A cross section of safety professionals in Nigeria has called on the federal government to intervene in the crisis rocking the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON).
The safety professionals severally made the call sequel to an open letter written and circulated by the Safety Advocacy and Empowerment Foundation (SAEF), an influential safety NGO, which was addressed to the Acting President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.
The letter signed by SAEF National Coordinator, Mr Kadiri Shamusideen, Executive Director for Programmes, Mr. Dapo Omolade, and Executive Director for Strategies, Engr. Jamiu Badmos also demanded that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) probe ISPON’s account.
The group alleged that the institute was neck-deep in graft, embezzlement and other forms of corruption which was causing unnecessary scramble for positions.
The letter read in part, “ISPON is presently enmeshed in unhealthy, unsafe and unprofessional leadership tussle which, if not resolved on time, could lead to several unpalatable events that could have been prevented by a visionary and result-oriented leadership.
“The professional body that is meant to save lives and properties, but it is now being factionalised with two Governing Boards that resulted from over seven different court cases.
“The national leadership of ISPON has been on the path of a selfish, egoistic and meaningless war, accusations and counter accusations on tenure elongation, financial misappropriation, and lack of financial stewardship in all the branches.”
Safety Record Newspaper can report that there are two factions in the institute – one led by Dr. Nnamdi Ilodiuba and the other by Mr. Malgwi Yusuf Haruna.
Speaking on the crisis, a safety professional, Ms. Cynthia Ozobua described the ISPON crisis as a “pathetic” situation which should be addressed through reconciliation.
In a telephone chat with this newspaper, Ozobua, who is the Treasurer of IOSH Informal Network Group in Nigeria said, “The issue surrounding ISPON is pathetic if I may use that word.
“However it is our profession; ISPON is our own. Nigeria is our country and we are not going anywhere.
“I think the right thing to do is that all the stakeholders and other safety professionals should come on a round table and see how we can move safety forward.
“We need people who have actually learned from the developed world and Nigerians who have been in safety for years to put ideas together in other to move forward.”
Expressing her support for the open letter by SAEF, Ozobua noted that external intervention would be needed to douse the tension.
“It (the crisis) is therefore not safe and not good for anybody within the safety community – not as individual, not as a country and not as ISPON members.
“If it has gotten to a point that we need external help, then I think the minister should come in dissolve it or look for a way to amend it so that we can move forward,” she added.
Another safety professional, Mr. Temitope Mudele blamed the crisis on leadership but noted that such was not unique to the institute.
However, he called on all parties shun self-interest and sheath their swords in order to move the institute forward.
He said, “I think the main issue rocking ISPON is leadership problem, which we are experiencing almost in every sector.
“The key issue is selfish interest. We don’t have collective interest in mind; we all have our selfish interest which is the main problem.”
He further stated, “We are having leadership problem which is being surrounded by selfish interest. Until that is sorted out, we will continue to have such problems.
“Even if we have a new set of people there, we will still continue to be having such problems.”
Mudele, while calling for government’s intervention, said the crisis needed to be resolved soon because it was having negative effects on the safety profession in Nigeria and the institute was losing members to rival safety professional groups.
“Government intervention now is key because we are losing members. ISPON is losing members to IOSH, ASSE – America Society of Safety Engineers. Members are not paying their dues.”
“We have been fighting that ISPON should be recognized by the government with an Act.
“And now that it is recognized with an Act, we are not making use of it and that is why the (occupational safety and health) bills have not being passed.
“We are not united. We all have our selfish interest – everybody is guilty of this and no one is an exception including myself.
“I mean we are all guilty of having selfish interest and that is what is killing us,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the National Coordinator of SAEF, Mr. Kadiri Shamusideen has defended the group’s decision to write an open letter to the federal government demanding a probe of the institute.
“We are not happy over the crisis in ISPON. Actually, ISPON is the only chartered institute for HSE in Nigeria, being backed by an Act.
“Going by that, we are not comfortable with the leadership tussle in the institute and we felt we preferred a third party to intervene and bring the warring factions together and sort things out between them.”
Speaking on the effects of the crisis on the institute and the profession generally, Kadiri said, “The crisis has crippled the institute which is supposedly the voice that advocates for safety in Nigeria.
“As a result, we do not have any voice to speak, issue statements and proffer solutions to national safety issues at the moment.
“And we know HSE is not yet popular in the nation. We have the Occupational, Safety and Health (OSH) bill at the National Assembly and we have a lot of other issues.
“Again there is a leadership problem. This implies that HSE matters will be going backward in Nigeria if the ISPON crisis is not adequately tackled by those involved.
“And because we (SAEF) are not partisan, we don’t have any interest in leadership of ISPON. We want peace”.
Commenting on the feedback got from the letter, he said it was enough that the matter had been brought to the public domain and described it as “a welcome development”.
Reiterating SAEF’s stance on the crisis, Kadiri stated, ““We have already stated our position and we believe other safety bodies too are really coming up to assist or intervene to prevent the crisis from degenerating to a height where it will destroy the institute and then the professionals in Nigeria. That is it for us; we are not in support of any party involved in the crisis. Ours is that we want them to iron out the crisis and move the institute forward.”