that it is the interim executives that will conduct the election and we said it is not done, that it is for the Board to conduct election, the Board will appoint the people to superintend over the election and to my surprise, Chidi told us to our face that it is the interim executives that will conduct the election and nothing will happen.
“We have reviewed our constitution, it remained to register it with the Corporate Affairs Commission and he said that until the constitution is registered, they cannot conduct the election, that if they like, they can be there for the next ten years, nothing will happen.
“Meanwhile, all the funds that is coming to us is coming from that place, Bala has kept the money since July 2016 till they appointed him, it was part of the reasons I kicked against his appointment because I knew him but Ejike and Innocent were only looking at the money, they were not looking at other things.
“The last meeting we held on the 20th of March, we agreed that we were going to work on the constitution and the Board was mandated to look into the constitution to see how we can put finishing touches to it. So, we were at the meeting, when we finished, we called them and told them to send us N1,000,000 so that, apart from that constitution, at that meeting, we talked about our rent at the Secretariat which is in arrears of about two years. When they bring the money, we will use N500, 000 to pay for at least one year and we will use some part of the money to register the constitution. They said there was no money but we know that all this while they have been collecting money every week and every month.
“As an interim President, you don’t have any power to appoint any person; the person that has the power to appoint is the Board. I told him that we will appoint an executive at Onne that will take over from him, he went ahead and appointed his stooge so that all the money that is coming there, he will be sharing the money with them and when we asked him, he told us that there was no Onne chapter but he is collecting money that is coming to Onne chapter.
“So, when we called him and he told us that there was no money and he came to the meeting and told us to our face that there was no money and we were asking him to give us money. Yes, we asked him to give us money because it is the money of the association; it is not his personal money. He has been converting the whole money that is coming to the association to his personal use. We can charge this man because he is pocketing the money that belongs to AREFFN members with the impunity that he is from the North, there is nothing we can do”, he said.
Asked whether AREFFN has commenced preparations for the election, he said, “We have already started the process, we have appointed a committee. So, the process is on and what we are waiting for is to register the new constitution with the Corporate Affairs Commission”.
On the position of Ejike Metu in the Board as at today, Ukor maintained that Ejike Metu had never been the Chairman of the Board, saying that as a matter of fact Ejike Metu had resigned his membership of the Board before now even though they still accommodated him in the spirit of friendship.
“We have seen his resignation letter. You know all this time we have been keeping quiet because we don’t have the letter but I have seen the resignation letter and I will present it at appropriate time. But for sake of our friendship, we still allowed him to come around but for him now to claims that he is now the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of AREFFN is a smack of ego because there was no election.
“I have discussed it with Innocent and he said, you know, when we were fighting, there are certain things they assumed but now, they have to tell them the truth and that the truth was that there was no election for the Board. And even if there was an election, until that person’s name is submitted at the Corporate Affairs Commission, he cannot assume to be the Chairman.
“But on what basis are you the Chairman when there was no election? Just as Innocent told them that that thing they called Annual General Meeting was never an Annual General Meeting. How many people were there? You went and gather a couple of people from Onne, your friends, I can name them, how many were they? About five or six of them gathered and said that they had an Annual General Meeting without the registered members, meanwhile, I was the President and Chairman of the Board at that point in time, I was not aware of the meeting.
“So, Chidi is out, I have told him that if he signs any letter, I will arrest him. I am the Board of Trustees Chairman and Innocent Elum is the Secretary. Ejike is an ordinary member and he is fronting himself as the Chairman”, he submitted.
Photo: AREFFN’s Interim National President, Alhaji Bala Lawan Daura.
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