Dr. Boniface Aniebonam

‘Yes I played a role in the removal of Lucky Amiwero from office’

This week, we serve you the concluding part of the interview with Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam. In the first part of the interview published in last Tuesday’s edition of SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, Aniebonam spoke extensively on the row between the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) and the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and NAGAFF. In this final part of the interview, Aniebonam opens up, for the first time, on his face off with a Deputy Comptroller of Customs attached to the Tin Can Island Port Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Jane Shoboiki and on his role in the crisis rocking the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA).

Recently you had a face-off with a Deputy Comptroller of Customs attached to the Tin Can Island Port Command. You alleged that the Deputy Comptroller sent military personnel to NAGAFF village to kill you purportedly on the orders of the Deputy Comptroller. You threatened to go to court but now you are withdrawing that threat. Was your threat a bargaining tool or what? 
Are you talking of NAGAFF or you are talking of Dr. Aniebonam?

Is there any difference between NAGAFF and Dr. Aniebonam? 
I expect you to know by better. NAGAFF has its Board members and those Board members are the persons that carry the instructions of NAGAFF as a registered body so we need to separate the two entities. Again this goes a long way to explain to you what I said earlier about Shittu and ANLCA. I think we should move to another level because if we continue with this way of discussion, it won’t help us.
I want to restrict myself to discussing issues; the issue of the invasion of NAGAFF village. They were looking for me but here we are, and they didn’t see me. But even though they didn’t see me, I was told that people were held under hostage there. But honestly I don’t really want to discuss more of this. The lady is my sister. It is unfortunate what has happened because it is a total abuse of her privileged position and it exposes her to high level of indiscipline as someone who is working in an regimented organisation like Customs but here again like I said she is my sister. So if you talk about her from now till tomorrow, the only thing that one will be looking at is the background of the husband otherwise it is not an issue to be discussed and I am serious about that.

So why did the Deputy Comptroller Jane Shoboiki storm NAGAFF village with armed military personnel looking for you? 
I have told you that when using words like ‘they are looking for me’…they are not looking for me. I am not NAGAFF. All I know is that I heard that a petition was written against her and she heard about it. From her own side, she said she came to NAGAFF village with army people on a friendly basis. She said she came to find out why NAGAFF is writing petition. The names of the people who wrote the petition on behalf of NAGAFF are clearly stated in that document so I find it difficult to be discussing this but I could take some of these issues from the point that we need to go strictly professional and face the realities of life. I think that we need restrain and we should not abuse our privileged position. I feel terrible discussing this because if I discuss this, I will open up on certain people. Even if it is a public issue, I am a leader, I am the founder of NAGAFF, I am Chairman of a registered political party, so there are things that you should expect me not to talk about. The lady you are talking about was the head of CIU (Customs Intelligence Unit). Operational, she has only an observer status. As an intelligence officer who is involved in intelligence gathering, she was not supposed to make contact with people but she makes contact with people for obvious reasons and that could take us to corruption. To me, it was an abuse of the lawful directives of the Comptroller General of Customs. These are simple things you need to understand. I was with the CG in the stakeholders meeting in Apapa, you were there too and we were all there the other day at Trade Fair Complex when the CG told the whole world that CIU officers are not to be involved in cargo operation. So why was she involved in cargo operation if she is not a suspect as far as corruption is concerned.

So on what grounds did you decide to withdraw the court case that you were trying to institute against her? 
If we go to court, we will bring in the Customs and we will bring in the Army.

So are you actually afraid of the Customs and the Army? 
See Bolaji, let me tell you this: these are government institutions and we have the responsibility to protect the image of our country. What do you mean I am afraid?

Because you were actually threatening fire and brimstone after the army invasion. 
I have never been afraid of anyone or anything. And for God’s sake this is the first time I am granting an interview discussing an issue like this. Did I go on air to threaten anyone?

No, you didn’t go on air but there were a lot of press releases coming from you. 
Were the press releases signed by me?

When I said you, I was actually referring to NAGAFF. 
You keep using that word ‘you’ and I hope you will correct yourself.

Ok, NAGAFF threatened fire and brimstone after the army invasion of its headquarters and I actually surprised that so soon you are backing out. 
Maybe this is where you will begin to appreciate my position as Founder of the organisation. Yes I have a role to play as the Founder of NAGAFF.

So you intervened? 
Of course I had to intervene.

Even though you were the target of the soldiers 
Look, I have never seen Shoboike before and I have never talked to her. I know that NAGAFF wants to go to court and claim certain amount of money for the invasion. It is our word against their word. They are saying they didn’t invade NAGAFF but we are saying they invaded NAGAFF and we have evidence of destructions. But that is neither here nor there; Jane is not the one to pay. If we sue, we sue the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Army.

So on what ground did you reach amicable resolution after all these? 

There was no resolution between us and anybody. I just advised the NAGAFF people to forget the matter; that it is immaterial because for me like I said earlier, we are discussing this matter because she is the wife of an army general otherwise it is no issue. And like I said, she is my sister.

So are you not afraid that there may be a recurrence of this in future? If you don’t prove your case this time around, what if someone else decides to tow a similar path against NAGAFF in future? 

Well let me tell you something Bolaji; nobody asks for problems unless something is wrong with that person and we should not be talking about tomorrow; it is not important. We are not violent people, of course you know NAGAFF but I still say to those who dwell in violence that nobody has monopoly of that and I think the best bet is for us to live in peace and to live in peace, people should respect the laws of this country. Jane as a person by now should have called herself to order because every day is for the thief, one day is for the owner.

Did she call you to apologise to you? 

She doesn’t need to call me. She is my little sister.

Did the CG call you? You are friends with the CG. 

I spoke with the CG and I am aware that customs is not associated with that kind of attitude. They saw her action as a personal act but to me it is neither here nor there because it doesn’t make sense to me.

Customs High Command saw her action as personal yet she was posted out of the command? 

Well, there was routine movement of Customs officers. A lot of officers were moved and of course I am aware that she was promoted to the rank of deputy comptroller and in that regard she may no longer hold the position she was holding at Tin Can. But that is ok. We are not after anybody, we will always wish people the best but those who wish people dead or anything, I do know that we have this angel called Angel Michael in the bible; he is the soldier of God. He always knows what to do at the appropriate time.

The National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents seems to be embroiled in another crisis. There is a face-off between Ejiofor and Austin Kelly and it is believed that you are behind the crisis just as it is believed that you had a hand in the removal of Lucky Amiwero as President of the Council. You have a thriving association in NAGAFF so what is your interest in the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents? You seems to enjoy a lot of controversy? 
You should know that as the founder of an organisation, Aniebonam is synonymous with the port. He is a news maker and all of that but you choose your words. You are entitled to make statements but the point here is that I was a founding member of the National Council and we all know that that Council was a child of circumstance when the licence of agencies were revoked and it was a platform that was used to collect licences. Then after registration of the National Council, members of the Board and officials were elected and they started operating but 13 years after, they were still there. No election. Of course, issues were raised by founding members who thought that in a country that is democratic, even after 2nd term in the Nigerian context an office holder will do eight years, and someone has been there for thirteen years. It does not give room for progress as far as democracy is concerned in our country and some people stood up against that and a new leader in Ejiofor emerged. And I do know that those matters are still in court. I play the role of mediator in most times but sometimes my name rings bell. The founding members, did you help them?
Yes, I am a founding member of the Council.

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