ERA/FoEN leadership crisis boils over as factions take charge
• I remain ERA/FoEN Executive Director, says Ojo
The leadership crisis in one of the foremost environmental groups in Nigeria – Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has taken a new turn as different factions lay claim to the executive directorship.
At a General Assembly Meeting held last week in Benin City, Edo State, the faction led by ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo met and removed environmental activist, Nnimmo Bassey, as trustee and chairman of its board.
The Assembly further said, “every step of illegality taken by Bassey to undermine the interest of ERA/FoEN is declared null and void”.
The Assembly also resolved that the ERA/FoEN offices in Lagos and Abuja, allegedly “under the control of Bassey”, be shut down with immediate effect until further directive from Ojo.
The General Assembly passed a vote of confidence on Dr. Ojo as a leading environmental and human rights advocate, community and grassroots mobiliser, and urged him not to be distracted by anyone in the discharge of his duties.
The General Assembly at the meeting also reaffirmed his position as executive director.
The organisation added that, going by the provisions of section 834(1) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020, the General Assembly at the meeting vetted and approved the nomination and appointment of Chief Saint Emma Pii (Chairman), Godwin Uyi Ojo (Secretary), Mike Karikpo (Member) and Jennifer Ero (Member) as trustees of the Environmental Rights Development Foundation (ERDF).
The General Assembly further resolved: “That Chima Williams, who is parading himself as Acting Executive Director of ERA, be subjected to disciplinary actions within the ambit of the law.”
The General Assembly had addressed the lingering crisis among the Trustees and Management Team of ERA/FoEN prior to 2013 and onwards when Ojo took over from Bassey as Executive Director of ERA/FoEN. Bassey is currently the executive director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF).
“The main cause of the crisis is the conflict of interest by Nnimmo Bassey’s leadership style, remaining in control and direct involvement in the day-to-day management of the organisation, which is primarily the role of the executive council headed by the current Executive Director, Dr. Ojo.
They said: “Nnimmo Bassey occupied the dual position as ERA/FoEN Executive Director and Chairman of the Board since inception in 1993 to 2013 and remained for over 27 years.”
THE other faction led by Bassey had announced the appointment of Chima Williams as Acting Executive Director of the organisation.
A statement by Akinbode Oluwafemi, Secretary, ERDF Board, noted that until his appointment, Williams was Head of Legal Resources/Democracy Outreach of ERA/FoEN.
Bassey has, however, said that he remains a member and also the chairman of the BOT of the organisation, and actions are taken and decisions arrived at by ERA/FoEN under Dr. Ojo are illegal because he (Ojo) had already been disengaged as Executive Director as well as member, Board of Trustees (BOT) of ERA/FoEN.
Bassey told The Guardian, “Ojo has no authority whatsoever to make such declarations. The BOT relieved him of his duties due to a damning evaluation carried out by an external evaluator and because his services were no longer needed. He was a member of BOT until 2015.
“He has since refused to vacate the office from which he has been removed and is instead trying to play pranks by deceiving some community people to attend the illegal meetings.
“It is ridiculous for Ojo to suggest that Abuja and Lagos offices are under my control. That is an absolute falsehood. I have never been involved in the running of any part of ERA since I, unfortunately, recommended his appointment as Executive Director by the BOT in 2013 upon my resignation as founding Executive Director of the organisation.”
Another statement signed by the Secretary, BOT, Dr. Ike Okonta said, Ojo was removed from the trusteeship of the ERA/FoEN in 2015, following allegations of gross misconduct and actions inimical to peace and progress of the organisation.
“Similarly, the board had on October 3, 2020, held an emergency meeting where the decision to relieve Ojo of his appointment as Executive Director was taken. The decision followed the report of an independent evaluation of the organisation commissioned by the board.
“Instead of abiding by the decision, Ojo has been involving himself in illegalities including, the purported General Assembly Meeting where he brought together faceless civil society groups.”
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