By Stephen Ubanna
The crisis in the 66 year-old Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents , ANLCA, appear to have taken a turn for the worse.
This is evident going bythe alleged burying of Charms at the Association Secretariat premises and the recent invasion at the early hours of Wednesday, October 7, 2020 by no fewer than 40 hoodlums. The hoodlums were said to have been armed with dangerous weapons ranging from AK. 47, exclusively used by Policemen, local pump Action, pistols , Jack Knives and Hatchets, showing that they were really prepared to kill anyone who stands on their way.
The hoodlums were said to have claimed to be members of the Task Force of the Western Zone, Chapter of the Association. They were said to have been led by one Elder Yemi Hastrup, an Executive member of the Chapter as they wore their branded uniform. One of the hoodlums was said to have been identified by one of the ANLCA security men at the secretariat and which may have informed why he did not hesitate in opening the gate for them to enter into the premises. He was said to have greeted him as a friend who had come to do something very important at the Secretariat.
Unknown to him , the hoodlums had a mission to forcefully take over the Secretariat on the excuse that Tony Nwabunike , a former Chairman of Council For Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, CFFR, and now President, ANLCA, had been sacked by the Court.
Recall that the aggrieved group had dragged the Nwabunike led NEC to Court on the ground that its tenure had elapsed and that the Board had taken over. They did not stop there. They were said o have taken the case to Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, FSARS , to actualise their dream. At present, the ANLCA, Executive members are still reporting at the FSARS office, for an entirely Civil matter, an insider confirmed The Magazine.
In coming to take over the ANLCA Secretariat, the hoodlums were said to have come along with photocopies of the Advert Statement that had been published on the Punch Newspapers of Wednesday, September 30, 2020.
The paid Advert was said to have been sponsored by one Dennis Okafor, Chairman, DENCA Bonded Terminal and a former Treasurer of the Association, Taye Oyeniyi, described as the arrow head, Dayo Abdullazeez, and Taiwo Mustapha among others , to justify their action.
Thy were disappointed that Kayode Farinton, The Association Deputy Pesident who was initially part of them had crossed over to Nwabunike’s Camp and they are working closely together. This may have informed why Taye, Okafor and the other aggrieved Agents failed in their plot to sack the Nwabunike led EXCO using force.
The Magazine learnt that the ANLCA security personnel who had allowed the hoodlums into the premises became convinced that they had something up their sleeves when they ordered the two female receptionists out of the premises and then, turned to attack them . They were said to have surrounded them at the gate with their dangerous weapons, threatening to harm anyone that dare raise alarm. The security man who was said to have opened he gate and who happened to have identified one of them may have known that there is trouble ahead when they came after him, as he was forced to flee to save his life. He was said to have been pursued into the Jakande Estate on bathroom Slippers. He may have refreshed as he returned back to the office to do his job.
This may have left the Association Secretariat open for the hoodlums to ransack . They were said to have broken into the office of Babatunde Abdulazeez, the Secretary and removed some valuable documents including the Close Circuit television, CCTV, which they were said to have destroyed.
Even the mobile phone of one of the security man which was charging in the Secretary’s s office was said to have been stolen by the hired criminals. They were said to have also carted away an unspecified amount of money from the Secretary’s office. More worrisome was the vandalisation of valuable items in other offices they broken into , including destruction of louvres.
Eyewitness account said they had also made several attempts to broke into Nwabunike’s office but were disappointed as it was a bullet proof door. Insiders told The Magazine that they could have killed some of the National Executive Council,, NEC members of the Association, particular, Nwabunike and the Secretary General , if they had met them in the office. Nwabunike was said to have stepped out on official engagement at the Federal Palace Hotel that had to do with the Association Board of Trustees while Abdulazeez, the Secretary , who was earlier in the office in the day had left for Shoprite to do his shopping. This may have informed why the hoodlums failed in their mission to kill them and announce the take over of the Secretariat.
The hoodlums, howeve, may have succeeded in their plans to attack the ANLCA Secretariat and destroyed property worth millions of naira but they didn’t know about the game plan of the Association leadership as the information about the attack had leaked out. Nwabunike , according to insider sources was said to have reached out to Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, who in turn had sent a signal to Hakeem Odumosu, the Lagos state Commissioner of Police, to mobilise his men to the ANLCA Secretariat tin order to restore order avoid further destruction of property and possible loss of lives.
The Police Commissioner was said to have sent a signal to the Area Commander of the FESTAC Town Police Division, who was said to have mobilised his men led by a Superintendent of Police to the scene. They were said to have succeeded in arresting twelve of the suspects , out of the 40 of them that had invaded the ANLCA Secretariat.
It could not been ascertained whether Hastrup, who was said to have led the operation was among the suspects arrested. There are reports that he had wounded one of the Policemen in his attempts to escape. Unconfirmed report confirmed hat one AK. 47, three local pump Actions, pistols , Matchets and Charms were recovered from the suspects. Even the bundle of the photocopied Advert materials which was published in the Punch Newspaper, which they claimed gave them powers to carry out their action was also seized from them by the police as another exhibit .
Given the tension at the ANLCA Secretariat , the anti-riot Policemen drafted to ANLCA Secretariat were said to have taken their position at strategic locations at opposite the Secretariat premises to ensure that the hoodlums will not mobilise to attack the Secretariat again .
Information was said to have leaked out that the aggrieved ANLCA members were still holding meetings with the Western Zone Task Force members, with the intention to invade the Secretariat .
They got it wrong as the anti-riot Policemen were battle ready for them. Those who were said to have summoned Courage to come back to the Secretariat to carry out another planned attack were said to have played into the waiting hands of the Policemen as they promptly arrested.
The first set of suspects arrested were said to have volunteered some information which was very damning during interrogation that they were mandated to kill between five to 10 persons in order that people may see their action as being carried out in a riotous situation and not kill only three persons as it could be described as murder.
At present, the suspects were already helping the Police in their investigation to fish out the sponsors of the Criminal activities. As at press time the anti-riot Ppolice men from the FESTAC Town Police Division were still at the ANLCA Secretariat. There are indications that they may have stayed over the night at the Secretariat to forestall the hoodlums from slipping in at odd hours to cause more havoc.
The questions on the lips of most people was: What was really the offence of Nwabuke that Onyeniyi and other aggrieved Aents could not allow peace to reign in the Association?
When contacted on phone, the ANLCA, President told The Magazine, that the aggrieved members had not come out tell him where he has erred. He noted that the eight Chapters of Western Zone of the Association had never remitted their dues, which is 40 percent of their monthly collections to the Secretariat since the inauguration of the current NEC.
He disclosed that only the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Chapter, that had not failed in doing so. He believes that the aggrieved group may have been wondering how the leadership of the Association are generating the money to run the Secretariat and still pay the Staff salaries and other entitlements and thus, felt that the way out is to cause trouble in order to distract their attention.
Many believe that the aggrieved group may be fighting the current ANLCA NEC , under the close watch of Nwabunike , because they do not want the national E Executive to control the millions of naira generated from the Western Zone as dues from members. The Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin can Island and Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, control the highest number of Containerised cargoes that passes through the nation’s ports on a daily basis.
They further believe that the aggrieved members may not have been happy that Nwabunike won the Association election in 2018, at Enugu, south east Nigeria. Olayiwola Shittu, a former National President of the Association and his loyalists had sponsored Nwokeji Emenike, a retired Assistant Comptroller of Customs and former Vice President to succeed him in order to continue from where he previous regime had stopped.
It is not surprising why accusing fingers had been pointed at the former ANLCA President, of being part of the plot to unseat Nwabunike. They have every reason to believe so because some of the aggrieved members of the Association who had lost in the 2018 Election had headed to a Federal High Court to Challenge it over alleged flagrant non- Conformity and Compliance with the ANLCA Constitution and Electoral guidelines
Being a devout Muslim and a Freight Forwarder of Internationa repute, Shittu was said to have sworn by the Quran that he had forgotten about who won or lost in the election in order to move the Association forward. Note that the Western Zone Chapter of the Association , had recognized Nwokeji as the ANLCA national President to spite Nwabunike and further deepen the crisis in the Association.
Maritime analysts who spoke to The Magazine had advised Okafor, the Chairman of DENCA Bonded Terminal , who is opposed to Nwabunike, the ANLCA President to watch his steps to avoid playing into the hands of perceived enemies who may want to take advantage of the crisis in ANLCA to fight him and expose some of the the illegal activities going on at DENCA bonded terminal, ownwed by him.
indeed, having survived the plot by the aggrieved members of the Association to forcefully take over the ANLCA Secretariat, one Chief Ozoh, described as a successful Ibo Freight Forwarder in Lagos was said to have rallied around the Anambra state born ANLCA President other Ibo freight Forwarders in this trying time of the Association to give him confidence that the Ibo Freight Forwarders were solidly behind him .
The ANLCA National President was said to have also continued to receive solidarity visits from the various Chapters of the Association including officials of other Associations from the nation’s maritime sector.
Take for instance, the members of MMIA, and Ikorodu Lighter Terminal , IKLT, Chapters were said to have already paid him a solidarity visit,” assuring him of their loyalty and support”.
There are indications that the Odua Freight Forwarders are also planning a similar solidarity visit to the ANLCA National President to show that there is no division in the Association. The Deputy National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders was said to have also paid him a solidarity visit to the ANLCA National President assuring him of all the necessary support but his open mind may be different from Bonniface Anniebonam, founder , NAGAff, who wants Nwants the embattled ANLCA President to listen to Shittu, a former President of the Assiciation and other elders to restore peace in the Association.