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Awka Town Union Turmoil Continues as Factional Exco Hands Over to Caretaker Committee

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… Caretaker Committee takes over from a factional Exco but opposing camp dismisses the initiative, saying that it is unconstitutional

By Ndu Chris Nwannah, Awka Times Guest Writer, with additional reporting by Emeka Ral, Awka Times Editor

A faction of Awka Development Union Nigeria (ADUN) previously led by Dr. Amobi Nwokafor as purported president-general has dissolved its executive council, handing over to the caretaker committee set up on Sunday, January 12, 2020 by the Awka general assembly (Izu Awka). The hand-over took place on January 22, 2020.

The Amobi Nwokafor faction of ADUN was elected in October 2016 following a controversial court ruling that had been appealed by the opposing faction led by Engr. Tony Okechukwu. The election had been conducted by a caretaker committee which was formed following apparent delay by the Anambra State government, the agency statutorily empowered to form such a committee. The state government never recognized the election of Dr. Nwokafor but has rather continued to acknowledge Engr. Tony Okechukwu as ADUN president well beyond his statutory tenure.

After emerging as the purported ADUN president-general in 2016, Dr. Amobi Nwokafor had pledged to lead the union for a single term of three years as enshrined in the 2008 ADUN constitution which was used to conduct the election. That constitution was later in 2019 invalidated by the Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal which affirmed the 2004 constitution as the extant law of the union.

In line with his commitment, Dr. Nwokafor met with members of his ADUN Exco on January 22, along with members of the newly-formed caretaker committee, to perform the dissolution and handover exercise.

Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Amobi Nwokafor expressed gratitude for the support he received from Awka people during his presumed tenure as ADUN president-general. Nwokafor particularly commended the Central Executive Council (CEC) of ADUN for working to ensure its success in the past three years. He also praised the Ozo Awka society – the prestigious chieftaincy institution which he had recently joined – for its stance in the ongoing kingship crisis in Awka. The Awka kingship stool is contested, and the Ozo society is largely opposed to Eze Uzu II, Dr. Gibson Nwosu, who is currently certified as Awka monarch by the Anambra State government.

As enshrined in the ADUN constitution, an outgoing president-general is supposed to initiate the election of a new executive prior to the expiry of his tenure. This, however, had not been done by Dr. Nwokafor whose presumed tenure expired in October 2019. In his handover speech, the former factional president-general of ADUN blamed the failure to conduct an election before now on the crisis in Awka, with efforts focused on finding solutions to the crisis. Dr. Nwokafor said that he was happy over the resolution of Izu Awka to create a 14-member caretaker committee to pilot the affairs of ADUN, including the conduct of a new election. He advised the caretaker committee not to deviate from the union’s roadmap but to show courage in tackling the tasks before it.

Several officials of ADUN who were present at the handover ceremony praised Dr. Amobi Nwokafor for his leadership. The former vice-president of ADUN South East, Barrister Oliseh Molokwu, described Amobi Nwokafor as a great leader who initiated laudable programmes to improve the wellbeing of Awka people. Similarly, the social secretary of the dissolved ADUN Exco, Comrade Obiora Okigbo, said that Ozo Nwokafor brought uncommon values into the leadership of ADUN in the last three years.

In another speech, an ex-officio member of ADUN, Chief Sunday Obuora, appreciated those who stood by the Exco in its three years of existence. He charged the past leadership to continue to pray and offer support to the new caretaker committee and Awka in general.

Addressing the gathering shortly after the handover, the Chairman of the newly established caretaker committee of ADUN, Chief Chike Obuekwe, applauded Ozo Amobi Nwokafor for utilizing his resources to offer great service to the people of Awka. Chief Obuekwe noted that he used his position to attract jobs, investments and scholarships to the community.

In accepting his new position as head of the caretaker committee, Chief Obuekwe promised to do the job wholeheartedly. He stressed that truth would be his driving force in the task to salvage Awka. He pleaded with the past Exco not to abandon the committee but to see the work as a collective responsibility.

It will be recalled that Chief Chike Obuekwe was the chairman of the ADUN caretaker committee that produced Engr. Tony Okechukwu as president general of ADUN in 2012. At the expiration of Okechukwu’s tenure in 2015, following a ruling of Awka High Court that a new ADUN election should be conducted, Chief Obuekwe was again asked to chair the electoral Committee by Izu Awka. However, the election was later concluded by Barrister Emmanuel Okechukwu following the resignation of Chief Obuekwe who was working for the Anambra State government at the time.

Meanwhile, one of the Awka stakeholders who is loyal to the Engr. Tony Okechukwu faction of ADUN, Chief Tony Egbunonu, has stated that the Izu Awka which constituted a 14-member caretaker committee to run the affairs of ADUN is a “nullity”. Chief Egbunonu claimed that the election which produced Dr. Amobi Nwokafor as president-general of ADUN was held without the approval of the state government.

Accordingly, he noted that such a decision was not binding on Awka people. Chief Egbunonu also claimed that the caretaker committee would not see the light of the day. He said the solution to the crisis in Awka was all parties coming together to chart a new course of action.

Similarly, the Tony Okechukwu faction of ADUN has argued that the actions of the opposing faction are of no consequence since that faction is not recognized by the state government. In a statement released to Awka Times, the public relations officer of the Okechukwu faction of ADUN, Comr. Emmanuel Ifeanyi Onyejiaka, said that “the caretaker committee purportedly set up by a purported Izu Awka is ridiculous. If anything, it tells you that a group of people have constituted themselves into bottlenecks in the way of peace for our town and our people must know this. On our part, we remain unperturbed by these gimmicks. We shall continue to stand on the path of legality. Those who have chosen to wallow in unconstitutionality and disdain for the law should continue.”

Commenting further, Comr. Onyejiaka said: “Come to think of it, how can a man say that he stepped down as PG after acknowledging the Appeal Court ruling which clearly stated that he was never elected! Isn’t it laughable? How can someone say he stepped down in January 2020 when actually his purported tenure of three years expired in 2019? Isn’t it laughable?”

He continued: “In fact, what is the place of the purported Izu Awka in the life of ADUN? Why do people act as though we are in a lawless society? For your information, Izu Awka is unknown to the ADUN constitution and I will leave it at that.”

Comr. Onyejiaka said that these same persons filed a law at high court seeking an interpretation of the judgement of the Appeal Court. “Why not wait for the outcome of that process?”, he asked in his statement. “It is a clear indication that they do not even believe in the process they have initiated. Worse still, rather than go to the Supreme Court, they went to a lower court, all in a bid to keep prolonging the confusion. We shall wait out the process but it would only be honourable that they do same. Trust me, the entire exhibition is a charade and we lose no sleep over it.”

The fissure in ADUN appears to be deepening despite the ongoing efforts by some informal groups to mediate the crisis.

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