REJOINDER: I’M NOW VINDICATED
I’m High Chief Peter Oge Obi Dim Ogbuagu Awka-Etiti (Okaka Jesus), and the Chairman of Awka-Etiti Improvement Union (AIU) Lagos Branch. I have served my motherland Awka-Etiti meritoriously and in several capacities. I served Awka-Etiti during the administrations of Patrick Nwokike, Linus Okafor, John Unachukwu, and the current administration of Joachim Okeke.
Under the administration of Patrick Nwokike, I solicited for funds from fellow Awka-etitians including my own contribution to buy 2 (two) security vans for the town. I also worked assiduously to organize the first Awka-Etiti luncheon in Lagos to raise funds for the development of Awka-Etiti which was adjudged by all and sundry to be a huge success, and other numerous achievements under Linus Okafor’s administration. During the administrations of John Unachukwu, it was Lagos Branch under my leadership that formulated the policies that made his tenure as President –General (PG) the most successful during these 21 years of rotational office of President-General.
I’m at quandary, why the present PG would fathom the thought that I want to sabotage his administration; after my past efforts to ensure that previous administrations succeeded during their tenures. The Present President-General, Joachim Okeke should answer this soul provoking question; I, can categorically say without ‘blowing my trumpet, that I, Dim Ogbuagu is one of the few individual that possess a deep passion for Awka-Etti. I and the PG differed on several issues and at logger-heads when I discovered that Joachim Okeke was doing the biddings of some cabal in Awka-Etiti who had hijacked his administration.
After the election of Joachim Okeke, and from my privileged and vantage position as a Senior Customs broker, a member of CRFFN and a member of his executive, I became aware of the Anambra State Government’s intent on importing 2,000 shuttle buses through a company. These buses were to be shipped in Batches. A Revered Father who visited me also corroborated this information and this coincided with the State Government’s prohibition of commercial motorcycles (‘Okada’) in Onitsha metropolis. The Reverend gentleman further disclosed to me that any Okada rider that can pay the sum of =N=600,000.00(Six hundred thousand naira) would take possession of a shuttle bus. This was done as a palliative measure to cushion the effect of the ban on Okada in Onitsha. I then informed Joachim Okeke and put forward this proposal to him , that, he can persuade 30 prominent persons in Awka-Etiti including myself to contribute =N=1,000,000.00( one million naira) each and the money deposited with the government in return for 50 units of shuttle buses which any prospective youth will apply on a hire purchase scheme. This proposed scheme was meant to act as poverty alleviation project to empower our indigent youths so as to dissuade most of them, who are no longer interested in business apprenticeship but in the worship of idols.
The question I poised to Joachim Okeke is; what he has done with the proposal? As, of the time of writing this rejoinder, The President –General Joachim Okeke had not acted on this proposal. If I did not want the PG administration to succeed as alleged by him and his cohorts in his press statement. I would not have given him the aforementioned proposal.
I don’t want to join issues with Joachim Okeke or provoke any trouble with him. I just want to clear some misconceptions that were alleged in his press statement of 9th May 2020.
LOCK –UP SHOPS
This administration came into office in November 2017 through an election and on December 2017, barely 1 (one) month, he started announcing the sale of the lock-up shops through town criers. It is noteworthy that it was John Unachukwu’s administration that conceived the idea to reconstruct the lock up shops; he constructed the new lock-up shops and allocated the shops to fully paid subscribers of the shops before the expiration of his tenure as President-General.
HOW THE MONEY FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE LOCKUP SHOPS WAS SOURCED /GENERATED.
The present Eke Market was formally called “Odu Igbo’ until 1977-78 when the Awka-Etiti youth league led by the then late Chief Francis Ezimuo offered to rebuild ‘Eke Market’ through a launching and from the proceeds realized therein. It can be gleaned from the above brief history that Awka-Etiti community was the proprietary owners of the shops; as a consequent thereof, the community money was utilized to construct the lock-up shops. That after the reconstruction, and in a General meeting of AIU, members therein unanimously decided that the mode for allocating the newly constructed lockup shops shall be by balloting that was in 1978.
During the tenure of John Unachukwu as President-General, the executives decided to reconstruct the Eke market into a fully fledged market. A time frame of 1 year was given to the initial allot tees in the 1978 ballot to pay the sum of =N=500,000.00(five hundred thousand naira). Those who could not pay the aforesaid sum of =N=500,000.00(five hundred thousand naira) shall be compensated with the sum of =N=200,000.00 (two hundred thousand naira) and forfeit their shops. After the 1 year period given to the initial allotees to pay the required sum had elapsed, those who did not pay forfeited their shops to the AIU. From the foregoing, these allotees can be classified into three (3) groups: the first group were the initial subscribers who paid the sum of =N=500,000.00; the second group those who couldn’t pay within the time frame and were compensated and their shops forfeited to AIU and the third group were the those initial alllotees who sat on the fence thinking that the executives would embezzle their money; so they did not pay (‘siddon dey look’). Thereafter, the AIU in a general meeting offered the proposed shops to be constructed to interested indigenes.
I then beseeched members of the Lagos Branch of AIU to subscribe and enumerated to them the benefit of subscribing for the shops which is an avenue to develop Awka-Etiti into a commercial town like its neighbours. Many members of the Branch heeded my clarion call and subscribed for proposed lock up shops.
From the content of Paragraph 1 of the PG’s press statements, I’m being aware for the first time that the total number of constructed shops was 228; because when at the initial stage, when I first asked the PG for the total number of lock up shops he feigned ignorance of the number of shops constructed. He only gave assurances that the shops were sufficient for the entire subscribers. When I asked the past PG, he informed me that the shops located downstairs have been allocated to fully paid subscribers and there were no vacant shops. That was when I knew there was an impending trouble.
Also, there is this misconception contained in paragraph 2 therein that his administration was besieged with plethora of petitions arising from the lock up shops and that a crisis was brewing up. If the PG’s office was besieged with petitions bordering on the lock up shops, the intelligent thing to do was to invite the previous administration to clarify the impasse. As an executive member of AIU, I had not heard of these purported petitions. I had advised the PG that he should jettison his acrimony towards John Unachukwu’s administration because he supported the PG’s opponent during the election. That he had to bury the hatchet and work towards the general wellbeing of the community. Rather, the PG inaugurated a committee to investigate the construction of the lock –up shops in which they recommended the revocation of all allottees of the lock up shops without compensation for the subscribers who had paid and would be unsuccessful at the ballot whose money were used for the construction of the lock-up shops. That the third group who were on the fence and upon hearing this administration’s announcement in December 2017, they quickly went and paid money for the fully subscribed shops. The pertinent question is how the PG would allocate shops to this group of subscribers without overreaching the fully paid subscribers whose money were used to construct the completed shops.
That contrary to the assertions contained in paragraph 5 therein; when on the 5th of January 2018, barely six (6) weeks in office, the present PG inaugurated the committee. This suggests that before he assumed office, he had started receiving petitions. Taking into consideration, the first meeting of his administration was held on 5th January 2018.
Another evidence of the PG’s attempt to run a vindictive administration is the inauguration of the ‘Eke Crises Committee’ on the said 5th of January 2018 and subsequent deletion of the names assigned to the individual lock-up shops (Plazas A-H) by the previous administration in the month of March/April 2018. This incident occurred before the ‘Eke Crises Committee’ had submitted its report in the month of April 2018 which recommended therein the outright revocation of subscribers who were allotted shops. That the Eke Crises Committee should have been given a term of reference to recommend how to generate funds to refund fully paid subscribers whose money were used to construct the Lock up shops. It would now be obvious to all and sundry that Awka-Etiti community is the owner of the lockup shops thus giving the AIU the impetus to revoke and allocate the lock-up shops the way they deem fit.
For avoidance of doubt, there is nothing like original owners, the people refereed as original owners in the PG’s press statement are initial allotees. Awka-Etiti community is the legal owners of the shops; for they are the owners of the land.
When the crises resolution committee submitted its report during the April meetings, 3 months after the inauguration committee revoked the entire allocation done by the previous administration. The Lagos Branch of AIU unanimously rejected the aforementioned revocation and thereby agreed that the initial allotee who had paid the stipulated money before expiration period should retain their shops. That it would not permit any allotee who did not pay as at when due to retain his shops that anything else would be tantamount to overreaching fully paid subscribers of the lock up shops whose money were used to construct the entire lock-up shops. I want to correct another misconception contained in the PG’s press statement, there is nothing like applicants to the shops but subscribers who have fully paid for the shops whose money were used to construct the entire lock up shops.
I’m of the opinion that government is a continuum and the present administration of Joachim Okeke should adhere strictly to mode of executing project set out by the previous administration. Further, as Chairman of AIU Lagos Branch, I can categorically inform you that most of the subscribers to the lock up shops were members of the branch and their grievances should be assiduously addressed.
That contrary to the assertions contained in paragraph 8, 9, 10, 11 & 12 of the PG’s press statement; before the Annual General meeting of 27th October 2018, I had pleaded with the PG to return the monies each subscriber from Lagos branch paid for the lock up shops so that the Central committee can do as they wish. The PG refused my entreaties to return the monies. The question I posited to the PG was, what excuse would I render to the unsuccessfully subscribers who failed to be allocated shops during the ballot, and their monies not returned to them. He could not provide any credible answer to the question. The subscribers from Lagos who paid for the shops did so because of my influence and assurances. As you are aware, it was due to my influence and clarion call for donations to be given to Awka-Etitians who were victims of the recent fire inferno at Ochanga market in Onitsha in which many illustrious sons of Awka-Etiti responded with monetary donations for the victims’ relief. This effort of mine put smile back on their faces. If I remain quiet and allow this injustice perpetrated by this administration to persist; my reputation as a community leader would be adversely affected. That is why I took the various actions; it was not meant to undermine the PG administration as alleged in his press statement but to preserve my integrity. It is worthy to note that I have only I(one) shop downstairs and I(one) upstairs, and not the whole shops as alleged by some mischief makers.
That the idea of revocation of the allocated shops and balloting of same by this administration was baseless as the money used to construct the shops was generated from monies paid by the subscribers, and not from AIU coffers. The subscribers were issued receipts and certificate of ownership by the previous administration. What the PG should have done was to convene a meeting of all the subscribers to the lock up shop, deliberate with them on a way out of the impasse instead he inaugurated this committee because of his vindictive agenda to investigate and probe the former administration of John Unachukwu. It is noteworthy that 3 (three) years have elapsed and no evidence of financial impropriety has been found against John Unachukwu’s administration. “ Ochu Nwa Okuko Nwe ada”.
That contrary to the assertions contained in paragraph 13 therein, and for avoidance of doubt, the petition refereed in the said paragraph was written by Lagos Branch of AIU and not Chief Peter Oge Obi. On the 28th of February 2019, I was in Awka-Etiti for the funeral of Chief Ben Ekechukwu.I attended the outing service at St Joseph Catholic Church; the following announcement was made during mass service as follow: ‘that all original owners of the lock up shops should congregate at AIU Hall on the 6th of March 2019 to be reallocated back their shops’ that as a member of the AIU Central Executive, I was hearing this information for the first time. I wondered if members of the executive committee that took this decision to return the shops to the initial allotees considered the ramifications of their actions regardless of my objections and unanswered question I posited to the PG regarding if the AIU would return the money paid by unsuccessful subscribers at the ballot.
The following day, I went straight to Eke Market to find out if there was a new foundation being constructed by this administration; so that I can have an excuse to provide to AIU Lagos branch members who subscribed to the shops and were unsuccessful at the ballot. To my amazement I did not see any sign of construction. Thereafter, I lodge a complaint with the Obi of Awka-Etti; he too was amazed. He informed me that he heard the announcement for the first time in church and had no previous notice of this new development concerning the lock up shops.
I then notified my fellow executives of AIU Lagos branch, the Secretary and legal adviser all travelled down to Awka-Etiti on Wednesday. Due to the urgency of the situation on ground, we concluded that the only option was to lodge a complaint with the police to forestall this illegal action (the allocation of the shops to the initial allotees) by the PG and his cohorts. That after we lodged the compliant, we informed the members of the AIU Lagos branch, they unanimously gave their consent to the actions of the executives and advised us to seek legal action in court.
That we decided not to seek legal action because there was a pending action in court in respect of the lock up shops by some aggrieved Naaba indigenes. I had on several occasions advised the PG on the way to resolve this impasse but my advice was disregarded by the PG. That when I was approached to withdraw the petition lodged at police, I told them I would only withdraw the petition on the condition that the PG retracts the announcement returning the shops to the initial allotees. During the meetings to resolve the impasse; the meeting turned nasty and petty as nefarious remarks and insults were assailed at me by the legal adviser to the PG. I came to understand that the aforesaid insults were instigated by the PG. I categorically state that there was no resolution of the impasse because I refused that the subscribers to the lock-up shops be overreached. If we did not act swiftly to stop the reinstatement of the initial allotees to the lockup shops as planned by The PG and his cohorts. Their actions would have benefited the third (3rd) group of subscribers who stood at the fence when the offer for subscriptions was open during John Unachukwu’s administration.
That I want to clear some misconceived assertions contained in paragraph 6 of the PG’s press statement which is about the five Naaba indigenes that instituted a legal action against the AIU executives was an sign of lack of respect for the AIU executives. For avoidance of doubt, I know that it is the constitutional right of an aggrieved person who is affected by the unlawful actions /decisions of the AIU to seek redress in a court of law. There is nothing in the AIU constitution that precludes any member from instituting an action in court to assert his legal rights.
From the assertions contained in paragraph 17, it is evident that the PG, all along had been economical with the truth. The contents thereof have vindicated me and my actions. I knew from the onset that the newly constructed shops would not be sufficient for the fully paid subscribers whose money were used to construct the entire lock-up shops. That the new subscribers’ who paid as a consequence of the present PG’s announcement would not have any shops allocated to them since the constructed shops had been allocated to the subscribers by the previous administration. The PG should have used the money realized from 3rd group of subscribers who heeded the PG’s announcement to build new lock-up shops.
That in all the meetings held in respect of the lock up shops brouhaha including the meetings held with the Obi Awka-Etiti; the PG and his executives had been informing everyone that the shops would be sufficient for all the subscribers as contained in paragraph 17 of his press statement. My question is why the sudden change in the PG’s position? Now the PG has decided to tell Awka-Etitians the truth. If Lagos AIU branch did not petition the police to stop your illegal action, what excuse would you have uttered for your failure to allot the shops to all the subscribers? Whose monies were used to construct the entire lock-up shops? Would you have told them to take solace in the Lord that mass has ended? I have been vindicated. From the onset, nobody stopped the AIU executives from constructing the new shops at Nkolofia –Awka-Etiti road axis rather financial impropriety by some avarice members of the AIU executives, did so. That all along the PG had been misleading everyone including the Obi of Awka-Etiti that the shops were sufficient for the entire subscribers. From the onset, I knew that the shops would not be sufficient for the entire subscribers. Why then result to balloting: that is the million dollar question. In the PG press statement, he informed the people of Awka-Etiti, the truth, that the already constructed lock up shops would not be sufficient for the entire subscribers thus exonerating me as contained in paragraph 17 of the PG press statement.
It is no secret that there is resentment and bickering during AIU meetings particularly between the Treasurer and other executives. Their grouse with the Treasurer is that he had prevented some avaricious AIU executives from fleecing the AIU treasury. There is evidential proof of this financial impropriety in the form of a letter written by the Treasurer to the Awka-Etti community Bank not to release new AIU cheque booklet to the executive as the Union’s cheque book had not been exhausted. Due to the notoriety of the financial impropriety that existed amongst the AIU executives, the treasurer informed his Umudum kinsmen; as a consequence thereof, the umudum village community issued a communiqué signed by the entire umuna in Umudum that they would not pay any AIU dues or levies until an independent audit of the financial books of AIU. That is the reason for the AIU’s inability to construct new shops at Nkolofia and not their insidious attempt to use Chief peter Oge Obi as a scapegoat for their failure.
In contending the assertions contained in paragraph 18 of the PG’s press statement. The PG is again economical with the truth. The PG had no time agreed that the newly constructed lock up shops would be insufficient. All along, the PG had been saying that the shops would be sufficent for all the subscribers. If the PG and his cohorts had agreed from the onset that the newly constructed lock up shops would be insufficient for all the subscribers; this impasse would have been resolved. Then, there would be no need to inaugurate the Father Justin Ileka Committee.
That contrary to the assertion contained in paragraph 19 of the PG’s press statement. The whole assertion thereof is filled with falsehood. As far as I’m aware, there is no court injunction stopping the AIU to construct new shops. The bone of contention had always been with the already constructed lock up shops. From the onset, I had advised the AIU executives to go ahead and construct new lock up shops with new subscribers’ money.
In response to the PG’s assertions contained in paragraph 20 of his Press statements, I know of a fact that there was a committee constituted in August 2019and headed by Reverend Justin Ileka. In a meeting held at the palace of the Obi Awka-Etiti. We unanimously agreed to reconvene on 4th January 2020 for Father Ileka to submit its committee’s recommendations. The PG had always maintained that the lock-ups were sufficient for the entire subscribers thereto. If the PG had disclosed then that the shops won’t be sufficient, abi nitio, this impasse would not have arisen
The AIU executives met at Igwe Okagbado’s palace on January 4th 2020. Prior to the date of the meeting, I asked representatives of the Lagos AIU Branch in the person of Chief I.k.B Igbabugo and I.K. Ibeto who were members of Father ileka’s committee; they informed me that the committee did not sit throughout the month of November 2019. As of 20th December 2019, the Committee did not sit; neither did they invite the aggrieved Lagos branch members who subscribed for the shops to undergo verification exercise that is why I objected to the submission of the report. I also know that Father Ileka plagiarized verbatim the report submitted by the Eke Market Crises Committee on 26th May 2018 and passed it off as the findings its committee, which he presented to the committee selected by the OBI of Awka-Etiti to resolve the impasse.
My candid advice to the AIU executives is as follows:
- That the AIU can commence construction of the new lock up shops situated at the Nkolofia –Awka-Etiti axis.
- Regarding the already constructed shops by john Unachukwu’s administration; it is sub judice unless the suit is withdrawn from the court.
- I have come to the conclusion that Engr. Ezeudi is the only member in the AIU executive that have the well-being of Awka-Etiti at heart. That is why the corrupt executives were continually attacking him.
- I further advise the PG that next time he is opportune to assume any position of leadership; he should pick credible advisers who can proffer him with candid advice. That is why governors periodically undertake self evaluation of their achievements while in office to determine when to reshuffle cabinet so as not to allow sycophants derail his administration and negatively impact his political legacy.
- Furthermore, I leave you with this biblical scripture, ‘Can the blind lead the Blind, if the blind lead the blind both will fall into the ditch.’ This is the circumstances the PG has found himself.
First and foremost, the lock-up shops that was built by money generated from funds realized from fully paid subscribers unlike in 1977 through launching and donations ;in 1977, balloting was necessary because Awka-Etiti’ community money was used in constructing the shops.
In the instant, subscribers’ money was used to construct the shops and balloting should not be mentioned. Peradventure, the shops were oversubscribed, the right to thing to do, is to allocate shops on first payment basis.
My initial stand remains as follows:
- That the AIU should convene a stakeholders’ meeting to seek a way forward out of this present impasse; just as the previous administration did.
- The AIU should sue the money realized from subscribers during the present PG’s administration to construct additional shops at Nkolofia road axis.
- That I would be the last person to support any form of injustice against my fellow Awka-Etitians.
- If the PG had agreed to my candid advise from the onset to use the money realized from new subscribers who paid based on the new announcement calling for indigenes to pay for lock –up shops in December 2018 to construct new shops , this impasse would not have arisen.
- If the PG had for once informed the house that the shops were insufficient, we should have used the same method we adopted during John Unachukwu’s administration; by now, we could have completed the construction of the new shops and allotted same to the subscribers who were not allotted shops.
High Chief Peter Oge Obi.