Recently, Tony Iju Nwabunike, the National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA) marked his one year in office.
He was elected as the President of the association in a keenly contested elections in March 8th, 2018.
Curiously, the one year of Nwabunike’s ascension to power in the association almost went unnoticed.
As a matter of fact, it was devoid of the usual pomp and pageantry that normally attend such occasion.
There was no good will messages from members and stakeholders. The media was bereft of congratulatory messages and best wishes that normally characterize such landmark occasion.
There was no celebration. It was more of a dirge conducted in a hushed manner in a colourless, poorly attended press conference where Nwabunike and few of the National Executive Council members put up a brazen show of deceit about their ‘score card’ in the last one year.
Nigeriamaritime360.com is least surprised at the drab and cheerless ‘ celebration’ of one year of Nwabunike’s presidency.
To say the least, there was nothing to celebrate.
At best, the ANLCA Executive council led by Honourable Nwabunike ‘celebrated’ one year of contrived crisis, polarization of the association, deep-seated disenchantment among members, enthronement of greed, self-preservation, ethnic bigotry and mindless desecration of the ideals and long-standing tradition of the association.
Unfortunately, the association under the leadership of Nwabunike has witnessed one of the worst type of crises that threatened the corporate existence of the 65-years old freight forwarding group.
Though, ANLCA is not new to crises but the one which the association was embroiled in in the last one year wears a unique garb.
It was a self-inflicted and contrived crisis fueled by crass opportunism, favoritism, greed and blatant leadership failure.
Our stance is premised on the events which heralded this crisis that has made ANLCA a shadow of itself.
The association went into the March elections which produced Tony Nwabunike and his executive council members as a strong, indivisible entity.
Prince Olayiwola Shittu, whom Nwabunike succeeded as President, has bequeathed a legacy which is hard to match, let alone surpass, on the association, among which is cohesion, peace and focused leadership that imparted the lives of members.
Painfully, no sooner had Nwabunike succeeded Shittu than all these gains were flittered away in a needless bickering.
This bickering, which was later to snow-ball into full-blown conflagration, was triggered by succession greed in the leadership of Board of Trustees(BOT) of the Association.
On April of 2018, elections were held to change the leadership of the BOT led by Chief Henry Njoku who was said to have held that position for about 10 years.
The outcome of the elections, which produced Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha, seemed not to go down well with Njoku who refused to step down.
That was the beginning of the crisis that has till date ravaged the association.
All efforts to placate Njoku and give him a soft landing to restore peace to the association, were furtile as he dug his feet deeper.
This crisis has festered so badly that it has polarized the association, led to numerous litigations that have rendered the otherwise vibrant association redundant.
Our concern is the stance of the Nwabunike as the President over the raging crisis.
He carried on as if he was unconcerned with the lethal consequences of the avoidable crisis.
Since the crisis started up till the time of his one year in office, he has failed to act decisively, thus fueling the speculation which is rife among the industry players that he was giving tacit support for the intransigence of Henry Njoku.
We are in no doubt that the crisis could have been nipped in the bud before it festered to the present conflagration stage if the President has recognised the results of the BOT elections which we are aware they were all parties to.
To our surprise and the chagrin of stakeholders, Nwabunike remained placid and non-committal to resolving the crisis.
The pursuit of his political ambition into the Federal House of Representatives which eventually ended in a loss further exacerbated the crisis.
During his electioneering campaigns, he completely turned his back on the association,leaving its administration into the hands of his Deputy, Kayode Farinto, who is equally yoked with the same sentiments and mindset.
During this period, the crisis festered and took a dangerous dimension to what could be regarded as a mutiny against his presidency.
The Western Zone of the Association which comprises nine of the 17 chapters, withdrew its recognition to Nwabunike as the President.
Our worry is that this needless acrimony has robbed the teeming members of the association off the benefits in the industry.
The crisis, which has not given any sign to abate, has exposed members to merciless exploitation from the service providers, especially the shipping companies and terminal operators.
It has also allowed the Customs to lead the agents by the nose, subjecting them to series of operational challenges.
We are equally saddened that the conflagration , which could have been extinguished by the snap of Nwabunike’s fingers, has turned most agents, especially the weaker ones, to a meal which the service providers gleefully feast on.
Without mincing words, we blame the leadership of Nwabunike for the present comatose state of ANLCA due to his indecision, leadership failure and lack of decisiveness.
After all, the buck stops on his table as the National President.
We are therefore not surprised that his one year of stewardship as ANLCA President lacks glamour, colour and sparks.
Most of his members who would have added life into the event do not have anything to cheer about.
They are mostly grief-stricken and in a melancholy mood over the down-turn in their fortunes in the hands of the Customs and services providers.
We dare say that in the past one year of Nwabunike’s tenure, the association has been a rudderless ship that has no grip of its direction, as it was at the mercy of the merciless turbulent winds which toss it in all directions.
It took the few brave members who teamed up with other equally audacious colleagues in other associations to confront the Customs over the controversial third party containers that were held by the customs before they were granted amnesty.
Evidently, the once vibrant association has lost all initiatives to rival groups.
The extortion of its members still go on unabated by the security agencies involved in traffic management on port access roads.
The Shipping companies are still having a feast on their bogus stance on container deposits and other charges while terminal operators are busy sucking the agents, mostly the ANLCA members, through arbitrary imposition and hike of innumerable charges.
We sympathize with the hapless customs brokers in ANLCA, especially the vulnerable ones, who are the victims of the one year of Nwabunike’s purposeless and directionless leadership.
Just like many other stakeholders, we are surprised at the lack of character displayed by Nwabunike in the last one year of his presidency of ANLCA.
Our disbelief stems from the deep knowledge we have of the sterling leadership qualities of Nwabunike.
He had held several leadership positions in the freight forwarding profession as well as politics. He was once a chapter chairman at Apapa port where he left indelible marks. He was also one time National Secretary of the same Association.
Nwabunike was the pioneer Chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).
What could then have gone wrong with the political sagacity of the one fondly called Honourable by his teeming admirers?
What could have gone awry with the likable iconic figure in the freight forwarding industry whose shrewd leadership acumen is legendary?
Not few of his fans would have pursed their lips in disgust at the woeful performance of their hero in the last one year as ANLCA President.
One can then imagine our perplexity at the shoddy leadership of Nwabunike as ANLCA President in the last one year.
One would have thought that ANLCA presidency would have been a piece of cake given his long years of rich experience in positions of leadership in the time past.
To say the least, we are disappointed in the performance of Nwabunike as ANLCA President in the last one year.
Our disappointment was deepen by our conviction of the capacity and ability of Nwabunike to lead the association into prosperity by consolidating on the achievements of his predecessor, Prince Olayiwola Shittu.
However, we are comforted by the fact that Nwabunike still has three more years to write his name in the good books of history.
We are hopeful that Nwabunike and his executive council members will take advantage of the next three years to provide a purposeful leadership that will give direction to the association.
We urge Nwabunike to reconcile all the warring parties in a bid to build a strong, virile and cohesive association that will live up to the yearnings and aspirations of its massive members.
We enjoin him and his executive council members to eschew bitterness, bigotry , favourism, undue preference among members and wavering stance on issues affecting the association.
We are encouraged by the message of peace preached by Nwabunike during the press conference to mark his one year in office.
We hope he would walk the talk and stop his macabre dance that has left many guessing and confounded as to his real intentions for the association.
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