I’ve never abdicated my responsibilities, says ANLCA President
Val Iwuchukwu Esq, Senior Special Adviser Media to the National President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA, has been speaking on sundry issues in the maritime and shipping industry. In this interview with DUBEM ANORUE, he insists his principal; Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike, as a very responsible and serious minded man, has never and will never abandon his responsibilities whether in ANLCA, CRFFN or anywhere. Excerpts
Your principal has held various positions in ANLCA, Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding Practice in Nigeria CRFFN etc. Has he abandoned his duty any time?
No, that is not possible. Why should he? Remember, he superintended over Apapa chapter of ANLCA as an administrator for three year before the association had an election that brought in Ogbuagu. This is on record and most of the names I will mention here are still around for verification. He was elected the National Secretary of the association in 1999 at the Airport Hotel, Port-Harcourt alongside Peter Okocha and Otunba Fasawe and he finished his tenure in 2004. In fact he was the only person that stayed because immediately after the election, Okocha left to help his friend, Atiku Abubakar who won election in 1999, then Otunba Fasawe went to help Obasanjo, so two of them left almost the same time. Then Aare Sani Shittu, who was the second Vice President, came on board, then, there used to be second Vice President. After that tenure in 2004, ANLCA had an interim government because it couldn’t hold an election that time, Inua Mohammed came in and another mandate of two years was given to Iju as interim National Secretary, which he completed with Mohammed, so, he did the job of the secretary for six years. It was during his tenure as secretary that it was discovered that the association was actuallyestablished in 1954 and there was a research that got all the necessary details that helped the association put things right.
He was also a member of the Board of Trustees BOT, from where he became the president. As the pioneer Chairman of the CRFFN, he finished his two- year tenure because he did not seek reelection and after that, he did four years as a member of the Board and he gave way for his Vice, Hakeem Olanrewaju and he became the chairman while he remained in the council. So, he was in the governing council of CRFFN for four years, two years as pioneer chairman and two years as member and these records are verifiable because most the people are still alive.
Does he junket across the globe?
First of all, I have to let you know that being ANLCA President does not mean that he should not look for his means of livelihood. ANLCA president is not being paid, ANLCA president is just a president of an association of professional people that decided to associate together just like the Nigerian Bar Association NBA. You can’t tell me that the president of the NBA cannot go to court or should not travel to attend to his businesses or go to his private office knowing fully well that ANLCA office is not where he gets his daily bread.
I just want to tell you that such insinuations make no meaning because, there is nothing like abandonment of duty, you came in here to the ANLCA office and met him in, if you didn’t come here, you won’t know he is here and another thing that is very clear is that he went for an election during the 2019 general elections and came back immediately after. Is that abandonment of duty? Again, for the avoidance of doubts, as ANLCA president, he has his private businesses. Some people believe that becoming president or holding a high office in ANLCA makes one rich, as you are expected to use it to enhance your business but he does not believe that. As ANLCA president, he spends three out of the five days of the week here at the ANLCA secretariat depending on the circumstances.
People should not forget that he has offices in Apapa, Victoria Island, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Dubai and Houston, USA. As a freight forwarder, as a logistic business manager, he has offices all over the world. So, no one can tell him where to go at any particular point in time. So if he goes to his office in Port-Harcourt and some people allege that he is junketing, I don’t know what they want him to do or he goes to the Dubai office for example or go to Houston, that does not mean junketing. Like I said earlier, he puts three days every week here in ANLCA office and use the other two days to go around his personal businesses. So, he is not the type of person that will use his position as a president of ANLCA or a senior officer of ANLCA at it as a retirement base.
There was this allegation of inserting his private bonded terminal project located in his hometown in the 2019 budget of CRFFN with the aim of using government funds to finance the project being a former chairman of the CRFFN?
Anybody that says that needs to have his brain examined. The federal government cannot put a private business into its budget or any of its agencies. But I don’t think they are talking about his bonded terminal because that one is on a Public-Private Partnership PPP arrangement with the Anambra State Government. So, at what point should the Anambra State Government and the PPP partners go to the National Assembly for budget? Who has seen him defending the project in the budget before the National Assembly? Has he gone to the National Assembly to defend budget?
He has already written a letter on that issue for clarification. Which bonded terminal are they talking about because they may be talking about another bonded terminal and if they are establishing another bonded terminal in Ozubulu, they should know that there is already an existing bonded terminal that is almost completed. So, I don’t think they are talking about his own bonded terminal because there is nothing like the Anambra Bonded Container and Freight Limited mentioned in the budget. They only said a bonded terminal in Ozubulu.
Except if they are trying to build a new one because if you are talking about feasibility studies, that means it is about to start but my principal’s own has been an existing project since 2017 that is almost completed. Are they attributing it to him because he was the pioneer chairman of CRFFN? Anyway, we have written a letter to the Federal Ministry of Transport through Permanent Secretary and copied the CRFFN and the National Assembly on that issue for clarification and I think that will solve the problem.
Was he qualified to stand for election as ANLCA president since he was alleged not to have a valid customs license as at the time the election was conducted?
The Nigeria Customs Service of today as you also know is very open and transparent. One beautiful thing about this present customs system is that it is purely IT-driven. So, if you want to know, go to the customs tariffs and trade or even excise or even licensing department, ask them if Mac-Tonnel Nigeria Limited has ever been queried since 1989 till date. It has never been queried, the records are there.
I have heard so many times that our license was one of the licenses that was hacked, there was nothing like that. In fact, some people are even insinuating that Mac-Tonnel has not been having a license, our license is up to date since 1989 and nothing has happened to it. This can be verified.
What is the role of Iju and Chief Henry Njoku in the ANLCA problem?
Let me tell you this, those making some of these insinuations must be very biased or probably they are frustrated, otherwise I expected them to be more knowledgeable than that. If for example there is a problem in the BOT which cannot be denied, the EXCO is working hard to resolve it because it is actually affecting the speed of things. It is also affecting the day to day business of the association. You cannot tell me it is not a problem, it is a problem of leadership in the board and very soon it will be resolved. But you know that both Henry Njoku and Mustapha are Iju’s close friends, so, whoever becomes the BOT chairman is to his advantage. So, our prayer is that every problem should be sorted out, the earlier they are sorted out the better for everybody so that people will not use it, those who do not have anything to do, sitting down there using it as a means of extortion.
Do you agree that the most viable option for solving the problem is for the president to call all aggrieved members to a meeting or he should resign?
This will tell you the level of intelligence and desperation of some of these people. Efforts are being made to resolve all the issues and I strongly believe that the problem will be resolved amicably and very soon too. But I will tell you categorically that the president will not resign. Some of them want to grab the reins of the association for selfish gains. They do not know that the world is becoming a global village and that it is no more business as usual. This is especially for all of them who believed that they can be walking around not looking for serious jobs to do, hoping that they will use association to make money. The days are gone. We are looking forward to enthroning a very high level of transparency and professionalism into the business. We need to have ourselves together so that people will respect us; we need to be more modest and honest in all our business transactions. This is the vision of the Iju Tony Nwabunike-led leadership of ANLCA.