By Kenneth Jukpor
Mr. Henry Njoku is the Chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT) Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA). He visited MMS International Image Centre, last week, where he featured as a guest on MMS CEOs Roundtable; he explained several pertinent issues in ANLCA’s history even as he shed light on the highpoints and shortcomings of Shittu’s administration. Enjoy it:
How would you rate the recent ANLCA elections?
The election was properly organized and executed. I can’t fault anything in that election as everything that had to be done was actually done to make sure we had a hitch-free election. The result of that election is what we are all looking out for because the new executives have emerged.
Some people say they voted for change which Tony Iju stands for as they argue that Shittu’s administration failed operationally. What should we expect from the new executives?
I would not say that Shittu’s administration has done the best, although as a human being he may have his own faults. However, if I am to rate Shittu I would give him about 70% because he is a man committed to the association with all his time.
There are several areas where he does have faults but I’m saying that you can’t fault his commitment to the association and you can also give him kudos for projecting the image of the association.
What makes up this other 30% flaws of Shittu and how could he have performed better in these areas?
Like I said, he is a human being and human beings have flaws. I saw the interview he granted here (MMS International Image Centre) and all the things he said were all lies. He might be a good man who put in his best for the association but these lies about the board and me are definitely flaws.
In that interview, he talked about the board frustrating his efforts to amend the constitution, the issues that landed him in EFCC and more. What do you have to say?
He started by saying that Elochukwu left him a constitution when he left office but that constitution wasn’t prepared by Elochukwu. It was ANLCA constitution prepared by ANLCA. If Elochukwu was able to amend the constitution as President, why couldn’t Shittu do the same? It is because Shittu was very cunning about the amendment. He was trying to muddle-up everything and put in what he wanted.
It was the board that was running the association before he came on board. It was the board that made peace to resolve the fragments of ANLCA 1, 2 and 3. The board came to Lagos to hold meetings for several days and nights until all issues were resolved. We resolved this before we conducted an election for him to come in. It was the board that also resolved during that time that we must have a permanent secretariat for the association rather than moving from one office to another. It was the board that moved swiftly to buy 3 plots of land which Shittu sold and he said he put in the money in building the ANLCA national secretariat. The national secretariat wasn’t just Shittu’s idea. It was a collective idea, besides; ANLCA secretariat at Onne chapter is bigger than the national secretariat.
You can go to the Port Harcourt airport where Shittu served as a Chairman before I served as the Chairman. My records are there. Let him tell you his achievements at the Port Harcourt airport. Under one year I bought land, built an office and bought a vehicle for the airport chapter. Shittu was there and he left office without doing any of these things. I was his Vice Chairman.
On his allegation that certain clauses were inserted in the constitution before he emerged as President. This is strange because when you look at the back of the constitution you find that it was reviewed and signed by Mr. Katsina Uzor, Chief Chijioke Okoro, Chief Lawrence Asuquo and Shittu’s Vice President, Mr. Emenike Nwokocha. Would his Vice President, Emenike have allowed such alteration when he was there to proof read and sign? With the way our association is structured it is difficult for anyone to change something in that constitution.
He told you that when he got money for certain projects some people wanted to share the money. Why didn’t he tell you the names of the people who wanted to share the money? In the association today I can tell you where I stand when it comes to integrity. That’s why people want to listen to me when I have something to say. Shittu knows that he is telling lies by insinuating that certain clauses were added to the constitution.
On the meeting with Abdullahi Dikko Inde, former Customs boss, it wasn’t just two of us that met Dikko. Dikko invited us for a breakfast meeting after we attended the Comptroller-General’s conference; there were other people there when we mentioned it to Dikko that we wanted to get a permanent secretariat. I wasn’t there when Dikko brought the money. He just called me to say Dikko sent money. I wasn’t also there when he negotiated the payment for the secretariat. I’m the BOT Chairman; hence I’m supposed to be the custodian of our properties and the ANLCA constitution. In Democracy where you have the President, you still have people from the Senate; those things were done to ensure that there can be checks and balance in governance. When you have a National President, then there is a need to have a board to check the excesses of the President especially when he goes contrary to the constitution. It is our responsibility to tell him that what he is doing isn’t correct.
If the constitution says the President cannot spend more than N500,000 without getting approval from the board, it is our responsibility to ensure that this is adhered to. If you check all the accounts as Shittu is leaving, the only accounts where you would find money is the one I am holding the cheque book as a joint signatory. I didn’t come here to challenge Shittu because he has done very well but I had to clear the air. Telling lies may be part of him but I wasn’t brought up to tell lies.
When the board was running the association I prepared my scorecard from the day we started to the last day. If you check here (he shows MMS his documents), the major expense that was done was the land which he later sold.
Shittu is yet to account for the money generated from biometrics. This is part of the reason he was taken to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC). People were demanding that he gives account of that biometrics that generated over N35million. Instead of giving his report, he argued that those people demanding an audit were not members of the association. Those people wrote a letter asking the board to audit the account and I added a letter to it and I asked him to respond, especially as the people were threatening to go to EFCC. He insisted that those people weren’t members but he knows most of these people because they didn’t hide their identities. They wrote their names in their petitions so why is Shittu turning to me? I later had to assist him to settle the matter. I confronted him about this interview and he said the interview was done before his second tenure, lamenting that he didn’t know why the publishers decided to publish it now.
We allowed Shittu so much room and backing to do things even when the constitution didn’t allow it. The constitution states that within certain time the association should have an audit. As we speak now, there is no audit report on Shittu. The first audit was done by someone that Shittu brought. The man is a Yoruba man. The board appointed the man to do the audit and he did it but Shittu refused to acknowledge the audit because the man revealed the lapses he observed at the national secretariat. They were spending money anyhow without paying attention to the constitution. Another audit firm joined them for the second audit but the result is yet to come out. When it comes to financial recklessness I don’t know where to qualify him.
Shittu also complained that the inflow of revenue comes from the chapters even as he lamented that the President doesn’t have a grip of the chapter executives unlike the board. What’s your opinion on this?
You can interview the chairmen to discover if the chairmen work with the board. The chairmen work with the national body and not the board. What happened in this last election wasn’t an Annual General Meeting (AGM) as the constitution stipulates. It was collegiate system we adopted because Shittu appealed that because of the cost, the collegiate system be used. The same man who said collegiate is complaining because his plans for the election didn’t work out. I have been ASECO chairman two- three times, I joined the board in 2007 and sought re-election for another six years, I was disciplinary committee chairman at the airport, vice chairman and later chairman; I was zonal chairman on two- three times. So, I am sure that people wouldn’t keep on voting me if I don’t have integrity. It is not all about money. Money isn’t more important than honesty and reliability.
Shittu is someone who values money but I’m someone who values a good name. If he talks about his achievements he should remember that if we didn’t walk with him the national secretariat would never have been achieved.
We had to call a meeting of National Executives Council (NEC) where we had to mandate every company to pay N50,000 irrespective of whether you’re contesting for election or not. Shittu didn’t have the courage to say this; it was they board that did it. The bulk of the money came from the Lagos airport so if there is anybody to thank; it has to be the chairman of Lagos airport at the time.
Shittu in his wisdom said he took us to Dubai with our wives. If you go to stewardship, you would find that the oversea trip for maritime conference costs over N1.6million and the total grant from the national during that period was N2.4million.
Shittu was in-charge of the association all the while; the only money that came to the board was during the elections, when people picked up nomination forms. If the board generates N3million, we try to manage to conduct the elections with N1.5million and keep the rest in our account. Every other money is at the discretion of Shittu. If he disagrees, I dare him to bring an audit report so we can know exactly how much money passed through him. Shittu didn’t take the board members and their wives abroad; we just said those who wanted to go with their wives should cater for that. The money wasn’t just from Dikko, there was another huge sum from the Apapa chapter so there was no reason for him to say he paid the bill. We planned it together at the secretariat.
I recall the day the new board resumed, we invited Shittu and asked him about the owner of that land and he said it was owned by a licensed customs agent. I asked, personally if I had seen the man before and he said no. I also asked him if I was present when he negotiated with the men, he also said no. But I was the BOT Chairman, does that make sense? I never suspected him and I never raised dust over this.
The newly elected President, Tony Iju said Shittu failed operationally citing the influx of foreigners into the practice and other issues with Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria( CRFFN) and Practitioners Operating Fees( POF). How can the new executives address these challenges?
Shittu raised the bar. The challenge for the new team is to see how they could go higher. If there is any area they feel Shittu did poorly, they should be able to improve on those areas.
ANLCA has been in court with CRFFN. Is it expected that Iju having served at CRFFN is coming to ensure the challenges involving POF sharing and the rift with CRFFN ends, and probably withdrawing the court case?
Shittu and others had signed that arrangement that the associations would collect the Practitioners Operating Fees (POF), but some of us met in the board and decided to reverse that decision because if money is collected from an individual, the refund as commission should be paid to the individual and not his association. The agent can now pay to the association what is due to it. Associations shouldn’t be allowed to survive by collecting the commissions of agents. This practice would lead to further proliferation of associations.
We went back to CRFFN and made a position and the process should be gazetted. It should be able to continue when the Minister is no longer there just like in Customs where the percentages given to Customs are clear. We are in court because they tried to implement POF without the gazette. Tony Iju isn’t coming to change it and it wasn’t something personal for Shittu because if they had done the gazette we wouldn’t have gone to court.
An association should be able to stand on its own otherwise something may be wrong somewhere. The association was probably created to exploit the members without adding any benefit to their businesses.
How many Presidents has ANLCA had so far?
We had Kamba, Peter Okocha, Aare Sanni Shittu, Inua Mohammed, Ernest Elochukwu, Olayiwola Shittu and now Tony Iju is the seventh.
How do you see the handing-over/ swearing-in ceremony on Saturday?
I don’t see anything spectacular other than the official swearing-in. It is an opportunity for people to appreciate Shittu and his team because he actually did a lot. I didn’t come here to spite him but to put the records straight because what he said in that interview wasn’t correct. Like I said, I would rate him 70% which is a pass mark simply because of his efforts and commitment which was never in doubt; but I won’t rate him that way when it comes to finance.
The constitution stipulates that the President ought to prepare an annual budget and get approval before implementation but this was something Shittu never did. The constitution also says that when appointing people, bring them to NEC for approval, but he didn’t adhere to these provisions. You can be friends with Shittu until you ask him to bring audit report. This would lead you into a fight with Shittu but that is what the constitution demands. It isn’t personal vendetta or witch-hunting to demand for an audit. I recall preparing such reports after Elochukwu handed over to me. All those accounts were intact until the new person, Shittu came in. We didn’t change any signatory to the accounts or touch the money until Shittu came in. I gave my scorecard after every position I held and when people were busy sharing money I told them I had my scorecard to present. The day I came out to present my records and the people said I shouldn’t bother, clamoring that I should go and sit down because of the level of trust they have in me.
The people from Port Harcourt seem to be the ones driving the association for several years. You also come from Port Harcourt, just like Shittu, but in the recent elections Port Harcourt people didn’t give support to their man, Emenike. Why?
Everybody has his or her qualities. If I want to be sentimental about it then I should go for Emenike but I may not work when it comes to the interest of the association. You have to bring out the two candidates and x-ray them. The issue here is the political weight and influence. It goes beyond intelligence and administrative capabilities because Emenike is highly intelligent. However, Shittu has carried the association to a level where you need someone who has the political clout to move it to a higher level. This is just my analysis. I think Emenike can equally represent the association at any level but in Nigeria it goes beyond intelligence. There are places Shittu and I moved in and come out because of the political influence we have. When you check all the chairmen from the East, you find that they are all well educated and they can come out to represent the association. People from the East always come out with one opinion because there is unity. We do things together and ensure that we stick to the decision we have made.
They say charity begins at home. Emenike didn’t come to the East at the initial stage when he declared his interest because he was banking on the influence of Shittu. Shittu also made it difficult for him by saying the battle wasn’t Emenike vs Iju but between me and him. Shittu put the Port Harcourt people in a position to vote Iju because they wanted to support me. However, Emenike didn’t play his cards right.