ALLEGED FINANCIAL IMPROPRIETY, SUNDRY ISSUES TEAR IKA VILLAGE SQUARE TO SHREDS.
..A NEW GROUP EMERGES
..REACTIONS TRAIL THE IMBROGLIO
By Frank Iroroh and Adams MaRio
Report reaching our news desk indicates financial impropriety, leadership highhandedness and antidemocratic behaviours of the leadership of Ika Village Square (IVS), have tore the union to shreds, with a new group called Ika Progressive Union (IPU), emerging out from the rubble.
Ika Village Square is a pan Ika sociocultural group founded in 2016, by Barr Eugene A. Uzum, (the Director General, Delta State Orientation Bureau). The group according to the convener, Barr Uzum, was formed with the aim of promoting unity, progress and development of Ika Nation.
However, according to our source, the association hit huge waves of infractions, following the presentation of the statement of account on 4th July 2017, detailing amount raised and incurred expenses for hosting the maiden Ika Economic Summit (IES), organised by the group on 24th June 2017.’
Our source, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, said, ‘the imbroglio in the group started to brew when some members who questioned the account statement for lacking in details, for not including the list of donors and amount each individuals and organisations donated, but only contained the list of those who were yet to fulfilled their pledges, were bullied to silence.
Some members who also frowned at the expenditure breakdown which has multiple expenditures for same items were shouted down.
It was alleged that following the uneasiness which accompanied the presentation of the statement of account, the leadership of the union appointed an audit committee to examine the report and any other financial transactions carried out by the group.
However, according to our source, the uneasiness and calmed nerves in the group were once again set affray when the audit report was presented to the House on 27th March 2020. Some members who were not satisfied with the report and who requested for a thorough forensic audit of the Union account, were cautioned by the leadership with threats of sanctions, this resulted to some exiting the group, leading to the formation of the IPU. Our source concluded.
It will be recalled that Ika Village Square (IVS) blazed into Ika social, political and economic stratosphere, when it hosted the first ever Ika Economic Summit (IES), on 24th June 2017. The strings of media fanfare preceding the summit, generated huge interest, high enthusiasm and massive support among Ika people and friends of Ika nation alike, who donated handsomely towards the success of the Summit.
Hope were high that the Summit will provide investors opportunity to access and assess the potential investment opportunities that are abound in Ika land.
The hope of many Ika people were however dashed, when they observed to their greatest surprises that not a single investor was present at the Summit. The mood of the People at the time was vividly captured by Ika Youth Vanguard, who rose to denounce the Summit as a total scam, a shenanigan financial and deceitful jamboree.
In a press statement, issued by the Publicity Secretary of the group, Comr. Ekpenisi Raymond, on 26th June, 2017, two days after the Summit and which was widely circulated on the social media, the Ika Youth Vanguard’s scribe stated, ‘in my opinion the Summit is purely political and not economical. It is a total scam, a shenanigan financial and deceitful jamboree.’ He then throw up what he referred to as budging questions;
1. How many investors were present there?
2. What are they to Invest In?
3. Where or what are the identified potentials investment opportunities?
4. What are the avenues of financing such Investment or access to finances?
5. What are the support plans For SMEs in Ikaland as a vehicle for driving real development?’ He questioned.
Three years down the lane, the group that rose to prominence through the media, now seems to be media shy. A curious look into the group website shows no sign of annual financial report, no report of its activities in the local tabloids, it has no newsletter or news bulletin to keep Ika nation and the general public updated on its activities. this is inspite of several millions of goodwill donations it garnered from the public.
As an organization which had reap bountifully from the good will of Ika people, it became necessary to ask why the once shinning armour of Ika nation, an epitome of Ika men and women of high intellectual and financial wits, a once darling of Ika nation and presumably the next in line of Ika political leadership structure, could suddenly descend into irreversible precipe?
To give the people proper insight of the problems bedeviling the Square, this newspaper applied a painstaking method of investigative reporting to get down to where the water enters the gorge. Major actors on both axle of the crisis were reached for their views on the imbroglio, some did not respond to our questions, some commented on condition of anonymity, some spoke to us through phone and some others sent us written statement, detailing their position on the conflict. Subsequent paragraphs of this report will present the responses of these individuals, before then it is necessary to first of all reproduce the extract of the meeting of IVS executive, made available to us, which many believe was the catalyst that fueled the complete breakup of the union.
EXTRACT FROM THE ONLINE MEETING OF THE EXECUTIVE
The Executive of the Ika Village Square met yesterday (date not stated) where the unprovoked attacks on the very essence of the principles and objectives of the group amongst others were discussed.
A careful appraisal of the actions and issues within the square in the last few days reveals alot.
Exco frowns at the vexatious attack by Alex Okunbor on our very revered Mr Iwebuke who chaired the Audit Committee. Mr Okunbor threw caution to the wind by calling for the audit report to be thrown into the waste bin. When called upon to renegotiate with the square through an apology, he exited unceremoniously.
Mr Sam Ikem, his staunch supporter, joined in the undeserved throwing of muds on the audit report, the audit committee and the leadership of Ika Village Square. Despite these actions, we remained restrained, hoping that the issues will always be resolved.
However, we noticed the creation of another online platform where many IVS members were encouraged to exit from here to join. We have no qualms about this new platform but that the proponents of the instigation yesterday emerged the owners, is a source of concern.
We have information that Mr Sam Ikem is one of the administrators of Ika Progressive Union, IPU. He is entitled to support any group but Exco frowns that he wanted to destroy IVS to give credence to his new group.
To this extent, Exco believes that Mr. Sam Ikem’s action is a clear sabotage of IVS and warrants punitive measures.
Mr. Sam Ikem is hereby suspended from this forum until further notice.
We will punish other administrators of the new group if they remain there. We have their names..
Response from Sam Ikem, a founding member of IVS and one of the Conveners of Ika Progressive Union (IPU).
In response to IVS suspension order placed on him, he replied, ‘every human being has the right to belong, participate and create a social media group. And it was this right that I exercised to create Ika Progressive Union just as Barr Uzum my good friend decided to create IVS.
IPU was envisioned in the same day it was created after the unnecessary glorification of the exit of Mr Okunbor by the management.
Even in politics where we have opposition parties, members of opposing parties do not consider themselves as enemies.
I never intend to leave IVS upon the creation of IPU but if the management decides to remove me, they have the right to do so.
Our vision at IPU is not different from the vision of IVS which is to serve the best interest of Ika people but what could be different is the process which determines the end result.
The creation of IPU shouldn’t pose a threat to IVS because no single individual or group can succeed in bringing down an organization but historically what have brought down many organizations are the style and culture that their managements pursue.
The management culture that I have envision for IPU is within the principles of inclusiveness, transparency, accountability, tolerance and the inalienable right to freedom of speech. These principles which I have been championing since I have been a member of IVS will continue unabated.
Under normal circumstances, when a company discovers that there is a viable alternative to it products or services, what is done is to innovate and make necessary changes that will improve quality inorder to gain a competitive edge. It is not by attacking or finding someone to blame.
On these notes it has been a great pleasure working with you all and wish every one well. No one here is my enemy we are all brothers and sisters and will remain so.
The progress of Ika People should be our common goal no matter where we end up.
Thanks and may God protect and bless us all.”
In this platform (Ika Progressive Union) we welcome and appreciate everyone’s points of view and believe that freedom of speech is human right not a privilege.
This platform was established to serve the interest of Ika people as a society and not for personal aggrandizement of members.
We are committed to a vision where the convergence of infrastructural, politcal and human capital development within the near future would lead to economic prosperity in Ika nation.
I am glad to be one of the admins of this platform. We welcome you aIl and because you are highly valued and respected that is why we have invited you to join us.
This platform is opened to all Ika indigenes and their relatives throughout the world. All activities of IPU will be modeled within the concept of transparency, accountability, inclusiveness, tolerance, respect for individual liberty.
Feel at home everybody, your point of view, contribution and participation in ongoing discussions and deliberations are hugely encouraged and appreciated.
We are a democratic organization where collective efforts and ideas of all members would bring out the best in us in actualization of the stated objectives of IPU.
The way forward is to build a viable alternative to IVS that is committed to the progress of IKA people and not for personal aggrandizement of members. Together we can operate a platform that would become a power broker for political and economic advancement of Ika nation.
That is my vision for IPU and why the platform was created.
Response from Chief Alex Okunbor.
Thanks so much sir . I was a member of IVS, I left the Group because of executive highhandedness in handling the group’s affairs, most members were just there to feather their political ambitions. Internal democracy was lacking. IVS was like a cult, you are not allowed to express your opinions.
Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth, for being correct, for being you.
The leadership never apologize if corrected. If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind. In the IVS Group I spoke my mind because of the corruption in the group and financial impropriety and I spoke about the audit and financial report.
Since the formation of the group, 3 years ago there was not a single financial and audit report.
Most of the transactions made by the executive committee were without invoice and vouchers. They made over 11 million naira transactions without invoice receipts and the audit report failed to question this financial malpractice. When I raised this sharp dealings, I was given query to apologize to auditor. What is auditing if not verification of vouchers and invoices?
I was concerned about the audit and financial report and not the auditor himself so I have not broken any law, I spoke the truth. I had to exit the group when their bullying became unbearable to me.
“Even if you are in a minority of one, the truth is the truth. Truth is by nature self-evident.”
They wasted millions of naira in staged-managing the so called Ika economic summit. The gathering was a Political gathering and not an Economic Summit. It was a jamboree of sort or a get-together-party to waste donors money as there was nothing like Economic Summit. There was not a single investor in the summit.
The monies wasted in stage-managing the much trumpeted Ika Economic Summit is enough to empower our Ika youths who are jobless.
There were no objectives and focus in the Ika Village Square (IVS). Many of the members were there merely to feather their political goal. It was more of political self-interest platform.
Right now the executive of IVS are worried because there is alternative Ika personalities group to properly pilot the affairs of Ika nation.
We have formed Ika progressives union ( IPU). We are interested about the leadership and economic development challenges in Ika land and we want to have a formidable Ika group to critical look into these issues and proffer solutions to the challenges with new vision and ideas. Not a group with political bias.
This new platform (IPU), is open to all Ika indigenes and their relatives throughout the globe.
All activities of IPU will be modeled on the tenet of international best practices, of transparency, accountability, inclusiveness, tolerance, respect for individual liberty.
We are a democratic organization, where collective efforts and ideas of all members would bring out the best in us in actualization of the stated objectives of Ika progressives Union (IPU) .
Chief Alex Okunbor.
Smart Madu Ajaja’s Response:
I had serious concerns about the reasons behind the formation and composition of the “Ika Village Square” as a rallying point for the Ika people right from day one when I accepted an invitation to be a member from Barr Eugene Uzum, the Convener after a series of invitations followed by the phone calls from him that I now see as a diplomatic blackmail to build a political capital as the bridge builder that he was not, is still not and cannot be, because he lacks the requisite honesty, temperament and leadership acumen to fit that role.
In my very strong opinion, the IVS is a political cult spiced with a few good Ika citizens with liberal mindsets and a nauseating gang of young Ika political attack dogs, and copy and paste sycophants from the robotic Ika PDP youth wing who are readily available to be driven in any direction by their oppressors like gulf club cars.
I warned Eugene prior to adding me to the group that I couldn’t see myself belonging to the group and making them happy because of my strong variance to their stinky Jim Crow politics without human face, but he assured me that they needed my variant voice because the group was a Pan-Ika group we all knew and still know today is not true.
Exactly two weeks after my joining, I was given a red card for daring to ask Chiedu Ebie a question who was the state commissioner of basic Education at the time about the sorry state of public primary education under his commissioners-ship following a brilliant speech delivered by a primary school pupil from one of the elitist private schools perhaps at Agbor during the Ika carnival of that year.
My offense was that I requested for us to see an Ika pupil from a public school deliver an address during the next edition of the Ika carnival as if I knew that there was never going to be another edition again.
In a jiffy, Mr. Eugene Uzum who is not near the age of my youngest brother, but who loomed large in the fake Ika Village Square like his other Ika peers under the intoxicating influence of unmerited political appointments removed me from the platform to the disgust of a few who threatened to quit the platform if he did not reverse himself, which he shamefully did with alacrity.
On my return, I became more determined to disrupt the dynamics of their gang up against their devious conspiracy to control of the political destiny of the Ika people but discovered that majority of the people who agreed with me were scared of speaking up for fear of punitive measures against them because they were all members of the PDP where members are kept in chains in flagrant violation of their basic human rights which can never be overwritten by any man-made rule or law, using the unholy “party is supreme” lock.
The economic summit the Eugene gang of political over zealots hurriedly put together without any investor’s presence after their vuvuzelic tour of the Ika nation to flag off their dead-on-arrival political campaign prematurely was the mother of all scam on members of the Ika Village Square including me who threw N100,000 at them not because I had confidence in what they were doing and the Ika people in general who were anxiously looking to see the rapid industrialization of Ika so that a new set of access to opportunities would be open to them and their teeming youth graduates without jobs, but whose hopes were soon dashed when the Political jamboree called economic summit was over.
I was removed for the second and final time shortly before they completed the economic summit fraud that is now hunting them as I predicted in a strong statement to the Ika people who don’t learn lessons because of their extreme political partisanship.
The allegations of fraud leveled against any of them including Eugene Uzum, the ringleader should be thoroughly investigated and whoever is culpable should be prosecuted to the fullest extent permitted by law as a deterrent to others .
Smart Madu Ajaja
Response from Engr Tony Emeke Odoe.
My brother, yes there is crisis in IVS, this results from the inability of the leadership of the group to adhere to the Constitution of the association to pilot it’s affairs.
I am a founding member of IVS, there were great enthusiasm during the formation of the group, because it was envisioned as a platform to unite Ika people both at home and in diaspora, to come together, to communicate, to assess and improve our situation towards taking decisions on our shortfalls under some ideology. It promotes the rights of individual member, our fundamental human right. It promotes openness, political advancement, equality, brotherhood and our culture. We saw it as avenue to bring all Ikas together to discuss issues of development in Ikaland
I was the secretary of the constitution drafting committee. In IVS constitution, provisions were made for the presentation of annual financial report. Annual financial report is different from audit report.
There were provisions for the appointment of board of trustee, advisory board and the disciplinary committee. These bodies were to carry out specific functions to assist the executive in running the affairs of the Union. But presently I do not think these committees are in existence, if they exist, they are not functional. Otherwise, we should not have encountered this crisis, because the disciplinary committee as a crisis management committee, could have handled the problem.
IVS is also created as the vanguard of the people to promote the development of Ika land, in terms of ensuring that projects approved in Ika land are executed to specifications
When you raise this kind of issue, people shout you down. I am not really comfortable with how the group is run.
Like I said, there is a high demand for IVS financial report among members, because, financial report is core means of communication..
Engr Tony Emeke Odoe.
I really don;t like to talk about the internal affairs of IVS …it is shrouded in cabalism and secrecy.
Response from Tonni Okei
I have no issues with IVS finances that is not my major concern, my concerns are application of rule of law, human right and freedom of expression in the group
We live in a society where the right of individuals are fundamental, I do not like the last paragraph of the exco notice of suspension of Sam Ikem, (We will punish other administrators of the new group if they remain there. We have their names). Such threat is anti democratic, individuals have right to belong to any group they so wish to belong and nobody can take such right away from them.
Response from Smart Ikem
Please ignore any of such messages as it’s from those that were on a set mission to bring the group down.
There’s nothing like financial impropriety nor any form of highhandedness in IVS.
Unfortunately, when people fail to turn the hand of the clock in the direction they so desire, they therefore intend to do the otherwise, either to please themselves or destroy where they once were.
Most of the outcomes from Ika Economic Summit have so far been implemented even in this present Administration.
As I write, there are no questions about audit report, if in doubt, you can still reach out to the leadership.
Every activity of the group both income and expenditure have always been published on the platform; but unfortunately, most don’t read.
Response from Barr E. A. Uzum, IVS Convener.
My brother, I am the convener of Ika Village Square, I got the inspiration from Ika Village Square in London.
The purpose IVS is to draw all Ika speaking people across the globe under a united body to talk together as a family and articulate the problems facing Ika nation. The group is more of a visual group, our meetings are held visually.
We have executive committee, which runs the affairs of the group, Chief Jude Ugbekile is the Chairman with Barr Reuben Mgbodi as the Vice and others. I was not interested in holding any position, I was comfortable been referred to as the convener. But when the board of trustee was created, I was prevailed upon to serve as secretary, while Dr Kingsley Emu was appointed the Chairman.
It is the executive that runs the activities of the Square, and whatever decision they arrived at, they always report to the House for final inputs and approval. This is where every member can freely contribute and air his or her views.
My brother there is nothing like financial impropriety, every kobo donated by either members or the public are always posted on the group platform, bearing the name of the donor and amount donated. At a time, it became necessary to open a bank account. You know that before an account is open by any association, the association most register with Corporate Affairs, Commission. I did all that and used the sum of N100,000.00 my personal money to open the account with Zenith Bank. Whatever fund we get, are lodged into the account and all expenditures are approved before payment is made.
I heard people alleged that Ika Economic Summit was organized for personal grandstanding, for political reasons. There is nothing like that my brother. I run for 2015 House of Assembly election, then Ika village Square was not in existence. I also indicated interest in running for the 2019 election before I was advised to allow the incumbent to go for a second term. Before then, Ika Village Square did not help me to campaign. For now, I am no longer interested in contesting any election. What the future holds for me is in the hands of God.
My brother, another funny misconception from some people was that Ika Economic Summit was organized without a single investor. Just look at that, am I supposed to go to America, UK and France to bring investors? That was not the aim of the Summit, what we did was to invite all Ika sons and daughters, industrialists, those with financial war chest to look at the investment potentials in Ikaland with a view of helping to attract investors. We promised to provide the enabling environment to secure their investment.
Before then, we carried out surveys of investment potential in Ikaland. We have solid mineral like Kaolin and bitumen for those interested in solid minerals. We have various agro produce for those interested in Agro industries.
The Square have recorded commendable achievement since its formation. We have hosted the Ika Economic Summit, the Ika cultural festival, which we hosted with Onu Ika, we were planning to host His Excellency, when the program was aborted following the passing on of the Alasi Obi. All the money earmarked and released for the program, have been paid back into the Union account.
We carry out a survey of the unemployed youth in Ikaland, which we have digitalised. We are sponsoring some of them in skill acquisition programs at Mbiri Skill Acquisition Centre, and we are appealing to the government to assist us in vocational training of some of them.
My brother, there is nothing like executive highhandedness, everyone is allowed to express his or her views. Those who were suspended knew why they were suspended. We welcome debates on issues as enlightened adults, but we do not want the Square to become a platform where people disparage Ika leaders and reputable Ika personalities, that was not the aim of the group.
The exit of Alex Okunbor from the Square, was a surprise to members. when the demand for audit of the Union account became necessary, we appointed one of our member who is a charted auditor to look into our book, it took him quite a time to come back with the report. This was presented to the House for review. It was expected that every member will look into the report and point out areas that is not clear enough to him or her.
Alex Okunbor’s only comment was that the audit report should be thrown into the waste-bin. Members considered the comment as an insult on the integrity of the professional auditor, who did the work freely without collecting a dime.
We ask him to withdraw the statement and issue apology to the auditor. The next thing we saw, was his exit the platform.
We also learnt, they created a new group called Ika Progressive Union (IPU), where they added almost everybody in IVS to the group, without their consent. We learnt Sam Ikem was made admin of that group. We draw his attention to the information and advised him to exit the group. He was subsequently suspended from the Square when he refused to exit.
It is a fact that we gave an instruction, directing all members of IVS who were added to the new group to exit, because of obvious reasons. The group was created to undermine IVS.
Personally I am not against any body forming a group, but in this case their intention is to destroy IVS. To lead is never an easy task, let’s watch out. Our Ika adage says, ‘if you kill somebody for carrying palm-front, you will get kill if you are also found carrying it’.
It is true the auditor raised the issues of vouchers and invoice receipt, my brother, we live as a closed community here, we regard ourselves as one, we believe we are one family, unfortunately, most of those who were agitating for payment vouchers are living abroad. I stayed in UK for ten years, we have different culture. I did not see the need to demand a receipt or to prepare a payment invoice for a woman, we ask to supply us some plates of food.
Anyway, the auditor raised the issue and advised we do that. We have accepted the advice and we will use that in our future transactions.
We learn everyday. We are finding ways to reconcile and settle the problem because the unity and development of Ika nation is paramount and above all other interests.
A prominent founding member of IVS, has taken a noble step of extinguishing the ranging flame in the Square, in a letter address to the executive, which was made available to us, John Akugbe posited, ‘due to the seemingly lack of coordination since the audit report was out and the exit of Mr. Alex Okunbor from the group, plus other related developments in that regards, I decided making calls to see what I can do to affect the situation positively. And most importantly to forster United and avoid disintegration.
So far I have been able to reach out to the following people on phone:
1. Our chairman
2. The Gen. Sec.
3. Publicity Sec.
4. The Converner
5. Mr. Alex Okunbor
6. Mr. Tonna Okei
7. Mr. Sam Ikem (US)
8. Dr. Martin Imudia
Based on what I know/understand from those calls, I would recommend that:
1. We readmit Mr. Alex Okunbor irrespective of the fact that he left on his own.
2. That the EXCO put up a statement reassuring the general house that a date/day will soon be decided to discuss the audit report and answer every other relevant questions concerning finance.
3. There are some who believed or suspect that the IVS money in our Convener’s account has not been transferred to IVS account, whereas, that was the money used to open IVS’ bank account. Note that explanation is the key to a better understanding.
4. There are a lot of people who already knew of the IVS money paid out for some services before the aborted event due to the sudden demise of the wife of our royal Father which has not been refunded. For some, the EXCO is involved since nothing about it is mentioned. No financial report and not in audit report.
On the other hand, the EXCO has another reason to deal with the matter internally and close it there. But in contrary, the matter did not close there! It is exactly here we need to work harder through the backstage to silence it forever or we open it up and deal with it openly to clear the entire EXCO from it.
In conclusion, I would like to appeal that you, EXCO consider no.1 and 2 above while the backstage diplomacy continues. The unity of Ika Village Square is under threat again! Please let us forego individual grievances for the sake of our unity and progress.
Thanks and may God bless you All. I am personally aware of the sacrifices you are making on ground. God knows too!