Engr. Timothy Iwuagwu is the National Spokesman of the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON). In this tell-it-all interview at the ISPON Lagos Office in Ikeja on Saturday, October 5, he explains to Safety Record why the institute wrote a petition to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, against some members of the institute and the outcome of the petition. Excerpt…
Recently, ISPON petitioned the Inspector General of Police about a group that has been fomenting trouble in the institute. As ISPON National Spokesman, can you give a brief background about why this petition was written?
The petition was written based on the fact that the group of persons that has been creating and sustaining uprising through the monies they made by defrauding Nigerians in the name of ISPON has consistently caused the police to be compromised at different times. We have taken them to different police units seeing that they were not supposed to continue in their illegality, yet it was not seen by anybody that police was capable of curbing their excesses. So we had to take the matter to the top hierarchy of the police. We couldn’t have gone to the Police Service Commission; we had to go to the Inspector General of Police. We were also happy because we when we got there, we were given a very speedy response and a very special unit at the Force Headquarters was assigned to carry out the investigation. We are pleased so far by that. There are other issues that we should have brought up but we are not interested in actually punishing these people beyond the limit of legality. We’re looking at a proportionate reprimand which the law can do. We’re not interested in allowing our emotions to drag us into feeling that they should be punished beyond limit. So we have taken it and we have patiently followed the process. And that is why we went to the police’s (top) hierarchy.
You have consistently maintained that several Federal High Court judgements have vindicated the Dr Nnamdi Ilodiuba-led Governing Board as the authentic leadership of the institute why some persons continue to parade themselves as the authentic leaders. Can you give brief information as to why these people continue to do so and the steps that have been taken to make sure that they stop doing so?
Yes, the authentic leadership of ISPON is the Governing Board chaired by Dr Nnamdi Ilodiuba and the Federal High Court ruling in more than three sittings at different locations has confirmed that. In spite of the fact that the rulings actually asked these rebellious group to stop parading themselves, they went on and I can tell you here now from your question that the reason why they have insisted in defiance of the court ruling to parade themselves is because their main target is not the wholesomeness of the institute, but the fractionalisation, factionalisation and the balkanisation of the institute. And why do they have that interest? Because that is the only thing that can afford them the opportunity to make money that cannot be accounted for. And they have made the money; they have enjoyed it; it has entered their brain. And now it is difficult for them to even know that the time is up. That is why they do not just want to hear that the fight should stop. And the main reason why they seem not to want to hear that the fight should stop is because they are not under a unified command. They are a rag-tag army that lacks a formal command and control structure. So they don’t have a leader. The leader in person of Mr Yusuf Malgwi is very ceremonial, is a mere mask worn by some people. So once you remove that mask, you’ll see the people behind the mask. And recently, we removed the mask and we saw the people and before the next time again, we saw them wearing that same mask because the mask is readily available for them. So that is the situation we found here and that is why they’ve been fighting because of the illegal means they’ve devised to defraud Nigerians, collect money. If we didn’t want to also uphold some level of safety in their favour, we would have allowed the number of complainants… 63 persons so far have come to complain officially that they didn’t know that they were dealing with fraudsters using our name. One of them had his certificate signed by Mr Adam-Otite and Mr Yusuf Malgwi and the person was given full membership of the institute for a fee and the person took it to the Board for Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) in the United States. And the Board knowing the truth sent that certificate to us to ask us: is this your certificate? And we replied: ‘No, this is forged. Do not deal with anybody having anything like this.’ And the American BCSP rejected that application the person put in. You can imagine how much the man wasted to go to the United States. You can imagine the euphoria he was basking in when he got that certificate only for everything to be dashed at the point he came to terms with the reality that he had been defrauded. He cried to us. Today, we’re talking about stopping them. That is the worst thing they want to hear. They don’t want to be stopped because they have no other means of getting such illegal money than for the institute not to have a firm leadership that can control them. Now Mr Yusuf Malgwi said he will not recognise the Federal High Court ruling but that he will only recognise a Supreme Court ruling. Now the question is: Who will bring the Supreme Court ruling? Is it ISPON? It is him, the aggrieved that will appeal against the subsisting ruling. It is him that will go to any length and bring that judgement which he recognises. But the bottom line is that while that appeal or the Supreme Court ruling is being pursued, he is compelled by law to abide by the subsisting ruling. So, he cannot escape with illegality, because if he eventually obtains the Supreme Court judgement which he’s been singing about, he will expect people to obey that. I am sure he is not pursuing whatever he claims he is pursuing, which we know is a lie. He is not pursuing that thing so people will reject it. So that is the position of the institute.
For a while, the petition was at the police headquarters in Abuja during which a lot of steps were taken. Can you give us brief information about that?
A petition was sent to the Inspector General of Police and he instructed the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) to investigate thoroughly. The SFU is under the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department in Abuja. The investigators were informed of a planned summit by this same group of people who have been defrauding the public and that was one of their missions. And they told the public to attend that summit free of charge. That is a way of luring more people into it. I have never heard of the institute doing a summit or conference and say it’s free. Even the Act authorised the institute to charge fees for every of its programmes. Now they said it’s free. We had to alert the SFU and they dispersed their team to the venue of that summit which is in Ugbowo area of Benin, the capital of Edo State. And they swooped on them at the venue. Now to tell you how crafty the group has been, they even tried to lead some top-ranking police and other para-military groups into temptation, so to say, by causing them to be invited and attending such an illegal gathering. And they felt that was enough shield. They were going to be under the cover of police to perpetrate illegality. They did it some time ago. They broke into the National Secretariat of ISPON at Ikotun (and) looted away a lot of things – certificates, receipt books, valuable land documents, MOUs and so many materials which they are using today. And when they were taken to SARS (Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad) at Ikeja police headquarters, they told SARS that they did not break into the place; that the police was with them even at the time they were breaking the place. So you can see how mischievous these people have been. They were even saying that the police was an accessory to their criminality.
We are not strangers to their gimmicks. By them calling senior police officers, the sector commanders of the road safety, top hierarchy of the civil defence, and other organisations like the vehicle inspection services, they were trying to have protection – a shield. But when the police team from the IGP arrived, they had to consult with the police hierarchy in Edo State and the area commander. They have a Zone 10 unit in Benin City, Edo. They had these people contacted at least to tell them formally since it is in line with the protocol because they’re entering another jurisdiction. They got the approval of the Commissioner of Police in Edo State, who asked the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Ugbowo Divisional Police headquarters to give them men to effect arrest at the venue of the summit. And the people (policemen) were also surprised to see that some of their senior personnel were attending that programme. So they had to wait for these people (senior officers) to leave – go for lunch or so – before carrying out their operation. The perpetrators of the fraudulent activities were now making phone calls as usual trying to get soft landing (like) they should not be arrested or handcuffed, that they will march themselves to the Ugbowo Police Divisional headquarters and they did. They were supposed to be handcuffed. Everything was in place. But I, looking at them too – these are colleagues; old friends, said no need of handcuffing them; If they’re going to come there, let them come. So they reported themselves and they were made to write preliminary statements. They were to be moved to Abuja. It was night of Friday, because they were arrested about 4pm. They were kept there, writing statements until late evening. There was no light, so they had to go and buy candles to put on the table and they were writing under candlelight. It became a case of some wise and foolish virgins. When they finished writing their statements, the next argument was whether they should be moved to Abuja. But the police said they should be allowed to complete the programme so that they would not deny holding the programme; that it should be on record that they did it. So they were allowed and they were told to report themselves to the SFU at Abuja by Monday morning. But they pleaded and pleaded that they should be allowed to report to Abuja on Wednesday as if we were there on picnic. And I told the policemen that we could not give these people the leverage and breathing space they’re asking for; let them be in Abuja to explain the authority behind their activity.
And that is why on Monday morning, September 23rd 2019, they reported themselves to the Abuja office of the crime investigators. The crime investigators read out some of their statements and asked them to write new statements and they did. And we were asked to come. Dr Nnamdi Ilodiuba was grilled for some hours to ascertain the consistency of his petition and statement because he wrote statement also on the 23rd. (The police wanted) to see if his statement corroborated the content of the petition. And eventually it was done. He was extensively interrogated. Towards the end of that 23rd, Yusuf Malgwi was also interrogated. But it was already sunset. The Assistant Commissioner of Police (in charge) is a very intelligent officer which I have not met his kind in recent time in the police force. I learnt a lot from what I saw. He’s a very meticulous person and an astute interrogator. A brilliant officer, he listens to everything you say and records them – he has a special retentive memory – and made reference to certain things that were said casually, which means he was really determined to get the truth. He said that as it was getting dark, we should go and come back on Tuesday, 24th to start the interrogation of Malgwi.
As we were about leaving the SFU, it was raining, pouring down heavily in Abuja and ISPON driver came with the institute’s bus to pick us and we entered. And we saw them (Malgwi’s group) moving inside the rain trying to locate where they can find their way to a vehicle. We, looking at them with compassion as our former colleagues in the profession, told them to come on-board. We asked them the location of their hotel and they told us. We instructed the driver to take them to their hotel and we all drove to their hotel. Little did we know that the Assistant Commissioner of Police was watching, maybe through the Close-Circuit Television system, because he mentioned it on Tuesday. When we arrived, he said: ‘You people are wonderful. That means you people are friends and you know each other so much. I saw how you accommodated and told them to come inside the vehicle. That’s very kind of you. That’s very good.’ And we said, ‘We didn’t come to kill them. We came to see if you also have the power to cast out some demons of stubbornness and disobedience in them. We don’t hate them’ and he saw it.
On that Tuesday, Malgwi was interrogated so extensively but at a point he was also told that he was saying nothing because he was reading from a jotter probably written by somebody to him. Unlike Dr Nnamdi Ilodiuba who spoke without a single piece of paper because truth cannot be adjusted. Once it is adjusted, it loses the quality of truthfulness. So he (Ilodiuba) was saying what happened and what he knew. And he has been able to say it over and over but each time Malgwi will say, ‘I was not there but I was told. I was not even in the country when I was made president of this group but I accepted it and told them it was okay.’ He was asked why he went to that extent and he said it was because there was crisis in the institute and people needed somebody to stop the crisis, so he went ahead to stop the crisis.
The law says the governing board is to instruct the registrar before the registrar could do anything. But the police was also astonished to hear Malgwi saying that Adam-Otite as registrar then instructed people to come for an EGM, not AGM. Who instructed him to do it? He instructed himself, which means he was not under the board anymore and Mr Malgwi said yes, that it’s normal, that Adam-Otite was acting so because the board had expired and Adam-Otite had not expired. That Adam-Otite was the only everlasting member of the board. Yes, he said it and we were all shocked to hear that because this man works with a federal parastatal or department and for him to have grown to the position of Assistant Manager, it means that he would have come close enough with legality and officialdom. So how come he’s talking this way? So there’s something wrong at that point.
He could not submit a single document to back any action they ever took. And the only document that said that they were not supposed to do what they did, he said he would not recognise it because that was the only way he could continue in illegality. By saying he could not recognise it (court judgement) he has become a law to himself. So he’s now impervious to legality and rule of law. The rule of law we know is the fundamentals of the constitution. The judiciary must act and the executive must act. The executive now will be acting through the police. The Act that established the institute is a law made by the National Assembly. And somebody has declared the totality of all these constitutional work a nullity by not recognising rulings from Federal High Court in Federal Republic of Nigeria. That has left so many rational minds wondering if we should not solicit for urgent psychiatric support. We feel bad about it. It is very lamentable and we’re still going on to see what we can do and that is why as we left the police office on the 23rd, we had a meeting in Yusuf Malgwi’s office. That meeting was exclusive for him, Dr Ilodiuba, the solicitor for ISPON and the solicitor for the rebels. Four of them met and came out with Yusuf Malgwi emphasising his unwillingness to recognise Dr Nnamdi Ilodiuba as president and that he’s not going to recognise the ruling of any Federal High Court in Nigeria except the ruling comes from the Supreme Court. That was on the 23rd.
On 24th after the whole conclusion of Malgwi’s interrogation by the SFU, there was a meeting at a garden in Utako area of Abuja. They spent so much time there and the only new thing he said there is that he is not going to contest in the forthcoming election. And that he wants Dr Nnamdi Ilodiuba not to contest. It was not in his place to tell Dr Ilodiuba to contest or not. The law is in the position to say so.
Remember that the institute got the Act on May 19, 2014 and Dr Nnamdi Ilodiuba had come as president under the Board of Trustees constitution, not the Act. That constitution said you’d have one term as president. But the Act came and said he could have two terms as president. We were supposed to go for an Annual General Meeting in Presidential Hotel in October/November 2014. That was a few months after the Act came. We met there and the general house agreed that there was need to adopt and start operating under the Act. So we’re going to drop the constitution drafted by the Board of Trustees. For that, the old Board of Trustees under the president of ISPON then, Ilodiuba, was asked to take two years to prepare the institute to start operating under the Act. That they did. Those two years were to be rounded off in 2016. In 2016 while we’re preparing for elections, a lot of things happened. Some people went to court to stop ISPON from holding any election, whether at state or national level. But they had not entered the court. They only said they were going to do that. Elections had started at state levels. And they went on to the court and we went on also with the elections. At a point, a letter came from their lawyer saying that blood would flow if we went ahead with the election, especially the remaining election in Rivers State. And we said there’s no court ruling; you’re only filing a case. You’ve just notified us (and) we must complete this election. So they completed the state election. But by the time the national election was to take place at the AGM in Awka, the court had had about two or three hearings of that their suit. And based on what their lawyers told the judge that ISPON was disobeying or disregarding court process by going on with election when there’s a contest in court against the continuity of such election, in spite of the fact that the court had not ruled, we stopped and said we have respect for court process. That we would wait until the court rules because if we had gone on to get an election at Awka and the court ruled against it, it (election) would have been a nullity. So we didn’t want that. Our lawyer advised us in writing not to go on with Awka election. And it was read to the public by Mr Adam-Otite. He knows. But as registrar, he was already compromised. He became a mole in the system. He became a recruiter of rebels. A list of people who wrote their names for the purpose of group transportation to and fro the Awka AGM, he changed the title and said they were people who demanded that the president and the board should be sacked. And within two weeks when the people got to know that their names had been shown everywhere, they wrote to the president that they’re not aware of anything like that. So we’re very used to the gimmicks of these people.
At the end of the day, we didn’t hold Awka election. The people were still in court, saying the board had expired, but the court said that the board couldn’t have expired, that we should go back because as they were suing in Port Harcourt that the board had expired, in Lagos we also sued Adam-Otite that he had no powers for an EGM in Warri. And Adam-Otite, having no powers to call for an EGM, and having been told by the court that he had no powers to call for an EGM, and he went ahead to call for an EGM, and when the EGM held, they went on to appoint president in person of Mr Malgwi and other people as board members. We found out that they’re really lawless people. The Act is very explicit about the difference between EGM and AGM, and the limit of what you can do in any of these gatherings. So we are familiar with their gimmicks.
The meeting at Utako did not produce result because Malgwi had told everybody that he would not contest. And the first election of the institute couldn’t hold in 2016. And some people went to court in this institute to ask the court to tell them who the legitimate leaders of the institute are. They did this because Adam-Otite had formed a new leadership headed by Malgwi with him as Registrar, whereas he had been sacked as registrar as at that time. The court said the board headed by Ilodiuba is the authentic board. When they went to serve them papers for this case, Adam-Otite refused to pick the paper. He was denying being Adam-Otite when the bailiff met him at the address that he wrote in all his documents with the institute. So after a frustrating experience by the bailiffs and the court, they decided that he should be served by process of substitution. So they said they should paste it where he normally stays or comes. It was pasted in that house where they met him and he denied. They pasted at the gate of ISPON at Ikotun. We also went to paste at Ikotun roundabout. Imagine that! We also pasted at market master’s office in case he came to market so that he could read it. We also pasted at the back of one of these big buses. It would be going with it so that, peradventure it met Adam-Otite anywhere, he would be able to read it. So we fulfilled the court’s instruction. Dr Ilodiuba was called to the court, docked and questioned in the court process because he was one of those sued. Adam-Otite was one of those sued. But the fact that Adam-Otite had brought a board which included Yusuf Malgwi and other 11 or 12 persons, the court in its ruling listed all of them as parties in its judgement that they’ve no role to play in ISPON leadership. But today, a very terrible argument is on the ground. Malgwi is saying that he was not a party to the originating summons so why should he be a party or cited in the ruling? Forgetting that what the court was hearing was a prayer to stop some persons who are so elected or appointed to hold positions from holding that position and he was one of them. So you can imagine whether we can all be acting deliberately mischievous claiming not to be knowledgeable and sitting in the midst of knowledgeable people. We didn’t see the soundness or the rationale behind that argument. And he is saying that that is the reason why he cannot recognise the judgement. Another reason (he gave) is that Adam-Otite is still the registrar. But Adam-Otite is registrar in his phantom board. And he is still saying that Adam-Otite is registrar in ISPON. So is Adam-Otite registrar in both sides? That means that Adam-Otite is also registrar in Ikotun Market Women Association and everywhere.
We said no it is not possible. You must obey the court ruling. On the 24th after the Utako garden failure, he called for a meeting on the 27th. And it was held at Tokyo Hotel in Port Harcourt. And that was also a failure because that one was conceived with very damaging, mischievous plans to call in the president and offer him money to knock off all the cases with the EFCC. Right now as I speak, the EFCC is looking into ISPON finances. And it was one of them who went to report the president to EFCC, saying that he gave the president N47 million. And the EFCC looking through the account could not see N47 million. So they asked him (Ilodiuba), ‘Where is it?’ And the president said, ‘Ask the man who told you to tell you where he put it’. And the man now said, ‘No, I put it ISPON Account and he should account to me’.
And that is absurdity. So if ISPON is running its administration using its funds at its disposal, they will now come and account to one person somewhere? Is it not ridiculous? So that is the level of intelligence exhibited by these our friends. And we in deep sorrow, feeling for them, asked them to stop, that they are going too far, beyond redemption. We asked, ‘Why don’t you come back as the prodigal son?’ The father of the prodigal son did not go looking for the prodigal son. The prodigal son came back by himself. But we have even gone out looking for them. Each time we try to drag them home, they want to drag us into the bush. We had to let go and seek the assistance of those who are good at hunting for people who are in the bush. So that is where we’ve found ourselves.
On the 27th at Tokyo Hotel, they offered the president some inducement – money – and we said no, what is it for? If you know you have any money which you want to return to the institute, which belong to the institute, send it to the institute’s account; send it to the same account where you put that N47 million you are claiming.
When they got to Abuja, they didn’t say N47 million again. They said it’s N40 million. I don’t know when they made a discount of N7 million. We didn’t ask for discount but they gave. So there are a lot of issues there. And I said if the reason of calling for this meeting is to come and offer us money, we’re not interested. So they said, ‘No, it’s not about offering money; we’re just saying that instead of this thing to cause trouble, let’s just see how to strike a balance and you withdraw all the cases.’ They are now claiming that they have a case with EFCC against the president, yet they are asking the president to withdraw the case against them at the EFCC so they could also withdraw. But we told them, ‘You have no case to withdraw, just like you have no seat to occupy’. In 2016, Malgwi was asked to contest and go on as deputy president so that at the end of his second tenure he could run for any other thing but he said he was not ready to repeat a class. And I told him that there’s nothing like repeating a class. And I am sure that the police hierarchy told him that also. But today he is facing the reality. Even the school where the class used to be has been demolished. There’s no class to be repeated.
After 27th of September, we agreed again to another meeting – you can see how unrelenting we’ve been in trying to seek peace. We had the other meeting on the 1st of October. While Nigerians were celebrating Independence, we’re coming together to salvage our friends from a compulsive self-destruction which they were heading to. Worse thing is that Malgwi said that he would not recognise that court ruling and the meeting scattered. One of the requests he made was that Mr Adam-Otite should be restored as registrar of ISPON and Mr Aborode should be thrown away. Mr Aborode has been the registrar and he was shifted and Adam-Otite came in from nowhere. And we normalised the institute when Adam-Otite was sacked. But they’re asking us to go to pre-2016 era which he (Malgwi) vowed not to repeat as a class. Today, he wants to enrol in the school that has been demolished because the board that existed pre-2016 is not the board that is there today. And now we have agreed as at the 3rd of October when we went to give the police high command the brief of all these numerous overtures by our peace-loving board members and president.
The police said you are to hold an election before the end of October by this your Act. You had election in 2017 and that was the first election of the institute. The second election is due under this Act by October 28th. Now Malgwi is saying he’s not interested in contesting and he doesn’t want Ilodiuba to contest. And Ilodiuba said, ‘Who are you to tell me whether to contest or not? Maybe the group you belong has told you not to contest but ISPON will determine whether I contest or not and if the law permits me, I will.’ That was our last statement at that place – the Special Fraud Unit – on the 3rd of October. Ilodiuba said, ‘We’re ready to allow you people to participate in the election – those of you who want position from the group that has gone astray. But you must fulfil certain requirements.’
And the police said to Malgwi: Go, obey the court ruling and recognise Nnamdi Ilodiuba as the president of ISPON and the board that he is chairing as the board of the institute and do what they told you. Account for the monies. Let all those people who were illegitimate and made illegitimate money in the name of the institute come back and tell the institute what they’ve done. If the institute wants to forgive them, the institute will decide. But they must show that they are willing to subject themselves to corporate discipline. And that was what happened and we left Abuja. On leaving Abuja, we agreed even in front of the SFU that we’re going to meet on Monday, October 7th and after that come on Wednesday, October 9th to give final brief to the police high command. The meeting of Monday, October 7th is expected to be when they (Malgwi’s group) will give us the report of their activities and those of them that want to participate in the election that will be coming up this month of October will be free to contest. We offered that once they comply by these things, the expulsion order may be lifted on them. You can see the magnanimity in our willingness and readiness to accommodate them through concessions and that’s where we stopped. We’re waiting for Monday, October 7th when we’ll be together at a meeting in Port Harcourt and when we expect them to do the needful as prescribed by law. If we’re going to apply discretion it will be tied to their humility and willingness to subject themselves to corporate discipline and that is the position. We love them. They are our friends. We don’t love what they are doing. We are not willing to throw away the baby with the bathwater. But if the baby has scabies, we may not carry the baby.