By Innocent Orok
“Getting ahead in a difficult profession requires avid faith in yourself. That is why some people with mediocre talent, but with great inner drive, go much further than people with vastly superior talent”- Stephen Covey.
Wednesday 14th April, 2021 marks the third year in office of the current National President of the first and oldest Customs Brokers association in Nigeria, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA). Iju Tony Nwabunike and his National Executive Council (NECOM) comprising of Dr Kayode Farinto as Vice President, Alhaji Babatunde Abdulazeez Mukaila, National Secretary, Chief Dennis Ugwu, Assistant National Secretary, Hajia Bola Muse , Financial Secretary among others all took oath of office on 14th February 2018 to administered the association in the next four years then.
This team was adjust the most formidable and talented crop of leaders ANLCA has ever produced in to lead the association in its history. It was also recorded as the most cracking and keenly contested national election in the association’s history. As such, high level of political maneuvering and intrigues was at its crescendo. The battle of the election was won and lost and the rest they say now, is history.
NWABUNIKE’S 3 YEARS BURDEN OF TRUST AS ANLCA NATIONAL PRESIDENT:
Like President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan said in 2014, that he was the most abused and insulted president in Nigeria’s history. Iju Tony Nwabunike can say same in the last three years as National President of ANLCA. But has that deterred him in anyway.?
It was Napoleon Hill who said ” Every person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to cut all sources of retreat. Only by doing so can one be sure of maintaining that state of mind known as a burning desire to win- essential to success”.
The success story of the Tony Nwabunike’s three years led team in office despite the frontal war by aggrieved members of the association is too numerous to mention. His intellectual capacity to whether the storm of troublesome waters orchestrated by enemies of his presidency is the suiting balm that has kept him going in the last three years.
SOME OF NWABUNIKE’S GIANT STRIDES IN THE LAST THREE YEARS:
It may be unpalatable news for those who might have wish Nwabunike and his team never succeeded. But for lovers of peace and progress, let’s look at his modest achievements in the last three years of his stormy, but focused leadership.
300 LICENCES OF ANLCA MEMBERS UNBLOCKED BY NCS
For the records and in the first time in the history of the association, this regime first achievement in office was to appeal and lobbied the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to release over 300 of its members licenses which was hitherto blocked by the Service for various offences.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION COMMITTEE:
To resolved the lingering crises in the association after his election, the Tony Nwabunike team had yielded to appeals from well meaning members and maritime industry stakeholders to constitute a reconciliation committee to settle all aggrieved members after the election. The committee did a good job and submitted its report, which if allowed to be implemented could have brought a lasting peace to ANLCA. Though, some part of the report are being implemented and gradually peace is returning, except for few members, though efforts are in the making to carry all willing members along for a Greater and Professional ANLCA .
It is worthy to note that though an impression is being created in some quarters that the Western zone of ANLCA is not in support of the present NECOM, but from the recent successful conduct of Chapter elections in the western zone, there is nothing of such, as thousands of ANLCA members from the western zone are loyal and abiding with the constitutional constituted ANLCA’s NECOM. We can rightly say too, while they are few aggrieved members from the western zone, the entire East and Northern zones are in one accord and in allegiance to the NECOM.
DIGITALIZATION OF ANLCA ACTIVITIES
Again the Nwabunike’s regime scored another first in the history of ANLCA leadership efforts when it digitalized its activities by making sure its activities are real time information Communication Technology ( ICT) compliance. The success story of that feat was the well organized National Executive Committee (NEC) / Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Owerri, Imo State in December 2020. The AGM also saw the election of new Board of Trustees (BOT) members of the association, which was done through online voting which allows members to vote from any part of the world. Members in the meeting also participated both physically and virtually to accommodate all members views and voting rights.
ELECTION OF NEW BOT MEMBERS AND APPOINTMENT OF GRAND PATRON/PATRONS :
To keep to the provision of the ANLCA Supreme Constitution and in other not to create a vacuum in the Board of Trustees ( BOT) structure of the association, after the expiration of the last BOT members tenure in February 2020 . ( According to the ANLCA Supreme Constitution, BOT members tenure is 6 years with option of second tenure. The last BOT members tenure runs from February 2014- February 2020). So in December 2020, as provided in the ANLCA Supreme Constitution, conducted an Annual General Meeting held in Owerri, the Imo State capital were new BOT members were elected to takeover from the former whose their tenures have expired as at February 2020.
The meeting which again for the first time attracted a sitting Governor of a state, Senator Hope Uzordinma of Imo State, who was also appointed the Grand PATRON of ANLCA. While two Patrons was also appointed to act as advisers to the association during the AGM.
AMENDMENT OF ANLCA SUPREME CONSTRUCTION:
As contained in the Association’s constitution, during an Annual General Meeting, the delegates can discuss, deliberates and move for the amendment of any part of the constitution they so wish. As such, during the December 2020 AGM held in Owerri, motions were move and adopted by delegates to either amend or espounge any part of the constitution they feel is either in conflict or outdated.
In one of the strongest motion moved by Akintoye Ojo, he proposed single tenures each of Six (6) for BOT members instead of the current six years of two tenures. Five (5) for the National president and its NECOM members, instead of the current four years of two tenures and Four years single term for Chapter Executives, instead of the current three years of two tenures.
All the amendments was agreed and adopted . And it was also carried that the new tenures should start with the present NECOM.
Another critical motion moved at the gathering was the contentious conducting of Chapter Elections by the association’ s BOT. Again the delegates voted that the BOT members should not conduct Chapter Executive elections anymore , but to only nominate the Association Electoral Commission (ASECO) members to be rectified by the National Executive Committee (NEC) and then the ASECO should be allowed to do their work and report to the NECOM. This was also adopted by the delegates. This according to them will end the protracted crises always arising between BOT and NECOM of ANLCA.
SUCCESSFUL CONDUCTING OF CHAPTER ELECTIONS:
For the past two years (2018-2019) it seems ANLCA was drifting to total anarchy as the protracted crisis which erupted with the Nwabunike’s tenure has defers all efforts to conduct Chapter Executive elections in the association which was long overdue. But kudos must be given to the present NECOM for summoning courage and guts to conduct Chapters Executive Elections in all the zones of the association. It started from the Northern zone of Kano and Abuja International Airport Chapters. Then to the Eastern zone comprising of Onne, Oil & Gas, Port Harcourt Area 1, Port Harcourt Airport and the Calabar port. Then finally to the centre of battle which is the Western zone, which comprises of over seven chapters. The success story is that Chapter Executive elections have been done and dusted in all the chapters in the zones.
TRAINING PROGRAMMES FOR MEMBERS:
Despite the challenges, some members of the association have benefited from both national and international trainings and more are still on the way. But of very importance is the leadership training programme which the Nwabunike’s regime has introduced to the system.
Such training programme was being organized for all elected Chapter Executives from the Eastern zone in March this year which was focused on credible leadership and responsible followership. The training programme was to properly equipped members for the role of leadership and followership alike. Nwabunike promised that such trainings will be duplicated in all the zones and moved it to chapter levels.
PROMOTION OF PEACE AND ABIDING BY THE PROVISIONS OF ANLCA’S SUPREME CONSTITUTION:
No doubt Tony Nwabunike has been described by many as a peace loving personality who meant well for all his members. At the same vain, some have misconstrues his peace loving nature as weakness. Hence as a leader he has to balance both. In the last three years of his tenure as the National President of ANLCA, his watch words have been peace and building ANLCA as one big family. But he also promised he will not do anything illegally or to abdicate the powers conferred on him by the ANLCA’s Supreme Constitution.
His messages of peace and oneness is always preach in any fora or messages he sent out during ceremonial seasons in the year. He believes with peace in ANLCA and in the country, we can achieve more progress and development. This he said he will continue to do , no matter the circumstances.
PUTTING ANLCA IN THE FRONT BURNER:
For the past three years, the ANLCA leadership has carried out consistent and robust engagements with government agencies and institutions to collaborate in mitigating most of the hardship facing its members in the course of carrying out their duties in the ports. Such engagements has taken the ANLCA leadership to meet with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Ministers, Customs CG, ES, NSC, DG,SON, National Assembly members among others. The engagements are continuous and is gradually yielding fruitful results.
EFFORTS TO OBTAIN CUSTOMS BROKERS CHATTERED STATUS:
Robust engagement are in top gear to present a bill to the National Assembly for the long awaited Chattered Institute of Customs Brokers status which the association started few years ago. The moves if succeeded will place ANLCA as a formidable association that will be as strong as other national and international professional associations.
PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES
Suffice to say that in the mist of the numerous challenges facing this present ANLCA leadership, there are equally greater prospects to tap by members. For the records, this present leadership of ANLCA at both National and Chapter levels have the best brains the association has ever produced in its 67 years history. The leadership of the association at the various levels today have what it takes to repositioned the association to march up with the present day challenges of the freight forwarding and Customs Brokers profession. The danger of dwelling in conflicts and crises is to say the least doing harm more than good to the respected professional ANLCA. If the “Spirit of live and let’s live”, “Give and Take” and to do away with it “Must be me and me alone” mentality in the characters and behaviours of the association members, then the prospect and future is bright for ANLCA. But if the rigid and frontal war of attrition among members and personalities continues, then, the association will continue to face challenges and backwardness .
As for the ANLCA leadership, I salute you all for standing up to be counted when its matters most. Continuous dialogue and round table discussions is the best conflict resolution mehanism in the modern world order. Let’s ANLCA members purge their hearts, seek for peace and work together.
As for Tony Nwabunike and his team, there are many more rivers of challenges to cross. The remaining years of your regime should be consolidation on the achievements and to do more for the ANLCA family. Don’t quit because according to Conrad Hilton ” Success seems to be connected with action. Successful men keep moving. They make mistakes , but they don’t quit”. ANLCA shall be great again.