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ISPON Iwuagwu Group’s

Hon. (Barr) Harrison Nwadike, the Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Safety Standards and Regulations, has said that the decision of the Engr. Timothy Iwuagwu-led faction of the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) to “unilaterally” withdraw from the reconciliation and unification process is a gimmick to frustrate the process.

Nwadike said this in an exclusive chat with HSENations in his capacity as the Chairman of the Caretaker/Transition Committee (CTC) set up to merge the membership of all factions, develop election guidelines, call for an Annual General Meeting (AGM), and conduct elections into the offices of the President, Deputy President and 10 Members of the Governing Board as prescribed by the ISPON Act 2014.

HSENations recalls that in a letter dated June 21, 2024, and signed by its Registrar, Dr (Mrs) Esther Williams, Iwuagwu’s group announced its decision to immediately discontinue further participation in the mediation process and withdraw the representation of its representatives: Dr Nnamdi Ilodiuba, Dr (Mrs) Esther Williams, Pharm. Bello Idris and Mr. Yinka Fasusi.

In a chat with this newspaper, Nwadike said that the CTC under his leadership has continued to hold meetings despite the Iwuagwu group’s withdrawal and has fixed October 17-19, 2024 for an Annual General Meeting (AGM)/Elections to elect a proper board for the institute.

The federal lawmaker said, “ISPON is an institute established by law, an Act of the National Assembly, and the conditions and conditionalities of emerging the president, deputy president and 10 governing board members are spelt out in the Act.

“That is why the Committee of the National Assembly in exercise of its oversight function deemed it fit to bring all the acclaimed groups under one umbrella as envisaged by the Act.

“That midwifing took a lot of dedication and by the grace of God, it materialised on May 7 when an MoU was signed by the three groups…

“When you look at that MoU, you will observe that it was agreed that all the past struggles should be put to an end. The CTC will be put together where each of the groups will nominate four persons and the Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Safety Standards and Regulations would chair the CTC for the period until the election is held in October and that’s what has been done

“On May 27, the inaugural meeting held and the 12 members as nominated by each of the groups were in attendance. They were chaired by my humble self, inaugurated into a CTC and work commenced. The CTC was further broken into sub-committees to begin to midwife the process of having a clear-cut unified ISPON that will operate according to the tenets of the Act and also develop financial control and policy control that will enable the institute to run properly without being hijacked in the future by any one person that claims to be president. And this has been going seamlessly until we got a letter from Iwuagwu who claimed that he was withdrawing.

“There was a meeting which their faction or group didn’t attend. That was on June 21. And I decided to place a call to Dr (Nnamdi) Ilodiuba, who is a member of the CTC as nominated by the Iwuagwu group. He told me he couldn’t make it because Engr. Iwuagwu did not release the necessary logistics to enable him travel from Anambra to Abuja to attend the meeting, and that he even reminded him about the logistics two days before the meeting. I called Pharmacist Bello, who is also one of their members, who told me he was somewhere in Nasarawa and also talked about logistics. And I understand the same thing applied to Mrs Esther Williams and also to Fasusi, who made up the team from Iwuagwu.

“So I decided to call Iwuagwu. He started telling me that their team was withdrawing and he said so many things which are not what I’ll start repeating here. Then we still went ahead to hold the meeting because ISPON Act says seven members of the board will constitute quorum and since we had more than seven, we went ahead to hold the meeting. Since then, we’ve been holding meetings with the people that are respecting the MoU.”

Nwadike added, “Once there is an MoU signed by three parties, one party unilaterally decides to withdraw, the idea is to frustrate the unification but we are not going to let one person hold ISPON comprising of over 10,000 professionals down. So, we will go ahead to nurture and midwife the unification. The AGM and elections have been fixed for 17th, 18th and 19th of October and it will take place.”

He said there is still room for Iwuagwu’s group to retrace their steps and return to the CTC.

“But Mr. Iwuagwu alone spearheading few other people cannot continue to derail ISPON.

“We as a Committee do not want to go into how each of them emerged. All we know is that there is a crisis and it is our responsibility to bring ISPON under one properly-elected board in accordance with the Act,” the lawmaker said.

He lamented that the in-fighting in ISPON is killing the safety industry and contributing to safety violations evident across the country.

Nwadike said, “(The ISPON Act) provides that for you to practise health and safety in both private and public institutions in Nigeria, you must be a registered safety professional. The Act goes ahead to say that to be a registered safety professional, you must be a member of ISPON. And of course you may be aware that in 2022, the office of the Head of Service of the Federation issued a circular to all MDAs that they must maintain a health and safety desk in all their departments.

“Now, how do you do that when new professionals are not being trained and inducted because there is crisis.

Most of them, if you ask, are you a member of ISPON? There say ‘No. Because there is crisis, we don’t know the authentic one to belong to or register with.’

“So these groups are killing the industry, killing the profession with their struggle. When you look at it, it has to do with self ego and desire to grab executive position of ISPON. So we are not going to let the ambition of few people derail 10,000 professionals and counting, because the job of safety professionals is very important.”

He added, “So our intention as a committee is to ensure that we bring sanity to this institute. It is an institute established by the law backed by the National Assembly and this committee has oversight over it. And we are going to exercise that. And we’ll bring sanity to it. We are not going to allow Iwuagwu or any person to derail the process.”

ALSO READ: ISPON Crisis: Reconciliation Hangs in Balance as Iwuagwu’s Faction Withdraws from Peace Process

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