The Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) is currently enmeshed in a leadership crisis that has seen the institute divided along two factional lines. In this interview with Safety Record Newspaper’s editors Femi Da-silva, Paul Mbagwu and John Ogunsemore, the factional newly President of the institute, Mr. Malgwi Yusuf Haruna, clears the air on his ascendance to the position and sundry issues. Excerpt…
What is the genesis of the crisis bedevilling the institute?
Malgwi Yusuf Haruna is my name. I am a Member of the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria; Fellow by grade. I have been in this institute as far back as 1985. I have followed the leadership of ISPON through these years and if I say there is no crisis in ISPON, I am not being factual. At the same time, if I say that there are crises that can be resolved, it is also true because what is on ground is all man-made. Now, leadership in all ramifications is God-given. If God says you are a leader, he gives you the enablement and use people to actualise it. So, I believe leadership is not a do-or-die affair but it is people-oriented and therefore the leader should be able to listen to the people that he is leading. At any point in time that the people indicate that they are tired of you, you don’t need to force yourself on them because who would you lead, after all? So, the issue in ISPON today is that of leadership with tenures. 2014 was a year that ISPON would always have a record that she was empowered. Even the change of name to ISPON became authentic in 2014 because we used to be NISP. Prior to NISP, we were NSSP. So there was a journey.
In 2014, we had an Annual General Meeting in Port Harcourt wherein the Institute of Safety Professionals Act 2014 signed by the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, was presented. I was the Deputy President then. I knew that at that AGM, there was no election, but there was a mandate, a resolution by the house, that one tenure of two years should be given to the former Board of Trustees (BoT) members who were the founding fathers of the institute that have laboured all these years to at least marry the Act with the former constitution that was guiding the institute. It was a clear mandate – go prepare, bring a document to the house. One tenure of two years was given to them. I was part of that board, the former Board of Trustees; it’s not that I was outside. So, we transmuted into the Governing Board which is quoted in the Act. We started the job. In 2015, we held our Annual General Meeting in Abuja. I was the Conference Organising Committee Chairman – as the Deputy President then. We had done 90 per cent of the job, let me say. As far as we were concerned, we had a document to present to the house. So, we brought the document we had done to the house in Abuja and there were some observations that we could not conclude in Abuja in 2015 AGM. So a move was made for an Extraordinary General Meeting to still look at the document here in Lagos. That was done. When we came to Lagos, the house had some areas, especially the succession plan, that we had. It was in the document prepared by the Governing Board and it came to the house. I don’t want to go into the details because we don’t have that time to go into the details of the document. But that was done. There were a lot of misgivings especially about the issue of succession. In order to have peace – I was moderating that EGM at that point – I said that, well, if there was anybody that needed to be hurt about the transition of Deputy President into President, it should be me, so why should people disturb themselves. The Act said election should be conducted and we did election as Deputy President, so why are we disturbed now that the Deputy and the President must go for election? But if this is what you want, for peace to reign, let us have a level-playing ground. Let’s go for the election. Because of the exigency of work, I did not conclude that EGM; I had to leave, not because there was any problem. But I knew that there were reports that people were not happy with that aspect. As far as I was concerned, let’s have a level-playing ground; let people choose their leader. Why should somebody impose himself on people? It’s not proper. Let the people choose. After all, it was a concession that you, ‘Look, you can go ahead and run for a tenure and bring a document to the people.’ Now we had one year to go.
November 2016 came. We were supposed to have our Annual General Meeting in Awka, Anambra State. Everybody was ready to go for that and an electoral committee was set up. The electoral committee came up and started with the branches. I could remember that the committee went to Port Harcourt to conduct election and there was a court injunction stopping them from holding a branch election in Port Harcourt. But they went ahead with the election despite the case in court. We moved all round. They came to Abuja. They went to my base then in Kaduna. There was uproar because the electoral committee said the whole branch was disqualified. I felt like why should a whole branch be disqualified from an election? I had to come in and calm the branch members. I told them, “If as the Deputy President I was supposed to become the President and then there’s a change that I must go for election, why should you be disturbed? Please calm down. I must have a base. Even the President of the nation, Muhammadu Buhari, had to go to Daura. He has a constituency, a base. So, if my own constituents are not in line with what the national body is doing, then it means I am not even qualified to be the president. So, please calm down and let us go ahead and do the election.” That was concluded and they were surprised but I assured them that I had no problem with anybody. After all these, we hoped that we would go to Awka and do the national election. But when we got to Awka, the last day of the conference was not concluded. I was chairing a session in one of the halls when I received a call that the Board members were meeting. I was shocked because there was not supposed to be any such meeting that day, and the AGM was supposed to hold the next day. I had to ask someone to chair the session in my stead while I run to confirm what was going on. By the time I got there, they had already decided what to do. They then told me that they received a letter from a lawyer to suspend the AGM scheduled for the next day because of the cases in court. I said it wasn’t right and asked if they weren’t aware of the cases in court before we started the branch elections. I asked if they did not receive an injunction in Port Harcourt. I also asked them why it should come now that the national election was scheduled for the next day. That’s where the problem lies. People were not happy that they cut short the conference and it was not properly closed. How could you end a national conference abruptly like that as if people were chasing you with guns? There’s no emergency. They were quoting the documents that we had prepared that had not yet been adopted at the Annual General Meeting. I said no problem, if you have done that, then the same document states that if people are agitating, over a 100 members of the institute have the authority to petition to be heard. That same evening, before morning, over a 100 members signed. And they came but I said they should present it formally to the Registrar. They left with grudges but they still went ahead to write the petition and sent it to the national secretariat. Now, the Registrar sent that petition to the Governing Board. I was a member, but the President did not present it to the Governing Board. He continued like that.
Then we said, Mr President, you know that it was not right to have called off that Annual General Meeting… He was not elected president. The immediate past president handed over to him as deputy president. He didn’t go for election. So, if there is fairness in what’s going on, he would have said, ‘Oh Deputy, truly this is your own turn; I am supposed to hand over to you. But because we have agreed that we are going for election, I am interested to run again.’ If he had said this to me, it worked for three years, what is wrong in telling me? But he didn’t. It was until people started telling me that if it is by election, don’t worry, run for the post and we will elect you. I picked a form but the technicality of picking a form is yet another problem. As I have said, I have a constituency. I went through my branch chairman, picked a form and sent it in. He did not pick his form through his branch because he said he was the president. Is that correct? He didn’t pick his form through his (branch) chairman and the documents are there to show. That’s yet another issue. Anyway, that’s not my problem, because I was not the electoral committee. I was a candidate like he was a candidate. It was left for the electoral body to say I was disqualified or he was disqualified for not following rules. That did not surface at all. We have finished the preliminaries.
As I told you, I didn’t look at this thing as do or die affair. I still enquired about meetings. He would call for meetings and I would not be invited. That’s where the first problem started. The next time he sent me a notice of meeting ‘Signed by President’. So, I asked, ‘Mr President, have you become Registrar now? The normal procedure is that the Registrar calls for Governing Board meetings but this time you are calling for meetings. You know I am a government worker and my people know the protocol. So, tell the Registrar to send a notice of meeting to me.’ I never knew there was problem between them, whatever it is. The Registrar was doing his job as a Registrar; he was not taking sides with anybody. So that notice of meeting I did not see. That was what called for the meeting (where) there was no quorum. They called for another meeting but I didn’t see notice of meeting. Now, be that as it may, since they could not get quorum, and there was no Governing Board meeting, the next thing I heard was that the Registrar was taken to court. I said but there was no Governing Board to instruct the President to go to court. After submitting that petition and waiting for 30 days with nothing forthcoming according to the documents, the Registrar contacted the Elders to find out their opinion about this thing, since the President had refused to call for any talk about it. So, he now called for an Extraordinary General Meeting so that the matter could be resolved. That was the purpose of the February call for Extraordinary General Meeting. The President, with one of the Governing Board members, went to court. I said, ‘Has it gone to this level?’ As the Deputy President, was I not supposed to know even if it was for courtesy’s sake? At least I should be called and told that the Registrar had done something wrong and this is what he has done. As far as I was concerned, I answered that EGM because there was agitation by the people. I said, ‘Why don’t we go to the EGM and resolve this case since you have refused to call for Governing Board meeting?’ Already, they had gone to court. When I heard they were already in court, I decided to wait to see what the judgement would be like. While we were waiting for the outcome of the court – I don’t know how they formed their quorum – that was when they met and then suspended the Registrar. I don’t know think what any logical person would think, but if you took somebody to court, I feel you needed a higher authority to give you a verdict. So why did you sit back again and without a quorum of a board suspend the Registrar? I think they even followed it up with a termination letter. All those ones have no basis. There was no board resolution to that. The Act specifies the number of people that are of the board that forms a quorum. Any meeting anywhere that does not form a quorum does not hold water.
Now there was a verdict. The court looked at all the allegations against the Registrar and said, Mr Benson Adam-Otite did not act in his capacity as Adam-Otite but he acted in his capacity as the Registrar of the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria. Therefore, these allegations you brought before me are struck out. What that suggests is that the termination or suspension did not hold water because it was based on his calling the EGM that they suspended him, even though there was no quorum. So even if they did it, without quorum, the court has now confirmed that what they did was not correct. So, meaning therefore that it’s the Registrar that has the authority to call for an Extraordinary General Meeting. After that court judgement, he went ahead to do his duty because the tenure (of the Governing Board) had already expired. And that was why even before that time, when he called me (deputy president,) I said ‘former deputy president’ because our tenure had expired. We’re waiting for the annual general meeting or extraordinary general meeting where the decision could be taken. So it’s at this point that the registrar called for extraordinary general meeting in Port-Harcourt. I was aware and I supported it. I supported it because there was a court judgement that he was the right person to call for extraordinary general meeting and he’d called for it in Port-Harcourt. While people were preparing to go Port-Harcourt, the former president went to Port Harcourt and used the DSS to stop the extraordinary general meeting. I wondered what was wrong. Then the registrar came; the DSS listened to the two sides. They intervened and said, ‘Look, there is no need for this. Let us have a resolution. Let the two sides come with their own people. Let’s come together and have an understanding.’ And they agreed to come here, at the National Secretariat (Lagos), to do that resolution.
So the registrar sent another mail to members that the EGM could not hold in Port Harcourt because the DSS had intervened and therefore there was going to be a conflict resolution at the National Secretariat. So they came. But later I was told, because I was not present, that the place was locked, with some people inside.
The DSS had agreed on an arbiter that was supposed to come from Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria so that it would be a neutral person. The person came and the gate was locked and some people were inside while some were hanging outside. So that meant that there would be no resolution. The arbiter from the APBN interviewed some people and then wrote his report, that the institute’s members were not ready for any arbitration. Therefore, the registrar had no reason not to call for meeting. Let the members do their own work. So the registrar called for another Extraordinary General Meeting in Warri, after the report of the DSS.
I was not in the country and I called the president to tell him that I was travelling outside the country. I also called to inform the registrar because I believe in following protocol. I told the registrar that I had seen his notice of extraordinary general meeting and that I would support whatever the people decided because somebody must come in; there should be no vacuum. And I left.
In my absence, there was an election in Warri and that is what brought me into office. I was absence but the people said I should lead. Well, I cannot disappoint the people with the circumstances on ground. So I came on board through due election and not appointment, due election at an Extraordinary General Meeting held in lieu of the national general meeting in Awka that did not hold. So the governing board members were also elected.
That is why I am now saying that the former president has refused to be part of the transition. He has refused to come for reconciliation. He has refused to come for the Extra-Ordinary General Meeting. He went to court and the allegations at the court have been thrown out and therefore there is no faction in ISPON. The people have chosen their leaders. I have been mandated and I am speaking as the mouthpiece of the people. With a governing board well constituted, we have held our meetings. By the grace of God on Saturday 26th (August), we’ll have another meeting.
After our inauguration, we had the first meeting. Quickly, we sat down to discuss the issues and why we have problems. The issue is simple. That is what I’ve explained. So what do we do? I said, ‘let us invite them. Let them come and tell us why they are doing this.
…Who are the ‘them’?
The former president; he was invited.
The office of the registrar was broken in before the resolution by the court. He reported at the police station that his office was broken in, locks changed and he could not have access to documents. These are issues. We have to look at it. Why must that happen? No wonder the publication of the election result was followed by a disclaimer/public notice by the former president, not the governing board. The board didn’t meet. The former president and few of those that were supporting him went to the press and then wrote a disclaimer to the result of the EGM. So we looked at all these and like I told you what I want is where the truth of this matter is. Where are the members of the former governing board? Nobody’s talking, so I had to follow them one after the other. As I came and took up the mantle of leadership, I followed them up. The people that were able to respond to me were seven, which is the quorum of the governing board stipulated by the ISPON Act. So I had seven members of the former board saying that they were not party to that publication. I called them one by one and told them I was going to publicise it so that people would know that this thing was done by a few people. They said go ahead.
So we did a rejoinder in the same newspaper that the former public notice was published. It was in the Guardian. We did a rejoinder and listed the names of the people there so that people would know that what he said came from the governing board did not come from there.
So if we are talking about legality, Is it the president and four or five others that are more legal than the eight members of the board? Mind you, he is not an executive president. He is the president of the institute to chair the proceedings of the board. Once the board is sitting, everybody is equal there and that is why there must be a quorum. He chairs it quite well but there must be quorum. But if there is no quorum, even though he is chairing, it’s not legal. So if majority of the board says, ‘look, we are not part of that publication, support what has happened in Warri,’ then people should know that the authentic board and current board of ISPON are moving on. I am believing that people will come to understand and come back to let us continue together.
I am an advocate of peace. I want all other members from all the branches to understand this clearly that there was a legal procedure that brought us to office. And if the former president refuses to hand over, well, I have nothing against him as a person, but I have everything against that attitude because that will mean that he does not like the institute to move forward.
How can you with few others say that your tenure has not expired when you know that it has expired and that’s why you wanted to hold elections in Awka in the first place? If it’s not expired, why are you holding election? If you say you did not hold election because there were cases in court, then why did you from the beginning not stop the election from the branches? You went ahead evading the indication of court and went ahead to do election.
These were issues that made people not to be happy and confident that he had a genuine reason to move on. Personally, I would want an ISPON that has no faction and that is why I said that as far as I am concerned, there is no faction in ISPON. ISPON has a legal leadership in place. The former president has refused to hand over so I have nothing against you expressing yourself but I have everything against you destroying an institute that’s made by people. Yes, you may have your own reason that you did not explain. And if he had explained it and people understood it, I am very sure that people that held the EGM in Warri did not see that reason.
So I think at this point, I am more comfortable when people say that the crisis is a leadership crisis; it’s not an institutional crisis, because somebody was talking about the issues of money and all that. I’m not aware of any money. I don’t know of any money problem. We served for three years. The issue of money, maybe you have a question about it and we will get there, but for the issue generally, I just narrated how it went. I am here at the National Secretariat. The Registrar (Benson Adam-Otite) is here. He is back to his office. If there is any problem, I am not aware of that problem for now. We are moving on.
There is this believe that you are only being supported by just two branches out of about 13 that the institute has. That is the Delta and Rivers state branches. How do you respond to that?
Thank you. The act did not talk about branch. If you read the Act, it talks of members of the institute. There is no place in the Act that talks about branches and in fact, the Act is specifying that membership of the institute makes up the body. So I have not come as branch representative. The EGM in Warri was not held by branches; it was held by members. Those talking about branches are entitled to their own opinions but the Act says – “the members of the Institute of the Safety professionals of Nigeria.”
Some members are also saying that the process that brought you to power is flawed because it did not go by the ISPON Act and General Policy Guideline of the institute and that an election like this should not hold in an EGM but at an AGM. What is your reaction to these?
My reaction to these is simple. I told you that what happened in Warri was the EGM in lieu of an Annual General Meeting. I have already explained that. Now, when you say that the matter did not follow the policy guidelines, there is nothing like policy guideline in the Act. They say it is in the Act. Let them quote where the policy guideline is stated. And I explain to you that the policy guideline was supposed to be the work that the governing board was supposed to take to the annual general meeting to be authenticated which was not. So, there is nothing like general policy guideline at all. And if you are talking about the Act, what the Act says is that there should be an election and an election was held in Warri. So the issue of general guideline doesn’t even arise because there was none. It was not adopted.
According to Dr. Nnamdi Ilodiuba, the genesis of the crisis rocking the institute is the issue of the dollar account that has allegedly not been disclosed by the Delta state branch. He has said he will not vacate the post of president if the issue is not resolved and some members are wondering if you are in league with the people fingered in the issue?
That is a good one. First and foremost, as the president of this institute, you are supposed to know every account of this institute. So if he has been president of this institute since 2013, 2014, 2015 and he has not known that there’s a dollar account in Delta, then he is not telling the public the truth. I am aware that Delta state branch was the most buoyant branch in remittance to the national coffers, according to the 60-40 sharing formula of branches and the national.
He went to court over this is accusation and there was a judgement. The judgement was very clear that Delta state branch had declared what they had in their accounts and paid the 40 percent due to the national. Therefore, the president has no business in saying that they have to declare any other thing. They’ve gone by the guideline of 60-40 sharing formula and they presented on spread sheet that amount which he did not dispute.
At the court he brought his allegation and the Delta state branch brought their spreadsheet and showed the amount that they have paid from their accounts to the national body and it was agreed that they have paid this amount. So what else is he looking for? Unless he has a personal request from the 60 percent that is of the branch, which I don’t know and I was not a party to as the deputy. He has never shared that information with me but I can tell the public that he brought the issue of Delta state branch to me at the first meeting of the governing board and as his deputy I advised him to call for the documents. I said, ‘You are the president. You are supposed to know everything under the institute. Call for the documents of the contracts and then bring it to the governing board. Let the governing board see.’ For three years (that’s not done.) So you can see why I am saying that if he had a personal discussion with the Delta state branch… If he had a personal discussion with the Delta state branch as a president for any share, I am not a party to it. That is him. I am not a party to it because he never brought the document. I asked the Delta state branch whether the president had asked for a document of the contract in question and they said they have given him. They said they had given him the document of the contract and that the contract had even stalled because of the issue on ground. So there is no issue about any contract with Chevron. The contract has been stalled, so what he is pursuing is possibly a personal thing. But for the thing that is for national and for the institute, they have declared it and that has been used for the objective of the institute. What he is holding unto now that he is telling the public that he must know may be a personal share. That one I am not a party to. I can tell anybody anywhere.
Since you were not in the meeting or the election that brought you into power, some are saying that you probably took the position to spite Dr. Ilodiuba for disenfranchising you from the proper handover he was supposed to do in Awka. What is your reaction to that?
No, not at all. Because one, if you were the one that knew the steps taken by members from the beginning, would you allow the institute to go into a dictatorship or would you like democracy to reign? It was already tailoring towards dictatorship. If over 100 members have written for an issue to be looked into and the president refused to tender it to the board or even talk to the board members who were his colleagues and even took the registrar to court, would you stand and look on? The registrar is more permanent than any other member of the board. He is like the barracks: soldier go, soldier come, but the barracks remains. The registrar remains employed in the institute until he retires or commits a very serious offence and is sacked. He is the person that has the institute’s documents. The president took him to court and the court said, ‘No, what you did was wrong.’ Will you go by the truth or would you go by dictatorship? That is my reaction.
So it is not an issue of whether I want to spite anybody. No, I just want to ensure that the truth is done. After all, what I was even going for was an election. Did I know who would win? In an election, you don’t know who will win. It’s when you win an election that you know that you are now in charge. He was not supposed to hand over to me; we were supposed to go for election. The issue of spiting does not come. If it were that there would be no election and he would hand over to me the way he got the post in the first place but he refused to do so, then anyone who says I am trying to spite him by accepting the presidency can be right. But we were supposed to go for election. So, what is he afraid of?
There is this general belief that members of the new governing board appear to come from a section of the country. Is the governing board sectional?
That is very misleading information to the public. The list of the former governing board members is there. Go there and write the names and put it against where they come from and the dialects they speak. If you look at the present board and former board, the present board is wider spread than even the former if you go by ethnicity. That is not even the issue. If everybody will come from South West, for example, Malgwi has no issue with that as far as they are competent to carry ISPON to the next level. If everybody is coming from the South East, I don’t have any problem if the people members of the institute and are qualified to take us to the next level. But because we are interested in ethnicity, go into the details, check and you will see; don’t just carve out something from the mind and say it. I’m from Borno State. The deputy, Uni Ajobo, is from Delta. Patrick Dakwal is from Plateau. Yakubu Ezekiel is from Niger. So if you start looking at it ethnically, this is a more widespread board.
In the last board, I was the only one from the north if you want to look at it that way. And the north has how many states? So out of 19, only one person is coming from the north, are we being fair?
I can understand that when we have issues like this, people will go by ethnic inclination. But you see, one problem in this nation is that many people have not travelled. Those in the south remain in the south; they never go up (north). Those in the north remain in the north. Only, those of us that have travelled the 36 states know that when you are talking about the nation, you have to understand it very well. The north is not one language. So if you say the north and you think that everybody in the north is a Hausa man, then you are mistaken. I am not a Hausa man. Patrick Dakwal is not a Hausa man. Ezekiel is not a Hausa man. Everybody has his own language. So if you are talking about ethnicity, then this board is more spread than the former.
During the acrimony that engulfed ISPON, some state chairman of branches met in Akwa Ibom and it appears that they aligned themselves with the administration of Dr. Nnamdi Ilodiuba. Will those people be victimised under your administration?
Not at all. That meeting was illegal. Let me put it this way: Although the meeting was held, when we came here in the hall downstairs (from the first petition by the vice presidents when we were operating NEC), the first resolution when the governing board met was that the meeting of chairmen had no place in ISPON. There is no place written that chairmen have a forum. But if they have met and written a resolution, let us look at it because it is for the good of the institute. But there was no basis for that meeting. So we went ahead to look at what they talked about and part of the thing they talked about is what played out now because they were warning against what finally happened in Awka. This one that they held in Uyo, it was not chairman’s meeting; they called it EGM, but who called it? Was is it the registrar? No. Look at it with the resolution. Who called that meeting? It was the president that called for that meeting and not the registrar. Then, the president had no acting registrar. So he called for the meeting himself. There was no provision for that. Even in the former arrangement, the president didn’t call for meetings; it was the registrar’s duty. At that meeting that state chairmen attended, there was no registrar’s input. So, was it the president that took minutes? The president called for the meeting without inviting the registrar. Who then wrote the resolution? Was it the registrar? There was no registrar’s signature on that thing so it is null and void. As far as I am concerned, that meeting didn’t happen and even if it happened, it had no basis.
Also, I have nothing against the chairmen that met because they were coerced into it. I am someone that understands circumstances. So if you are coerced into doing something, you cannot be penalised for being coerced into doing it. I have nothing against them but I want them to understand that this is the right thing to do now. If they want us to move forward, they should join the league of moving forward. I don’t want stagnation. So if the people are ready to come and let us move on, my doors are open. The door of my governing board is open for everybody. We are not ready to victimise anybody. But those that are principal actors need to be disciplined, because anywhere that there is no discipline is a free-for-all organisation. Then it means I am not even fit to lead. So for those that have been identified as principal actors of causing trouble, they need to be disciplined but for those that just attended because they had to attend by purpose of been coerced, why should I discipline them? For what? Let everybody know that there is peace. Everybody should come, let’s move on.
We learnt that your being at the secretariat today is a function of using the police to dispel the acting registrar here. On what basis is that and if you are the president, do you really have to do that?
I told you that I didn’t come to use the police to dispel anybody. I came here to ensure that the registrar (Mr. Adam-Otite) got back to his office, which he was locked out from on the basis that he was suspended. I came here to let him know that the court judgement that is available did not say he’s not the registrar of the institute. So he should not be staying outside when this is where his office is supposed to be. I came here to ensure that he got back to his office which its lock was changed. I ensured that he opened his office and got back to doing business in his office. Whichever means that I used to get him back to his office is because I’m the president of the institute.
With Dr. Nnamdi Ilodiuba and you both laying claim to the presidency, where does that leave the institute?
The institute is intact. We are just going through internal misunderstanding. With due respect to Dr. Nnamdi Ilodiuba, who is a personal friend, I have nothing against him as a person. But I have everything against his actions.
What are your plans to bring everybody together? Also, ISPON is known to have and AGM and a conference every year. Should that also be expected this year?
The first is that conferences are supposed to be done in an atmosphere of peace. So the first thing is to get the peace. This should be our priority now. Let’s clear this problem. Supposing I write for a conference and Dr. Nnamdi also write for a conference and the two letters come to you, how will you feel? So, on my part I will not be that kind of person that will ridicule this institute – a professional institute. But if it gets to a point that Dr. Nnamdi is not ready to look at the institute as a whole and want it to continue, then I will be left with no choice than to go to the next level where somebody from somewhere must be able to pronounce at a higher level that this is the direction for everybody to know. After all, it is the law. There was a court judgement. There was another court judgement. All of them negative to him. So if there is any need, the next step is for me to continue talking with the elders of the institute. That is where my own attention is. Let the elders of the institute be true to the institute. Out of the seven now the remaining people, let them come and tell him the truth.
I have told you my peace role. I have called some members of the former board that were not on the list (of the new board) to see if they can understand the situation. We are the people that can resolve this in-house. Tell Dr. Nnamdi the truth: Please come. Let’s come back. Support this people and let’s move forward. That is the only thing that is needed, but as long as some people are telling him a different thing and some people are not with him, then that is how he will continue to move on. So I am not interested in a violent move but a peaceful resolution.
I have been reading the posts around in most of the (social media) platforms. Everybody is saying, ‘Where are the elders of the institute?’ Now, to me, the elders have spoken. If seven of them have spoken and said, ‘look, go ahead with the present election.’ I think people should be able talk to the rest and talk to the former president to join the league. Let us shake hands, call for meeting, unite everybody and then move on. After all, I did not elect myself.
An NGO, Safety Advocacy and Empowerment Foundation, in a publication signed by its three directors said ISPON was in a financial mess. As the president, are you saying that there is no financial mess or will there be proper auditing and presentation of the institute’s account?
If you look at the Act, it was very clear about financial discipline. So it is not an issue of me being the president. What did the Act say? So I am going to operate the Act to the letter. If you did not catch a thief stealing, he is not a thief until you prove otherwise. That is our law, isn’t it? So if I say he is involved in financial mess, I have no proof. If I say he’s a saint, I have no proof also. The people are grumbling but the best thing to do is to allow the professionals to tell us. Everything about the Act is supposed to be operated to the letter.
If during that my tenure as deputy president there is anything that I have done financially that is against the law, I should be brought out. Let the people know. Just like you were asking about the dollar account thing and I told you that I had no hand in that. I have not even seen the cheque book because the deputy in that era only did what the president assigned to him. It is what the president tells you to do that you will do. Luckily, I was not given much assignment. Even the little one that I got, it was not looked into because I prepared a financial guideline when I was the deputy president. I sent a draft to the president to circulate so that we would adopt something that would help in the financial discipline of the institute but it was never used or brought out to the people. It was never looked at.
One thing I believe is that when there is financial discipline in any organisation, there will be no rumour. However, when it is you that will decide what you will do, of course people will have reason to doubt your discipline. But you cannot bring it (account) out until when it is looked into professionally. As far as I am concerned, I want to operate ISPON on sound financial discipline.
I have already set up a budget committee. They will soon start work and the committee will ensure that we adopt a sound financial guideline that will be operated in all the branches of the institute so that when you have an external auditor, it becomes easy.
What is the purpose of audit? It is not to witch hunt anybody. Audit is supposed to be ‘show me what you say you are doing and the evidence that you are doing what you say you are doing’. So if you are going off track, they’ll bring you back to track. That is what audit is supposed to be. But in most cases people look at it like it’s for witch-hunt. It’s not.
As far as I am concerned, you have an internal audit to help you to be on track. Then in order to attract confidence from other people, you bring in an external auditor so that he’ll cross check what the internal auditor has done. And then give a statement to your stakeholders that you are operating transparently and in accordance to the guidelines of the institute. So this is my principle. I am not a witch-hunter, but I am a financially-disciplined person and I want that in every place.
What is your final word?
All members of the Institute of Safety Professional of Nigeria should work together as a family. ISPON is a platform meant to nurture, to develop and to ensure that there is professionalism in our delivery to our employers. Many people are not even aware that ISPON is not set up to inspect companies. We are set up ensure our members are regulated professionally. We are to ensure that those that want to be safety managers in this country go by the laws thereof.
I want us to be united. Let us work towards professionalism. Let us work towards unity. Let us eschew division. Let us be united and work together. Yes, there will be misunderstanding but when we need to resolve misunderstanding, let it be in love. That is my final word.