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ERA leadership crisis worsens as Nnimmo Bassey is removed as board member

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) says it has removed environmental activist, Nnimmo Bassey, as Trustee and Chairman of its Board.

ERA/FoEN General Assembly
L-R: Christopher Ojeikere, Foundation for Good Governance and Social Change; Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director, ERA/FoEN; and Queeneth Stephen, Gokana Community, Ogoni, at the ERA/FoEN General Assembly

At a General Assembly Meeting held in Benin City, Edo State, on Wednesday, October 7, 2020,  the organisation resolved that “every step of illegality taken by him (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 Nnimmo Bassey”, be shut down with immediate effect until further directive from Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo, the Executive Director of ERA/FoEN.

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 detracted by anyone in the discharge of his duties. The General Assembly at the meeting 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.

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.

“That the public should take note that Chima Williams is not the Executive Director of ERA and, as such, no one should transact business with him.”

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 Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF).

Officials disclosed that ERA/FOEN has three trustees who are also co-founders of the organisation. They were listed as: Nnimmo Bassey. Godwin Ojo and Oronto Douglas (now deceased).

The organisation was founded in 1993 for the protection of the environment and the democratisation of development.

“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. Godwin Uyi Ojo. Nnimmo Bassey occupied the dual position as ERA/FoEN Executive Director and “Chairman of the Board” since inception in 1993 to 2013 and remained as “Chairman of the Board” for over 27 years.

“He combines these as the Executive Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), an organisation which he established for the purpose of sabotaging the progress of Environmental Rights Development Foundation (also known as ERA/FoEN). The conflict of interest has caused rivalry and entrenched conflicts that is inimical to the smooth running of the Environmental Rights Development Foundation (also known as ERA/FoEN).”

The General Assembly further commended the resolution of the Senate leadership over the recent commitment to break the nearly 20 years jinx that is said to have bedeviled the Petroleum Industry Bill currently before the National Assembly.

It however condemned the Federal Government’s recent hike in the fuel pump price, increase in electricity tariff and Value Added Tax (VAT) that have resulted in increasing food prices, increase in transportation fares, and other communities.

The ERA/FoEN General Assembly also noted the state of environmental degradation in Nigeria, the slow pace of work in the clean-up of Ogoniland by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), and the non-clean-up of the entire Niger Delta.

The meeting stressed the relevance of energy transition to wean Nigeria’s economy from oil dependence to a post petroleum economy to address climate change and usher in a new model of energy democracy.

In a reaction, Bassey stated that Ojo lacked the authority to make such declarations and to conduct an Assembly as head of ERA/FoEN.

He said: “The Board of Trustees (BoT) relieved him of his duties on Saturday, October 3, 2020 because of damning evaluation carried out by an external evaluator and because his services are no longer needed.

“He was a member of the BoT until 2015 when he was removed due to intransigence and displayed acts of impediment. The termination of his appointment was unanimously endorsed by the BoT and everyone present at the meeting, except him, signed the letter.

“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 meeting he convened today. It is ridiculous to suggest that the Abuja and Lagos offices are under my control. That is absolute falsehood.

“I have never been involved in the running of any part of ERA since I unfortunately recommended his appointment as ED by the BoT in 2013 upon my resignation as founding ED of the organisation.”

Members of the Board who signed Ojo’s ouster are listed as Nnimmo Bassey, Dr. Ike Okonta, Dr. Joe-Okei Odumakin, Professor Margaret Okorodudu-Fubara, Akinbode Oluwafemi and Daphne Wysham.

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