…Crisis deepens as DSS, APBN Steps In
The controversial Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) fixed by estranged Registrar of Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) Mr. Benson Adam-Otite slated for Saturday July 17, 2017 in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, has been cancelled, Safety Record Newspaper gathered.
It was learnt that the cancellation was sequel to an order of the Federal High Court in Owerri, the Imo State capital, restraining all members of ISPON from attending the EGM.
The court order sent to Safety Record Newspaper by acting registrar of ISPON, Mr. Bola Aborode, on Friday, June 16 reads in part:
“that an order of interim injunction is hereby made restraining the 1st Defendant (Mr. Benson M. Adam-Otite) from convening any Extra-Ordinary General Meeting (EGM) which he fixed on the 17th day of June, 2017 as he has long ceased to be the Registrar of ISPON by virtue of his termination letter dated 15th day of May, 2017 pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.
“That an order of Interim Injunction is further made restraining all the Defendants including all the members of the 2nd Defendant in other branches of the Federation from attending the Extra Ordinary General Meeting (EGM) scheduled by the 1st Defendant, pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.”
Meanwhile, according to reports reaching Safety Record Newspaper, Adam-Otite had earlier approached the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Commissioner of Police in Port Harcourt to inform them of the scheduled EGM in the state and to seek for security protection against any unrest that may occur.
However, on notification, the DSS after a meeting with the two warring factions of the institute advised them to go hold a reconciliatory meeting of seven men each, with a member of Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) as arbitrator in the meeting.
Acting on this, it was further learnt, Adam-Otite had before the court order restraining the convening of the EGM circulated a notice to all members to notify them of changes to the meeting. In the notice signed by Adam-Otite and cited by this newspaper, he said:
“Following the peace meeting mediated by Department State Security (DSS) officers between all parties, the venue of the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), has been moved to the National Secretariat as provided for in the General Policy Guidelines of the Institute and to hold same day, Saturday, 17th June, 2017.
“However, due to the size of the hall at the National Secretariat, the meeting shall be attended by selected representatives of members and presided over by officials of Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN).
“Recommendations to be made by APBN shall be presented to the general house at an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) for implementation and also submitted to DSS.”
However, as at 10am on Saturday, June 17, Safety Record Newspaper witnessed the gathering of a handful of ISPON members locked out at the National Secretariat, Ikotun in Lagos with a notice of the court order restraining the convening of the EGM posted before the gate.
It was also noticed that some governing board members, Mr. Shaw Fregene (immediate Past President) and Dr. Nicholas Okere, including the Chairman of Delta State Branch, Mr. Edward Uni Ajobo and the Acting Registrar of the institute, Mr. Bola Aborode were locked inside the secretariat.
Among those restricted from accessing the secretariat were governing board members, Mr. Dominic Aigbogun, and Mr. Evaristus Uzamere, who both left after a while. Others were estranged Registrar, Mr. Benson Adam-Otite, Mrs. Monica Nwosu, Mr. Hassan B. Hassan, Mr. Julius Akpong, Mr. Harold Echendu and others.
Also among those locked out was the Secretary General of the Association of Professionals Bodies of Nigeria (APBN), who addressed the members outside the gate, collected a list of all members present and took a group photograph with them. The arbitrator, however, later advised all the members to ensure they leave the venue together.
Reactions from members to the stalled peace meeting were swift in coming.
The institute’s National President, Dr. Nnamdi Ilodiuba, who on behalf of the Governing Board member spoke to Safety Record Newspaper at the institute secretariat said the peace meeting could not hold because the embattled Registrar, Adam-Otite failed to comply with the terms of the resolutions reached at the meeting with the DSS in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
“When we came here this morning, we already had people at the gate. We then decided to go back, because we (the seven of us) did not want to be overwhelmed by the people we saw at the gate,” he said.
Describing the composition of the proposed meeting, Ilodiuba said, “The meeting was planned for just 14 people: seven from their side and seven from our own side, while an arbitrator from APBN will oversee the meeting and report the outcome to the DSS.
“What we had at the gate were almost 20 to 30 members at that time, so we went to the police to report and told them about the agreement we had with DSS as against what we had on ground.
“We were not sure of our safety, which is why we’re not entering the secretariat so that they will not lynch us.”
He further claimed that Adam-Otite breached the agreement by going ahead to circulate a letter to members notifying them that the meeting was going to be an EGM, instead of a peace meeting as earlier agreed.
“Less than an hour after the meeting with the DSS, Adam-Otite sent out a public notice to every member, informing over 1,000 members that the DSS held a meeting with us and that we had rescheduled the EGM that was supposed to be held in Rivers state to the National Secretariat in Lagos state in accordance with ISPON Act.
“He did this, inviting everybody instead of seven each. Uni Ajobo, the Delta state chairman did the same thing.
“The records are there, they sent the mail,” Ilodiuba claimed.
Ilodiuba said that he had insisted in a communication that ensued between him and Adam-Otite the evening before the scheduled reconciliation meeting that he should come with his seven-man delegate for the reconciliation meeting, which he failed to adhere to.
“At about 10 pm last night (16th June), Adam-Otite sent another mail inviting us for the meeting notifying of the time and other agenda.
“I said okay, and I replied him, bringing his attention to the letter he sent that he had sent a notice of the meeting, but had failed to include a list of the seven people expected from his side, and asking him how we’re going to know those we expected to meet with.
“I was already in Lagos with the people I was to attend the meeting with who were with me then, I called their attention to it and asked what we should do. There we agreed to be available so as not to allow the DSS fault us for not being at the meeting as planned,” he said.
Ilodiuba, in an exclusive interview with Safety Record Newspaper at the venue of the stalled reconciliation meeting described the alleged contrary action carried out by Adam-Otite and his group as a setback to the peace they sought.
“So, the fact that he has invited the whole member to be here has nullified the whole peace process. That is why we have missed another opportunity today to have peace,” he lamented.
He, however, said the institute would overcome the set back, and urged every member to seek for reconciliation as a family.
“So I want all of us to come together to a round table to discuss our matter as a family and trash out what the matter is and we move ahead. There is no wound that cannot be healed by time and good word,” he noted.
The estranged Registrar, Adam-Otite, when contacted after the stalled reconciliation meeting, admitted to circulating the letter to members, and drew the reporter’s attention to the second paragraph of the letter.
The second paragraph read, “However, due to the size of the hall at the National Secretariat, the meeting shall be attended by selected representatives of members and presided over by officials of Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN).”
Adam-Otite who declined further comment, however, did not refute any of the president’s claims.
A supporter of Adam-Otite and Secretary of Lagos ISPON Branch, Mr. Julius Akpong, who was also present at the venue of the stalled reconciliation meeting, told our reporter that most of the gladiators were placing individual interest above group interest.
According to him, “This is a very sad situation at the time when our country needs safety professionals most.”
Reacting to Ilodiuba’s claims that the meeting was stalled because their group had more than seven people present at the venue, he said:
“That is definitely a lame excuse. There were seven people waiting for the other seven to come in for the meeting but they never showed up. The rest of the people were harmless professionals who were just observers; they were not there to go into the meeting.
“Besides, those other seven never even showed up and they were not ready for peace and that was why they got a crooked, unfortunate court order signed by a court registrar as we heard being speculated.
“My professional understanding is that they are not ready to leave in peace. May the Lord give it to them the way they want it.”
Accusing the president, Ilodiuba, of intentionally stage managing the outcome of the stalled meeting, Akpong said, “Why it’s very painful is the fact that so many people of the world and countries are tending towards positive growth and preventive cultures, but in Nigeria, if someone gets a little opportunity to head a small group of people, they concentrate on how to perpetuate themselves in office.
“Even the claim that dollars were stolen has been struck off in court; they are being defeated in all the court cases they sued and got sued. Yet, they are holding on. Greed leads only in a negative direction.”
Another member in the Adam-Otite camp, Hassan B. Hassan, who was also present at the venue of the meeting, accused Ilodiuba, whom he referred to as “ex-president,” as insincere and not willing to let peace reign in the institute.
“The ex-president and his delegates did not show up at the ISPON secretariat. This is to show that the ex president and his camp do not want peace to reign at ISPON.
“The arbitrator from APBN was not allowed into the premises of ISPON this morning as the ex-president ordered that the gates be padlocked before the arrival of the arbitrator.
“I don’t see peace returning to ISPON soonest as those who are benefiting from the impasse would not give room for it. I pray may the Almighty God trouble those who do not want peace to reign.”
Hassan disclosed that the arbitrator (Secretary General of APBN) took notes and would be reporting back to the DSS at Port Harcourt, Rivers state, the body that initiated the peace moves.
Shortly after members departed the venue, Safety Record Newspaper saw the Area Commander, Area M Police Command, ACP Austines Akika, and some of his officers at the venue with Ilodiuba and some members of the institute.