By John Ogunsemore
A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos on Friday, January 18, 2019, dismissed a suit filed by the estranged registrar of the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON), Mr Benson Adam-Otite challenging the leadership of the institute’s factional President, Dr Nnamdi Ilodiuba.
Ilodiuba was elected and sworn in for a second term at an Annual General Meeting (AGM) which he called at the institute’s National Secretariat in Ikotun, Lagos on October 28, 2017.
But Adam-Otite approached the court to quash his purported sacking by the institute and declare the election of Ilodiuba as president as invalid, null and void.
Joined as co-defendants in the suit were Mr Bola Aborode, who Ilodiuba said had been appointed to replace the “sacked” Adam-Otite, and ISPON.
Speaking with Safety Record newspaper on phone on January 26, Ilodiuba hailed the court judgement dismissing the suit.
He said, “There was a judgement that day (January 18) and you know that suit was instituted by the sacked registrar, Mr Benson Adam-Otite and his colleagues.
“But the court saw it as abuse of court process because, if you remember, that judgement had been given at Federal High Court, Owerri where he was also defeated.
“So they started going about doing the same thing all over other courts. So the court saw it as abuse and dismissed it.
“The court told them that what they’re doing is illegal.”
He offered to send the certified true copy (CTC) of the court judgement to Safety Record when obtained.
Reacting, Adam-Otite urged the public not to be misled by the alleged misinterpretation of the court judgement by the Ilodiuba-led ISPON leadership.
According to him, the Ilodiuba leadership had been going about and using the court judgement to justify its plot to perpetuate itself in office at the detriment of the institute.
He said, “They are fond of being economical with the truth. What transpired at the court was that there was already a case at Port Harcourt asking the court for the same thing we are asking for in Lagos.
“The judge said that since there was already a case in Port Harcourt, he could not rule on the case because the case in Port Harcourt started before the one in Lagos.
“There’s also a case in Owerri that we’re challenging which also came before the one in Lagos. The judge said ruling on this would mean the end of the cases that came before the one in Lagos.
“So it is on that basis that he set it aside or – let me use their own term – dismissed it. That we should go and concentrate on the ones in Port Harcourt and Owerri, that there was no need for us to institute another case in any other court. That was what happened. So he (Ilodiuba) cannot say it is a victory for them.”
When contacted, the national spokesman of the Ilodiuba-led faction, Engr. Timothy Iwuagwu said that the latest judgement affirmed the judgement of the Federal High Court, Owerri on May 15, 2018, which recognised the Ilodiuba-led governing board as the authentic leadership of the institute.
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Giving a background, Iwuagwu said, “He (Adam-Otite) went to court. The first time, the court told him he had no legitimate claim. That was in Warri. The second one again, the President of ISPON, Adam-Otite, Governing Board members and Chairmen were sued by some members of ISPON.
“They were seeking the court to tell who’s in charge because Dr Ilodiuba said he was in charge and Adam-Otite also said he was in charge. They asked the court to tell them who’s in charge based on the laws establishing the institute. That was in Owerri.
“The Federal High Court in Owerri told them that Dr Nnamdi Ilodiuba, and the Governing Board under him are the legitimate custodians of the institute. That judgement was passed on May 15, 2018.
“In the Warri case, judgement was passed in 2017, before ISPON had its AGM of 2017.
“The Federal High Court in Owerri on the grounds that Dr Ilodiuba is the President of ISPON gave him the power to call Annual General Meeting and conduct the election.
“Ilodiuba asked me as the national spokesman of the institute to announce an AGM and election for October 28, 2017.
“The court ruled that we should hold the election within 30 days of the order and we held it.
“We went on, announcing that any member that’s hungry for power or position should come and contest on the stated date but we were surprised that none of them came.
“Instead of coming, Adam-Otite sent a message through his personal assistant, Mr Yusuf Malgwi, telling members not to attend.
“They vowed never to attend the conference, AGM or election, which meant they’re above the court.
“Unfortunately, some members obeyed them and did not come.
“However, some that know what is called the rule of law attended and witnessed the election.
“Dr Nnamdi Ilodiuba was elected president at that election, Evaristus Uzamere was elected Deputy President, a group of senior members of the institute were also elected into the Governing Board, and that was how the new team started working for a tenure that will last from 2017 to 2019.”
However, Adam-Otite said that the judgement of the Owerri court was already being challenged at the appellate court.
He also alleged malpractices by the Ilodiuba-led factional leadership in the process leading to the court judgement.
He said, “Initially, I was not aware of the one in Owerri. They went behind me, put a lawyer for me and got somebody to act as if he’s the registrar. They went fraudulently to say that I have accepted that I have been sacked. All these things I am telling you are documented; it’s in the process of the court which I obtained. I just don’t want to start publishing everything. There are some documents that should not be brought to the public for the sake of the institute. That’s why I decided to keep them to myself so that we will not be rubbishing ourselves in the eye of the public. It is easy to destroy but to rebuild you will need a lot of effort and resources. That is why I have just been keeping quiet and not been letting people know exactly what has been transpiring.
“They are the fraudulent ones and they can do anything. They are desperate to continue to be here illegally. So that is the situation.
“It was when they published the order they got from Owerri court that I became aware of that. Our lawyer had to go there to obtain all the documents. That was how I knew what transpired.
“I have even filed a petition against that lawyer to NBA. NBA Owerri is looking for that lawyer that represented me without my consent.”
Meanwhile, Adam-Otite has vowed to call for peace if the suit instituted at the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court is resolved in his favour.
Asked how he would treat the other faction of the institute if he emerged victorious after all the legal tussle, Adam-Otite said, “I’d call for peace. The institute does not belong to an individual.
“When the first case (in which) they took me to court before for calling for peace meeting was decided in Lagos that I have the power to call for a meeting, I called all of them that we can now meet and resolve out of court. That was from the very beginning.
“I told them I’m not interested in the court case but because they have their ulterior motive to hang on to power, they insisted and they went to court. They are giving the impression that I am the one who went to court whereas they’re the ones who went to court.
“It’s Iwuagwu that signed as a deponent in the court. Nobody is hearing that one. Iwuagwu and (Dominic) Aigbogun are the people who signed as deponents.
“Nnamdi Ilodiuba does not sign any document, pretending as if he doesn’t know anything; that they are pushing him. But he is behind all of them. So that is the true situation. If the court rules today that I’ve won or that I’m the one that should call for a meeting, I’ll call for a meeting and let there be peace.
“I am not witch-hunting anybody; I just want proper order to be followed in doing things. That is all. Even if they win and the court decides in their favour, (there’s) no problem. If they say they want to take over the institute, no problem. Let them go ahead. I joined the institute before all of them.
“Iwuagwu was in my class, so he cannot tell me that a student can be bigger than the teacher. I joined the institute in 1996 and they joined in 2006, 10 years after. So that is the situation. I am not struggling (for control of) the institute with anybody but I just want proper order to be followed.”