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ERA/FoEN Holds General Assembly In Benin…REMOVES NNIMMO BASSEY, appoints new board

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN)  held it’s general assembly in Benin City with the theme, “ERA/FoEN strategy meeting on the state of the environment amidst controversy.
The general assembly which had representatives from areas of operation took time to denounce and frown at the recent hike in fuel price, increase in electricity tariff and value added tax on Nigerians by the federal government which it observed has led to discomfort based on increasing food prices, increase on transportation fares and the general high cost of living in Nigeria presently.
The general assembly also deliberated and  looked at the lingering crises among Trustees and Management team of ERA/FoEN.
 
After robust deliberations and passing of a vote of confidence on Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo as an outstanding environmental and human rights advocate, community and grassroots mobiliser who has championed the cause of  ERA/FoEN, Mr. Christopher Ojeikere on behalf of the group and allied partners spread across the Niger Delta region and other areas of operation, read out the resolution of the ERA/FoEN assembly which was seconded by members there present, leading to the passing of a vote of confidence on Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo and his continuity in office as the legitimate director of the organization.
 
Members in attendance denounced the action of Chima Williams, advising him to stop parading himself as the acting executive director of the organization. They nonetheless recommended disciplinary measures to be meted on him within the ambit of the law while advising the public against transacting business with him on behalf of the rights organization.
 
The group stated that by the action of the assembly, Mr. Nnimmo Bassey has been removed as Trustee and Chairman of Board with the recommendation that the Lagos and Abuja offices under his control be shut down with immediate effect until further directive from Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo.
 
Thanking the group for the confidence reposed in him with the pledge to do more, Dr. Uyi Ojo got an invitation to come collect his, “Safer Earth Award” in recognition of ERA’s contribution to the Nigerian society, particularly for Ojo’s championing the advocacy for cleanup in Ogoni land; Environmental human rights and Environmental justice by, “The New Experience Newspaper,” Lagos, in the month of November.
 
Nnimmo Bassey while reacting to his removal as Trustee and Chairman of Board, ERA/FoEN, and the non recognition of Chima Williams as the acting executive director of the organization based on the outcome of the general assembly,
noted that Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo was a staff not a member of the board since October 3, 2020 hence such action was illegal.

In a related development the Environmental Rights Action, ERA & Friends of the Earth Nigeria FoEN, has removed Nnimo Bassey as chairman of its board. This followed resolutions taken at a General Assembly of the NGO, which took place at the Precious Palm Royal Hotel Benin City on 7th October 2020, attended by a powerful contingent including Community Forest Watch Communities and its allies, affiliate coalition members, journalists, lawyers and representatives of interest groups.

ERA executive director, Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo said that Bassey was removed because of lack of trust and conflict of interest on Bassey’s style, control and direct involvement in the day to day management of the organisation, a primary role of the current executive director.

Bassey occupied the dual position as ERA/FoEN executive director and chairman of the Board since its inception in 1993 to 2013, remaining as chair of the board of ERA 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 ERA development. The conflict of interest has caused rivalry and entrenched conflicts that are inimical to the smooth running of ERA foundation’, Dr. said.

The General Assembly meeting which removed Bassey as board chairman also 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.

The Environment Rights Action ERA, was founded in 1993 with three trustees, Nnimmo Bassey, Godwin Ojo and Oronto Douglas (deceased). With the mandate to protect the environment and the democratization of development.

Dr Ojo also said that the Lagos and Abuja Offices of ERA under the control of Nnimmo Bassey will remain closed, and that going by the provisions of Section 834(1) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020, the general Assembly has 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.

‘The public should take note that Chima Williams is not the Executive Director of ERA, and as such no one should transact ERA’s businesses with him’, Dr Ojo told the General Assembly.

When contacted, Bassey denied claims that Dr. Ojo was a co-founder with him and Oronto Douglass. According to Bassey, Laura Livoti, an evaluation report conducted by an external expert indicted Dr Ojo, necessitating his removal as executive director in the first instance.

‘What Dr. Ojo has done in removing me is an illegality because he ceased to be a member of staff of ERA prior to the General Assembly he conducted today’, Bassey said.

Bassey refused to let reporters have access to the evaluation report of May 28, 2020, citing issues of confidentiality, and our efforts to reach Livoti before going to press were not successful.

Analysts conclude however that the plan to remove Dr. Ojo as executive chairman had been well cooked over time.  Documents which our reporters sighted did not have Dr. Ojo’s name on the board of trustees of ERA, and there are doubts about the veracity or otherwise of the Livoti report.

‘Why is Bassey unwilling to make the Livoti report public if indeed it damns Dr. Ojo? Why did they want him removed over a report that did not establish tangible reasons to sack a man who has invested the better part of his life fighting for a better environment’, an analyst unwilling to be names said to this reporter.

Nnimmo Bassey while reacting to his removal as Trustee and Chairman of Board, ERA/FoEN, and the non recognition of Chima Williams as the acting executive director of the organization based on the outcome of the general assembly,
noted that Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo was a staff not a member of the board since October 3, 2020 hence such action was illegal.