A High Court in Abuja has waded into the crisis which has been rocking the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) for many months.
The judge, Peter Affen, in a ruling on January 12, ruled against one of the factional presidents of the association, Ahmed Maiwada, who is seeking the upturn of the processes which brought in his rival, Camillus Ukah on March 28, 2020.
The registered trustees of ANA had been listed by Mr Maiwada (also the claimant’s counsel), as claimant/respondent while Jerry Agada, Odia Ofeimun, Olufemi Obafemi, Wale Okediran, Remi Raji, Akachi Ezigbo and May Nwoye, had been listed as defendants/applicants in the suit.
The ruling was after a preliminary objection by the defendants on July 7, 2020, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter on the grounds that the suit was incompetent as the ”required consent was not obtained from the proper authorities of the claimant”.
The defendants had also said the suit was intended to ”embarrass and annoy the defendants and was mischievous, malicious, frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of court process”.
It was reported extensively how the Nigerian Writers’ Association was embroiled in raging strife which is threatening to tear the body apart.
Sources say, on one hand, the battle is mainly for who heads the Association which boasts of hundreds of Nigerian writers.
On the other, control over a large expanse of land, in a choice area of the Federal Capital Territory also seems to be a source of conflict.
We equally reported how a committee was announced to unite the splinter groups, which emerged as a result of the crisis rocking the union. The committee has not succeeded in its mission.
This newspaper also reported how attempts by the association’s advisory council to intervene were unsuccessful. Rather, the two factions recently held parallel conventions as the crisis worsened.
While the Maiwada group held its convention in Awka, Anambra State, between December 10 and 12, the Ukah group held its convention between December 3 and 6 in Ilorin, Kwara State, where it said “it took decisions concerning its status”.
At the Maiwada group’s convention, Bode Sowande was reportedly appointed as the new ‘ANA BOT chairman’ alongside Yaya Dangana and Tracie Utoh-Ezeajugha as members.
But the Ukah faction had dismissed the appointments, insisting the event was an illegal one.
Mr Ukah has drawn the first victory as the judge, Mr Affen, in the ruling on January 12, dismissed Mr Maiwada’s move to upturn the emergence of his rival.
After the ‘election’ which brought him in March 7, 2020, Mr Maiwada had gone to court to restrain the defendants from conducting elections into the National Executive Council of the Association.
Despite this move, the ‘election’ eventually held in Makurdi, Benue State March 28, 2020, wherein the Ukah-led faction was elected.
But, Mr Affen, in the 18-paged document outlining the ruling, said the suit was not properly filed by any of the competent organs of the association.
He ruled: “having carefully and insightfully examined the supporting and counter-affidavits annexed thereto and the arguments canvassed by counsels on both sides of the divide, it does not seem to me, on a balance of probabilities, that the institution of this action was duly authorised by the relevant organs of the claimant… since the Trustees who are statutory members of the claimant’s council or governing body have disassociated themselves from the suit, it seems to me obvious that the action is plagued by incompetence for being unauthorized…”
He, therefore, struck out the case.
The two factions have reacted to the court ruling.
While the Ukah faction said it was elated by the development and adds this would rest the controversy over which is the authentic leadership, the Maiwada faction said the battle was far from over.
”With this judgment, the court has thrown a torch into the dark alleys of such dishonest moves; in doing so, it revealed a certain vaulting ambition to the world. It is a judgment that screams out to be quoted as a future reference,” Maik Ortserga, the general secretary of the Ukah faction said in a statement, Monday.
”The judgment is in line with what we have always known. It is the same conclusion that was reached when Barr. Ahmed Maiwada ran to the police crying foul, it is the same common tone that the ANA BOT and the Advisory Council have been singing all the while. Now that both the law and law enforcement agency has spoken with the voice of respect for the Association and its internal capacity to resolve its matters, every ANA member with the paternal DNA of a writer must join hands to ensure that never shall our dirty linen be brought as close to the outside as the corridors of our formidable house.
”Finally the judgment has naturally defined the right passageway to the open doors of camaraderie that ANA is known for and the door has been thrown open wider now to all writers of goodwill. There is ample room for repentance and reintegration.”
But Mr Maiwada, who expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling, hinted that he would be challenging it soon in court. He also insisted the court is yet to declare anyone as the authentic president of ANA.
He told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday that the judge was misled into giving the ruling despite the ‘inconsistencies’ in the signatures contained in the sworn affidavits ”alleged to have been deposed to by Labo Yari and Mabel Segun (two surviving ANA trustees)”.
”The Abuja High Court had delivered its ruling on the preliminary objection, in which it overlooked the inconsistencies in the signatures of the two surviving trustees. The court, however, did not dismiss ANA’s case, contrary to the prayers of the seven defendants. The court only struck out ANA’s case, meaning that ANA might return to the same court (or another court of competent jurisdiction), for the determination of the substantive issue of the constitutional rights of the seven defendants to conduct elections into the National Executive Council of ANA, when the seven were not constituted as an electoral committee by the General Assembly of ANA, but by Professor Femi Osofisan, whether acting for himself or for a group of people calling themselves as “ANA Advisory Council,” he added.
He also said: ”I have studied the ruling of the honourable court and observed many errors of law that should not be allowed to stand, including the error of overlooking the inconsistent signatures on the affidavits allegedly deposed to by Mallam Labo Yari and Mrs Mabel Segun. In the coming days,
I will review the said ruling together with the immediate past ANA National Legal, the current ANA National Legal Adviser and my legal team. We shall be putting heads together in order to advise ANA on the next line of action to take (or not to take): to return to the Abuja High Court with the same case for adjudication, or approach another court entirely, or to appeal the ruling, with the implications of each action or other actions that we ought not to disclose in public, due to their sensitive nature.