How I Raised N120m For ANLCA Secretariat – Shittu

How I Raised N120m For ANLCA Secretariat - Shittu
Prince Olayiwola Shittu, National President, ANLCA

By Kenneth Jukpor

Prince Olayiwola Shittu is the National President of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA). Shittu visited the MMS International Image Centre for the maiden edition of MMS CEOs Roundtable where he narrated his ordeal as President of ANLCA, the highpoints, challenges as well as the backbiting. Does Shittu have any regrets as President of ANLCA? Were there times he wanted to quit? How did he get N120million to purchase the land for ANLCA national secretariat? Find the answers in this thrilling interview.


As you prepare to step aside as ANLCA President, what would describe as the footprints you are leaving behind?

Let me start from the beginning of my tenure as President of ANLCA before discussing the present level of departure. Remember the last democratically elected president before mine, was Ernest Elochukwu between 2004 and 2008. When he was leaving he prepared a new constitution for the association; prior to that time I had left as National Publicity Secretary. I didn’t serve in his tenure but I was always there and he relied so much on me for advice and that is why he was able to make a difference from the Kamba era. You remember when Kamba left under the circumstances that we all know, Okocha was elected but he only spent six months after realizing the type of people he was given the responsibility to lead. He left the position and most of the things he ran away from later came up during our time. When Okocha left, Alhaji Aare Sanni Shittu was appointed because he was Okocha’s deputy. Mid-way into Alhaji Sanni’s time, Mohammed was asked to replace him and it was from Mohammed that Elochukwu emerged in a well contested election. Elochukwu prepared a constitution before he left and the constitution was later adopted.

ANLCA was an association where the President spends his money for basic things in the association. This was a problem that led many people step aside and I also inherited this problem. The association was always thrown out of its secretariat because whenever the rent expired, it became an arduous task to repay it. I recall we were kicked-out of three different offices. People were wondering if ANLCA could be an ideal professional body especially as CRFFN wasn’t existing at that time. By the time my executives came on board, a lot of people were tired as they lost confidence in the future of the association. The Board of Trustees (BoT) were not structured to be part of the executives, so as a BOT member you are exempted from all executive functions. In order to make the BOT relevant, they were divided into chapters but the BOT started using their positions to coax the executives to do their bids especially for financial gains.

I knew from the onset that I was inheriting an association that was comatose. By the time I was elected in April 2010, ANLCA was an association that had no office, there was no fan; we were just ANLCA in name. At that time we occupied a building in Surulere at Imam Dauda, but we couldn’t pay the rent so the owner removed the roof and rain beat all the documents in the premises. Nobody complained and the man later used thugs to park all our properties outside the premises. The scenario was like that for about six months before I was elected and I knew that the problem of secretariat had to be one of the first things to fix. The first week after our elections, we got a place for secretariat and I paid for that rent with my money.

For the first one year, all correspondence for ANLCA was taken to the Apapa office because people had accepted that the national body was unable to maintain an office. I had to build the association from the scratch because nobody considered ANLCA to be a meaningful body at that time. ANLCA was seen as a group of riff-raffs and thugs. I knew the role of Customs brokers around the world and I had a clear picture about the requisite professionalism in this job. I knew that it was a rewarding profession, if one cuts his coat according to his size.

One of the problems we had after the elections was that we didn’t know our capabilities. We had a group of people who may have known themselves in the industry prior to the elections but we didn’t know each other’s abilities. This is one of the problems of democracy, and it is one of the reasons National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) is succeeding. The NAGAFF Founder, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam has remained the driving force behind the association. Kamba would have played the same role for ANLCA but the hatred shown in getting him out of the way made the man to withdraw. Democracy creates a scenario where people are imposed on you. You have to work with those who have been elected irrespective of their deficiencies and inability to do the work. You need to have a peculiar way of leadership that allows you to carry everybody along. You can’t be a dictator in ANLCA, only the BOT enjoys such privilege.

The constitution of ANLCA created a lacuna by asking the BOT members who aren’t members of the executive, to nominate the electoral body for all elections, monitor the elections and supervise the elections without the involvement of the President. So, the electoral body doesn’t owe any loyalty to the President and that is the bane of the problems in ANLCA today. For every attempt to correct this lacuna during my administration, we were being rebuked by the board. The National Executive Council (NEC) is the highest decision making organ at ANLCA, it consists of the National President, National Executive Committee Members (NECOM), Board of Trustees (BOT) members and the Chapter executives. The chapter executives are more because the association is spread over the country. We have 18 chapters and one is in the making; when they gather these chapter executives protect the interest of the BOT because the BOT members are responsible for making the chapter executives. This loyalty the chapter executives pay to the BOT makes the President look like a figure head. The President’s role is just to inaugurate these officers and that role has no effect because after the elections the President must inaugurate the winners.

You need a peculiar way of leadership to convince the troops from the chapters that you have a plan or a vision. The reason people were able to follow me was because I kept my integrity. Remember that during the reign of Elochukwu there were three different factions of ANLCA, but I was brought forward all the way from Port Harcourt to resolve the differences in Lagos. I didn’t know at that time that I was going to inherit this same ANLCA. In the last eight years we haven’t heard of any factions in ANLCA. When people lose elections we encourage them to seek the constitutional process of redress and also go to court. In the past people have been threatened to be kicked-out of the association if they took issues to court but I stood against this. If the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can guarantee citizens the opportunity to seek redress in court, why should the constitution of an association not do the same? Some people didn’t find this funny because the controllers of ANLCA at that time used it as a ploy to intimidate members of the association.

Within the first two years of my tenure, everything I promised had been achieved. It was after that I took up the challenge of acquiring a permanent national secretariat for the association. Our tenure ended in 2014 and we sought for re-election but the same group of people were still in the board because the tenure for BOT members is six years while that of executives is four years. So, the board felt that we shouldn’t come back but we were motivated by the fact that we had an unfinished project. After serious political competition, some members of the board joined us and we were able to conduct another election and returned in 2014 for the second tenure which ends this year. That’s my journey as President of ANLCA in a nutshell.

One of the highlights of our administration was that I utilized the privilege of having a company which had affiliates abroad; I brought the idea of travelling for seminars and conferences that involved Customs brokers. That is why ANLCA is one of the highest rated members of the World Customs Brokers Association. World Customs Organization also invited ANLCA for a three-day conference, the only other African country in that conference was Liberia. I put forward the issue of enlightenment, education and international interface as the President of ANLCA. One of the first shockers to many ANLCA members was when I organized a training tour at Dubai with the assistance of former Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, CGC Abdullahi Dikko. I took the entire BOT members and their wives, the entire national executives and their wives. We were over forty in Dubai learning several topics on leadership and the maritime sector. It was a shock because many of them had to process their international passports for the first time. This was possible because I made Dikko understand that Customs brokers were representatives of Customs in enabling the service perform their duties to the Federal Government. Dikko paid for the expenses, but one of the first wars I had was from the beneficiaries of that trip to Dubai. They asked me why we had to go on that trip when we could have shared the money. That has been part of the war I have in ANLCA, some people still hate me passionately over that trip. Another issue is the national secretariat; people asked me why we didn’t just share the money. Some boldly come to me and say “If you know you are making money, why don’t you allow us to also make money?”

The way ANLCA is structured isn’t the ideal way for an association. There are several loopholes in the constitution of ANLCA; it gives powers to one person and inserts clauses that limit the powers in other areas. However, the distortion in the constitution benefits certain persons so they never want the constitution to be amended. The board frustrated all the attempts I made to amend ANLCA’s constitution. It was so bad that at a point I decided to carry the board along in all the processes in the amendment and they contributed in preparing the amended constitution; we printed it but at the point where it was brought up in one of our National Executive Council (NEC) meetings in Port Harcourt, they denied that they were not part of the amendment. At that point I almost resigned; I wasn’t brought up to lie or to say I didn’t see something that I saw. The maxim I used in become ANLCA’s President is “Don’t tell me, don’t blame me”.

Nobody thought ANLCA would be as cohesive as it is today. I recall that when I had the opportunity to pick someone to join me on the board of World Customs Organization (WCO) because they wanted two people as representatives from each country, I picked the Chairman of ANLCA BOT. I could have picked my Vice President of anybody else but I wanted members of the BOT to feel a sense of belonging.

How did you handle the issue of financing the activities of the association?

As a result of the previous rift between ANLCA leadership and those in NAGAFF, tolls collected from members when they work became an issue as one group would accuse the other of collecting funds for his member. The government intervened and said nobody should collect any money at the port so members should go and pay at their respective associations. However, the associations didn’t have the legal teeth to force members to make that payment. If the association’s recommendation was needed to renew licences then people would have been forced to pay, but that wasn’t the case. This is the crux of the problems in the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).

In ANLCA, it is the chapters that contribute stipends after monthly NEC meetings for the running the association. When I came in as President, I realized that the total figure received monthly was never more than N1.3million and as at that time we were paying rent. I paid the first rent with my money and I was able to save money to pay the second one from this monthly stipends. The pressure was so much so that was why I ensured that ANLCA gets its permanent national secretariat.

As ANLCA President, you have to beg the chapter chairmen to pay monthly dues but those times when the board was running the association if a chairman wasn’t bringing money they would remove him. The President doesn’t have such powers. There are certain clauses in the constitution that are worrisome. Elochukwu prepared the constitution but after he left some people added to the document to suit their interest. We discovered that between the time Elochukwu left office and the time we were sworn in, from 2008 to 2010, most of the provisions agreed upon were altered. That is why you have a provision like the National President shall be Chief Executive of the association reporting to the board. The clause “reporting to the board” was smuggled in to make the President look inferior. It took a battle to say no to this; because the constitution also says that the President is the chairman in the NEC meeting and in all meetings of the association when the president is present, he is the presiding officer. So, why should I be reporting to the board? We managed this crisis and that’s why we don’t have funds.

When we started this administration I told my Chief of Staff to take record of all the expenses of the association which I was using my personal money. By the ninth month, I had spent over nine million from my company’s funds. I knew that if I continued writing down the amount I was spending, I would lose the passion I had for the association and may not be able to achieve my goals for the association. I told him to stop taking records so that I don’t get to a stage where I would have to withdraw. When Okocha was leaving he had spent N26million of his personal money in just six months.

Most of the adverts and publicity that was done in ANLCA was from my money. I wanted everyone in the industry to know that the association existed and I was never bothered about the fact that there was no money.

I brought 5,000 copies of chest tags with my money from United States of America (USA) to give ANLCA members a sense of identity. You should wonder how I was able to generate N120million to buy the land for ANLCA secretariat.

How were you able to generate that sum with the monetary challenges at the association?

We wrote letters to all the industry stakeholders to support us because people said that was the way to get money but it didn’t work. In fact when I became President I realized that some people opened accounts in the name of ANLCA so that companies could issue cheques to ANLCA and they would claim it. This was what motivated me to invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to audit all the accounts bearing ANLCA; as soon as I said this I started receiving calls at night threatening my life.

Some people asked me to my face saying; “what are you really looking for by going to the EFCC, you carry this thing for head when we are all looking for money”

In order to raise funds for the secretariat, at one of the NEC meetings I brought the idea that we make a resolution that whoever gives us the highest amount of donation, the building would be named after him. When Ifeanyi Uba of Capital Oil heard this, he invited me to Sheraton hotel to confirm it. He asked me how much we needed and I told him N150million conservatively because the land was N120million the other sum would go into the building. He promised to get back to us and he called through my Chief of Staff to ask us to come to his office. The following morning the news broke that EFCC picked up Ifeanyi Uba and it was like a blow to me. The condition he gave was that we would name the place Capital Building but the ownership would be ANLCA. He said we must provide papers that the building would be named Capital Building forever and we had no problem with this. As a result of the EFCC problem we couldn’t meet him again and I told my Chief of Staff that we couldn’t be waiting for a man who had a problem with EFCC.

When Dikko heard the story, he called me to see him in his office. I was careful because I had never met Dikko in person so I called the BoT Chairman who joined me to visit Dikko. Dikko asked us why we had agreed to meet Ifeanyi Uba who he referred to as a ‘thief’ that doesn’t pay customs duty. On that day we saw four Hausa men as part of Dikko’s guests and he asked us to introduce ourselves to them and give them our complimentary cards and we left. After two weeks I received a call from one of those guests, Alhaji Abubakar, he said he was briefed about our need of funds to complete a project so he demanded our account number. I quickly called the BoT Chairman and sent the account number NECOM opened specially for that project. Alhaji Abubakar sent N35million and I called Dikko to inform him and thank him. The man who owned the land happened to be a former licensed agent and he said he liked the way ANLCA had progressed under my leadership citing that the members were better respected by government agencies and other port stakeholders. So, he allowed us to pay it in installments but he said the first installment must be N40million and gave us timelines to pay the rest. I had to throw it open to say every corporate member can become a part owner of the property by paying N50,000 and we did it in such a way that to even vote or contest an election you had to pay that money. So people responded and at one of our NEC meeting we raised N28million and people volunteered to give after I stirred them. The records are there although some people didn’t pay. We also came up with a plan that do biometrics of all the staff in the corporate bodies under the association and the cost was N5,000 each. That was how we were able to raise the money but after looking at everything we realized that the money which came through Dikko was the highest and we named the building ‘Dikko House’. The project was successful because I carried everyone along. I made the BOT Chairman the second signatory to the account even though the constitution didn’t say so; the constitution only said the President and Treasurer.

You must have heard rumours that Dikko gave us over N300million to build that structure but now you know the truth. One of the BoT members even swore that the land was given to us for N80million and I pocketed N40million. To clarify this issue, I had to call the owner of the land and gave him the phone numbers of all the BoT members. It was this achievement that made people insist that we come back for a second tenure. Nevertheless, if I knew things would be this bad in my second tenure, I wouldn’t have come back. The first thing that hit me in this second tenure was ICPC investigation when I was accused of embezzling funds from Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) together with Dikko. They didn’t even think that the money which was paid into the Federal Government’s account was beyond the reach of Dikko.

Some members of the board later instituted an action at EFCC and this spurred the agency to demand for all my accounts as well as those of my children and my wife. They demanded for the statement of account for three years back and told them to approach the bank to demand that since they hand the might to do so. I submitted the account details of everyone in my family to the EFCC. God helped me in making the BoT Chairman a second signatory to that building project account because it would have been difficult to explain my innocence to the board. The fact that the BoT Chairman was not invited by the EFCC made me now that the set-up was his handwork. He confessed later that it was his handwork as he lamented that I was trying to make him irrelevant. I believe that by the time I am gone some of those who hated me would see what I have been able to do for the association. You don’t pay cash for anything in ANLCA and I mentioned it at EFCC that it is inscribed on the offices at the secretariat that we don’t receive cash payments. They also discovered that no money is given out except by cheque or via vouchers. This is the standard we have been able to set at ANLCA. At the EFCC, they were surprised that we were very detailed in our finances.

How would you describe your relationship with the former CGC of Customs, Abdullahi Dikko?

So many people peddled rumour that he gave me one hundred 40ft containers to clear at the ports. How did he manage to get that amount of containers I continue to ask? You can meet Dikko and ask him what he did for Shittu, he will tell you he contributed to the development of ANLCA secretariat.

When Dikko was to introduce PAAR, he called me because he needed part of our members who were eggheads. Customs now saw ANLCA as an association whose input was needed in the formulation of policies. I knew Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) was going to reduce the incidents of flying containers at Nigerian ports. So, how do you think such category of people who thrive on flying containers would be happy with me? If you ask such people to appraise my performance they would say; “Shittu is a failure. He did well for secretariat but operationally he is a failure!” The problem was that I agreed that PAAR should be introduced. The truth is that there is no way I could have fought PAAR. It was a project for Customs and approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). So, how would we have fought against that?

Some people also label me a tribalist. I’m not a tribalist. I spent 40 years in the Eastern part of the country, 15 years in Warri and 25 years in Port Harcourt. I was born in Epe, although my parents are from Oyo, I can claim Lagos. I only reacted to natural instincts that if the future I have for ANLCA must continue, the best person to hand-over to is the man with whom I started the journey with. I’m not an Ibo man and it is the turn of the Ibos. Emenike failed but at the end of the day, I would be very proud that when he looks back he would say that Yoruba man stood by me to the end. That’s just it.

The fact that you spent 40 years in the East brings us to the issue of Port Harcourt conspiracy in ANLCA elections. You emerged from Port Harcourt just as Elochukwu did. What can you say about this?

People are deflecting but there are underlying factors they may not know. People would look for propaganda; it is always part of electioneering. I have read in the newspapers and seen that outgoing governors never hand-over to their deputies. Tony Iju was Acting Chairman of Tin Can at a time before he became National Secretary at a time that I was also part of the national executives so I know his capabilities. I also know the reasons why he wants to be the ANLCA President. Tony Iju was the pioneer Chairman of CRFFN board and I know all the maneuvering he did to emerge Chairman even though Elochukwu and I was a choice. He made an agreement with our former President, Alhaji Mohammed and the present Chairman of ANLCA board to use the Minister of Transport then, to state that those who were holding offices shouldn’t be considered and he came in as the Chairman. What people see on the outside is different from what really happened, I was with him in that Council for four years and we quarreled at meetings almost on daily basis on policies, elections, use of funds, etc. I was the Chairman of the Committee on Publicity but it was a problem for him to release monies for me to organize a press briefing yet monies were coming in.

CRFFN has been quiet because they are waiting for me to leave because I know the secret of CRFFN. The reason we have problems at CRFFN is betrayal of trust. We sat together to draft an agreement with all other associations. I know how other associations got registered. I assisted NAGAFF to be registered because my thinking is that we need at least two different associations which should be Licensed Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders. There is a difference between these two groups and the idea was to have other activities go under freight forwarders. We agreed to adopt the two main associations which are the biggest and oldest; NAGAFF and ANLCA but some people went behind to float other associations. The motive is that when money comes, so many associations would share and the sponsors of these associations would benefit from the spoils. We are not saying they should close the associations but within this teething period until CRFFN stabilizes only two should be recognized. CRFFN isn’t a training ground contrary to what they tell us. CRFFN is only to accredit institutions but the private arrangement intended to help the practitioners was hijacked by the government. The only time the CRFFN Act mentioned the Ministry of Transport is when there are issues the practitioners couldn’t resolve by themselves. The Ministry of Transport also couldn’t take decisions without recourse to the Council but between the Ministry and Iju; CRFFN became a parastatal of the Ministry of Transport.

What’s the way out of this quagmire with Practitioners Operating Fees (POF) collection?

Recently we came together, including smaller associations to discuss how CRFFN could run through the associations and the idea was that the associations would collect practicing fees from their members and give CRFFN a percentage but some people turned this around and produced a gazette called Practitioners Operating Fees (POF). There’s nothing like POF in the CRFFN Act and I was warning them that they were going against the CRFFN Act because there’s nothing POF in CRFFN Act. POF is an introduction where the government collects monies from the practitioners and the associations apply for subventions. You know that such subvention may only come once if we are lucky; it may never come again. They want to introduce collection of money that the associations have been using to sustain themselves prior to the dispute between ANLCA and NAGAFF. Honestly, Shittu didn’t take CRFFN to court; it was CRFFN that took us to court. Their actions necessitated our going to court. When they knew we were not ready to allow the collection of that money, they called a meeting in Abuja where they said that for every license, once CRFFN gets money through that license they gave you 35%. I saw this as a middle ground enabling me to get monies to pay my dues to CRFFN, but freight forwarders only pay to CRFFN, they have nothing to do with Customs but agents also have license to renew. So, give that 35% to declarants since those bringing in the money are the declarants, when a freight forwarder gets a job he needs to get someone with a license to operate on it. Hence, it is on that license that these monies are going to be derived, so we agreed but NAGAFF later opted out. It was four associations that agreed out of five. The reason for the multiplicity of agencies was to whittle-down the influence of NAGAFF and ANLCA because most time I discussed issues with the Former NAGAFF President and we usually agreed to go in the same direction unlike the other associations. Iju has always said the associations are five, since four agreed we can always go ahead. It was agreed that POF collection would become a gazette. That gazette is what we have been waiting for till today. The gazette to introduce POF was done in one week but the gazette that would give 35% to the contributor hasn’t seen daylight. How come other associations haven’t started paying POF, it is because they don’t have the means. I am not saying they don’t have licenses but they don’t have enough Customs brokers to pay. So, to play safe ANLCA went to court and the Ministry is probably looking for someone who would take over from me to enable them withdraw the case from the court. However, under my watch I always felt I was doing the right thing.

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