By Our Correspondent
There was palpable tension at the Ernest Etim-Bassey Press Center of the Cross River State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists on Saturday over the rerun election ordered by a Calabar Court.
The election ended in a fiasco following the inability of the National Secretary of NUJ, Shuaibu Leiman to conduct the election in line with the court judgement and has been postponed indefinitely.
The National Industrial Court had on February 24th 2016 in a judgement presided over by Justice Agbakoba sacked Mr. Ndoma Akpet as Chairman, Gill Nsa as Secretary and Ursula Ikpali as Treasurer.
She ruled that the National Secretary of the Union must conduct election within 30 days for those three offices without the sacked excos.
The National Secretary had appointed the Sam Egbala led caretaker committee to oversee the union and conduct the elections in line with the court pronouncement.
That the election, fixed for April 2nd, 2016 was now for seven offices instead of three offices the court ordered according to a senior journalist and ex-chairman of the union was a clear violation of the court judgement.
But another journalist in Calabar who also pleaded not to be named said that “The court judgement that dislodged the previous exco and ordered this election disbanded the entire exco and made all the office vacant and only stopped three of the erstwhile excos from re-contesting. So the caretaker committee is right to conduct election for all the offices.”
Crisis ensured when the delegates list which was expected to be pasted for claims and objections long before the election generated protest by members.
“As early as 7am we were here to see the delegates list and up till 12noon, neither the Caretaker Committee nor the representative of the National Secretary, Mr. Nwem James, could produce the delegates list until members began to complain then Nwem James later produced a “concocted” delegate lists which did not go down well with members and clearly negates the judgement of the court.” One of the NUJ delegates told CrossRiverWatch.
Fake Delegates List:
The harmonized delegates lists pasted by the caretaker committee according to CrossRiverWatch findings comprises of non journalists than practising qualified members especially from the Ministry of Information, Correspondents and the Nigerian Chronicle Chapels while Median Chapel (a local newspaper owned by the Ebris since 1990 till date) was completely expunged.
The list according to one of the veterans was polluted with retired workers, dead members, newly employed staff that are yet to be confirmed and many others who were not professionally qualified and that this negates the letters and spirit of the court judgement.
Election Ends in a Fiasco:
The Ernest Etim Bassey Council Hall of the Press Center venue of the election hall was filled to capacity as members were eager to see their names on the delegates list.
Mr. Nwem James, the representative of the National Secretary who was to conduct the election after addressing members on what he was sent to do, was seen as being partisan by members due to his approach to all the constitutional issues raised during the meeting which he said were “not as important as election. The only administrative head of NUJ today is the National Secretary and he has directed me to come and conduct election in Cross River State and I must conduct the election no matter the circumstance.
“The National Secretary position on this exercise can be seen as the Supreme Court which is Final. Those (referring to some veterans who asked him to do the right thing) shouting here are miscreants who have no electoral value and I will get police to arrest them for me to conduct the elections.” He said.
Police, DSS Were Civil:
A team of the Nigerian Police led by the DPO of the State Housing Police Station, CrossRiverWatch observed were civil in providing the needed security while the argument lasted.
They were seen on ground to maintain law and order and not interfering in the internal affairs of the union. Even when the National Officer called the Police Public Relations Officer PPRO, John Eluu to mobilize his men to send out members for his preferred delegates, the PPRO told him (Nwem) of the fundamental human rights of the people to vote and be voted for in line with the Nigerian constitution and the need for the police not to be seen as disobeying the ruling of the court which supersedes the NUJ Constitution.
Also the personnel deployed by the Department of State Security Services were seen playing their lawful roles.
Veterans/Senior Journalists Stage Walk Out
Some senior journalists led by High Chief Victor Effiom and Ntufam Oqua Itu staged a walk out after the representative of the National Secretary, Nwem James said he will conduct the election whether the court order was obeyed or not.
The veterans who were visibly disappointed with this pronouncement however advised the Union and the National Secretariat of the consequences of disobeying the court order.
They advised the Union to always do the right thing at all time in line with the laid down rules and regulations.
Election Postponed Indefinitely:
The election was consequently postponed indefinitely due to the position of some members who insisted on the need to do the right things in line with the court judgement and Constitution of the Union.
The Sam Egbala and Uduak Ikang-Obeten led caretaker committee members allegedly smuggled the election materials out to an unknown destination before the indefinite postponement was announced by Nwem James, the representative of the National Secretary.
Since You Are Here, Support Good Journalism
CrossRiverWatch was founded on the ideals of deploying tech tools to report in an ethical manner, news, views and analysis with a narrative that ensures transparency in governance, a good society and an accountable democracy.
Everyone appreciates good journalism but it costs a lot of money. Nonetheless, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of news commercialisation.
Consider making a modest contribution to support CrossRiverWatch's journalism of credibility and integrity in order to ensure that all have continuous free access to our noble endeavor.