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The Real Issues in Imo NUJ

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By Amby Uneze

The Imo State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists popularly known as Imo NUJ is a branch of the NUJ at the national level with headquarters in Abuja. It has upto 20 chapels among which include Correspondents’ (comprises all the National/International print and electronic media houses with headquarters outside Imo State), Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC/Orient TV), Radio Nigeria, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Horn Newspaper, Newspoint Newspaper, Announcer Newspaper, Trumpta Newspaper, The Moment Newspaper, Nigerian Watchdog Newspaper, National Newsbreak Newspaper, Nigerian Frontline Newspaper, Hot FM Radio, Nigerian Statesman Newspaper, State Ministry of Information, Federal Ministry of Information, White Paper newspaper, etc.

The Constitution of NUJ mandates each chapel to have an independent executive with the Chairmen and Secretaries of all the chapels make-up of the State Executive Council (SEC) where important decisions pertaining to the welfare of the members are taken. In this case, no single decision concerning members or the affairs of the union in the state can be discussed or reached for implementation without the State Executive Council collectively agreeing to it can be meaningfully carried out. Anything outside the tenets of the NUJ Constitution becomes null, void and of no effect whatsoever.

For clarity’s sake, especially for those who are not abreast of the current happenings in Imo NUJ, it is imperative to educate them so that everybody would be on the same page when an issue of its leadership is discussed. However, I may not delve into the matter deeply because it is still in the court of competent jurisdiction, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) sitting in Owerri, the Imo State capital.

Be that as it may, however, it is pertinent to draw some clarifications on what brought the Imo NUJ leadership to standstill since July14, 2018 when its substantive executive for the next three years was supposed to have been elected. The Constitution stipulated that elections shall be held every three years through what is called ‘triennial delegates conference’ and NOT by selection or appointment. It is very clear to state this point boldly that SINCE 14TH JULY, 2018 Imo NUJ is operating on a vacuum, without ELECTED STATE EXECUTIVE and has not held any State Congress (Meeting) of any kind.

When the Triennial delegates conference slated for 14th July 2018 by the Credentials Committee led by one Eze Adukwu as Chairman and Vivian Oti (the current State Chairperson of Nigerian Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) – an arm of NUJ – as Secretary respectively was halfway aborted, a three-man Caretaker Committee was appointed to oversee the activities of the State NUJ pending the conclusion of the election within three months. Unfortunately, the Francis Ebonugwo-led caretaker committee was unable to conclude the election within stipulated period of which an extension of time was also added so as to conclude the election, it couldn’t as well. It is important to note here that the Eze Adikwu and Vivian Oti’s credential committee as at July 14, 2018 had declared three positions out of seven unopposed.

Three candidates were cleared to contest for the position for the office of the State Chairman. They are my humble self – Sir Amby Uneze, Lambert Ojukwu and Chris Akaronye. Till date none of us has been elected as State Chairman of Imo NUJ because that election slated for July 14, 2018 had remained inconclusive. Since the Caretaker Committee had remained recalcitrant to conclude the election, and on perceiving that there were subtle moves by the then Rochas Okorocha’s government to interfere and appoint Akaronye the substantive chairman, even when he is a retiree and pensioner, I and Lambert Ojukwu approached the Nigerian Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) to mandate the caretaker committee to conclude the election.

On the last sitting of the court, the presiding judge directed that parties should seek a way to settle the lingering matter out of court, but would commence trial on the merit of the matter if parties fail to reconcile by the next adjourned date of November 24th, 2020.

From the foregoing, any sane mind will know that the purported suspension of the Imo NUJ Chairmanship candidates in the persons of Sir Amby Uneze and Elder Lambert Ojukwu for exercising their constitutional freedom of expression, as guests of Oziza Fm radio station by another candidate Chris Akaronye is nothing but a sham, null and void.

However, in reaction to the purported suspension of the two renowned leaders of the union, the Elder Lambert Ojukwu and Sir Amby Uneze –  led Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Integrity group that enjoys the massive support and solidarity of majority of practicing journalists in Imo State, subsequently suspended Chris Akaraonye for dragging the image of the noble Journalism profession to the mud and bring it to disrepute before the general public.

A release issued by Sunny Sparkle Ejiogu stated that the Imo NUJ Integrity group, led by Elder Lambert Ojukwu and Sir Amby Uneze, in a meeting held in Owerri, on Tuesday resolved to suspend Chris Akaraonye “for several unethical conducts that, aside bringing disrepute to the union, projects it in bad light”.

It also warned members of the public “to be careful and avoid being victims of extortion and other manipulative antics of Akaraonye and his cohorts who have packaged and are presently calling for nomination from different categories of illegitimate awards aimed at raising money to assuage their pecuniary inclinations at the expense of the unsuspecting members of the public.

“The Nigeria Union of Journalists as a professional body of decent and responsible people is not known for frivolous and indiscriminate proliferation of questionable awards on people”.

Again, news has filtered that the imposing Secretariat of the Imo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) known as “Imo NUJ Secretariat” situated along Port Harcourt Road (Commissioners Quarters) Owerri, opposite Owerri Hotel Plaza is about being leased out or sold to an interested buyer by the illegal group led by Chris Akaraonye despite the fact that the union is in court over the “inconclusiveness” of the Union’s election,

It was gathered that the premises which was allowed to decay by the previous regime of Innocent Igwe allegedly had been penciled down for lease for 50 years at N20 million.

In another development, Imo Journalists under the auspices of Imo NUJ Integrity group condemned the action of the Christopher Akaronye group for purporting to have suspended Comrade Lambert Ojukwu and Sir Amby Uneze for speaking out the injustices done by the Akaronye’s group.

The Imo NUJ Integrity group said that Akaronye’s group has no locus standi to suspend any practicing Journalist in the State, adding “there is no NUJ Exco in Imo, therefore, whatever anybody or group does under the umbrella of NUJ in Imo state is null, void and of no effect whatsoever”.

The group recalled that since the aborted election to elect executive members of the Imo NUJ on July 14, 2018, there had not been any substantive election, insisting that “until a credible election is held where all the stakeholders and candidates would be freely allowed to exercise their legitimate franchise anything short of that remains illegal”.

They however, urged the public to discountenance the purported suspension of the two leaders that have contributed immensely towards the growth of journalism profession in the country, as “we are confident that the Court being the last hope of the masses would do justice to it”.

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