The ongoing feud between two parties of the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) has been a source of concern to all stakeholders. Efforts to come to a truce have been stalemated.
In this interview with HSENations, Engr Timothy Iwuagwu, bares it all on the current state of things. Excerpts.
FOR THE BENEFIT OF OUR READERS, CAN WE GET TO KNOW YOU?
My name is Engr. Timothy Iwuagwu, National spokesman, ISPON. I am an Occupational Health, Safety, Security and Environment professional and trainer with many years of experience. I retired from the Nigerian Navy in 2012, after 31 years of diligent and meritorious service in which I occupied positions such H.O.D in the Security and Safety Practices Management Department at the Management Courses Wing of Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, Lagos (2007 – 2011) and Administrative Chief Naval Taskforce on Maritime Security to Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base(2011 – 2012). I was also a Senior Instructor at both the Marine Engineering and the Nuclear Biological and Chemical Defense Schools of the Nigerian Naval Engineering College, Sapele; as well as the Nigerian Navy Underwater Warfare School, Lagos.
I hold a Post Graduate Diploma in Health Safety and Environmental Management from the College of Medicine of University of Lagos (2003 – 2004); Advanced Diploma in Security Operations and Management from UNILAG (2001 – 2002); Advanced Management Certificate with Specialization in Industrial Safety Planning and Control Management from the Federal College of Education (Technical), Akoka, Lagos (2005). I am happily married with three children.
HOW WAS YOUR TENURE AS CHAIRMAN, LAGOS BRANCH BEFORE THE WHOLE ISSUES OF ISPON STARTED?
I had a remarkable experience when I first came in as chairman. Some group of people said I should not be because I had no experience and not a member of the state executive. I started doing things that people saw as impossible and we achieved so much. The Lagos executives were some group of people who were given some roles to play in the administration of the state branch of ISPON, And soon they started being misled as such the tenure started having lots of unpalatable experiences.
During my tenure, we hosted several enlightenment outings. We brought the whole ISPON together and also got the ACT, which was marked in July 2014 with an international press conference.
WE ARE AWARE YOU HAD A CORDIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CURRENT CHAIRMAN OF THE OTHER ISPON FACTION, LAGOS BRANCH, MR. ECHIENDU, BEFORE EVERYTHING WENT SOAR. WHAT REALLY WENT WRONG BETWEEN BOTH OF YOU?
I see it as criminal to assume that there’s a faction because such faction is supposed to present the act that establishes them. We don’t run faction in a statutory established body, you can’t run faction in Nigeria government, there is no faction anywhere. What we have is a group of people who found out that they were now irrelevant in the scheme of things and were no more capable of been brought to this orderliness as demanded by the laws and rules. Their aim was to destroy a body established by an act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that took this institute over 16 years to come with what we have today.
CAN YOU RECALL WHAT LED TO THIS PROBLEM?
Yes, the problem started when somebody who felt he should continue gaining beyond the reasonable limit of what was supposed to be the scope of his authority by virtue of the position he occupied at a time. Someone who was one-time chairman later became deputy president, later became president, now while occupying all these positions he was still a signatory to an account in Delta state and a close associate of him beyond ISPON was able to put his own wife as a caterer permanently. For more than 15 years after he has left as chairman, they were not inclined to actual development and expansion of the institute.
Along the line, the institute got chartered. The institute even during that era has been going to the national assembly from the time of General Babangida, struggling to get charter statues at each time they missed it and had to start afresh at the change of government. Nobody understood that they were actually working negatively against the charted statues.
They wanted a situation where there would not be a proper regulatory framework. In the midst of it all, we saw that they started grooming some sets of people who were lawless and then establishing rebellion from the hierarchy of the national executive council of the institute. Also, they started having silent factions. They were not vocal but working towards damaging some people’s image.
How about the issue of the registrar?
The person that claims to be the registrar, Benson Adam-Otite had no paper employing him even as the Registrar of the institute, that goes to show you the level of lawlessness by that administration. The actual person, Bola Aborode who was duly employed as registrar was thrown out by the then President, Shaw Fregene unlawfully but was not sacked and Adam-Otite from nowhere just started acting as registrar.
There was no letter appointing him as registrar in October 2013. He only got to apply for the same job in July 2014 when issues started coming up. The court cases so far has proved that he is not the registrar and also the court case at the Federal High Court Owerri said the president of ISPON was Dr. Nnamdi Ilodiuba.
IF YOU SAY THE OTHER FACTION ARE CRIMINALS, AND YOU ARE AWARE OF THEIR MEETING PLACE, DOES THAT MEAN THEY CAN’T BE ARRESTED?
No, is not that they couldn’t be arrested, we were just being patient. So far, they have used close to twelve lawyers since they started going to court, but we have used just one. We are keeping our next move to ourselves. The sad thing is the people who have attended their course; they should go back for their money because the certificate is fake.
CURRENTLY, THERE ARE TWO ISPON CERTIFICATES IN CIRCULATION; WHAT IS THE INSTITUTE DOING TO PROTECT ITS SERENITY?
The institute has already informed the general public to go after the people and collect their money back because the law court said they are operating illegally and they have nothing to do with ISPON.
WE ARE AWARE EFFORTS HAS BEEN TAKEN BY VARIOUS GROUPS TO RESOLVE ALL THESE ISSUES, HOW’S THAT COMING UP?
All the effort in the name of peace has been deceptive. Some group came from the America Society of Safety Professionals, Nigeria chapter and we followed them up. We’ve given a whole large expands of space to accommodate their recalcitrance. They brought a reconciliation which was to us deceptive, and they’ve never agreed there was a court judgment nor made reference to it.
I suggested to the governing board to be very careful about the opinion and suggestion from this so-called peace arrangement, while this same group still put more cases in court and at the same time called for peace.
The issue here is that those who were supposed to broker the peace are taking sides, that they never for one day pronounced that there is a court judgment nor acknowledged that these people are wrong in anything. That’s why I find it difficult to say that there was any peace talks.
WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN BE DONE TO RESOLVE ALL THESE ISSUES?
We suggested that they should come back even the president wrote to them last year and also published it in Dailies and various social media professional groups that he is going to receive them back but no responses.
But then, let’s look at this again; is it possible that this person after all these years of destructive activities towards ISPON will come back and say they were somewhere? While they were rebelling and demolishing, some people were repairing and patching the system.
CAN YOU MENTION THE GROUP THAT HE WROTE TO?
It was published across all platforms, even the group they call Safety Advocate; that’s the group that’s harboring the misinformation machinery.
ARE YOU IN THE SAFETY ADVOCATE GROUP?
I was removed from that group by someone I ordered to be removed for his nuisance effect in ISPON professional platform, which means that the group is working with them, that group has always been anti-lspon.
ARE YOU AWARE DR. NNAMDI ILODIUBA, UNDER WHOM YOU ARE A NATIONAL SPOKESMAN IS AN ACTIVE MEMBER OF THE GROUP?
This is a group that’s unstable. That group needed everybody. They are not all safety people. It’s not a platform for safety professionals, and nobody should say is a group for safety professionals. It’s a “forum” association, a place where they betray each other, just like in ISPON too.
Moreso, I don’t know whether safety advocate run anything like membership, because I was there and not a member but a member of the platform just to promote, they are not registered, but somebody told the minister in 2015 that it’s another safety body and the minister asked what act establish them.
WILL THESE ISSUES EVER BE RESOLVED?
Yes, it can be resolved in a flash.
WATCH OUT FOR THE CONCLUDING PART OF THIS INTERVIEW