Date Published: 09/02/09
Rejoinder to "How the Nigerian Union Hungary is being managed" article
I write to respond to the article written by Hakeem Babalola titled: “How the Nigerian Union Hungary is Being Managed,” published on Pointblanknews.com on 08/06/09 . This rejoinder has become necessary for the sake of posterity to address the misrepresentation of facts and the insinuation of possible mismanagement during my tenure as the President of the Nigerian Union in Hungary.
The article is particularly troubling, for it is awash with pseudo-authoritative airs, and chances are slender that the article may not have misled its readers.
For example, it was alleged that “an invitation had been sent to the out-going executive for a proper handing over in which only the President and the Secretary General honoured, taking with them some documents considered incomplete by the new executive, who charged that the union most important property was still missing”. This is not true and it is a wilful perversion of facts. The time for the handing-over meeting was mutually agreed upon.
Those present from the out-going executive included, the President, Peter Ihaza, Nnorom (Treasurer), Sammie Adetiloye, (Secretary General) and Dr. Hussaini Umar (PRO). From the incoming administration, only Felix Omoregbe (the President) and Kabiru Idris (Vice President) were present. Kinsley Johnson (the Financial Secretary) came late and also left early before the handing over was finalised. Mr. John Oni and Tunde Adeosun, members of the electoral committee were also present.
During that meeting all documents were handed over INCLUDING the bank statement of the Union showing that there was only one withdrawal of 10,000 HUF in 7 years and a receipt was also provided for that amount. In any case, the complete bank transactions can be obtained anytime by the present executive by simply walking into the bank and making that request. Why not do that instead of making statements suggesting that members of my administration have something to hide. Those in glass houses should not throw stones.
It was and is still a known fact there was no money when we came into power as there were no membership dues paid and there was no other source of income. We ran the Union virtually on our own money.
It was only in 2005 we began to look beyond the union for funds. We appealed to Nigerians to remit 1% of their annual tax returns to the union. The response to that message yielded HUF 33.137 ($ 177 ). And in 2006, we renewed our appeal which netted the union HUF 61.352 ($ 330 ).
In 2007, Hungarian Tax Office wrote to us saying that the union was entitled to HUF 90.000 ($ 481 ). We swiftly prepared all the necessary tax papers to facilitate the transfer of the money to the union’s account.
All the tax papers were among the documents handed over to the new executive in 2007. We told them that the only thing to be done for the new money to come to the union was just submit the tax papers to the tax office. We believe that they were too busy to go to the tax office to submit the papers, as there is no indication today that the money was paid into the union’s account. All information concerning how much the union got from 1% tax returns in 2005 and 2006, or if there is any other tax returns paid into the union’s account afterwards, can be checked on the Hungarian Tax Office website: http://www.apeh.hu/data/cms36686/ERVENYESCIVIL_KEDVEZMENYEZETTEK_20080102.pdf and http://www.apeh.hu/data/cms19199/ervenyes_civil_kedvezmanyezettek_20061227.pdf
All this money put together comes to the total of HUF 94.489 ($507). And virtually all the money was handed over to the new administration. As I said above, we only withdrew HUF10.000 ($50) from the money. Now, I do not know which other money, according to your article, is expected to be handed over to the new administration.
And Mr. Kingsley has denied making the statement and the call attributed to him advising me to “render an account” as contained in the write-up.
It is baffling to read another spice of misinformation that “as at February 2009 about one million Hungarian Forint (3, 330 euro) is said to be in the union account as part of 1% salary donation from each willing member” even when there is no indication on the Hungarian Tax Office website that the 1% tax returns for 2007 and 2008 were paid to the union.
And this brings the issue of the union’s address to the fore. The address of the union – Budapest district X – as indicated on the Hungarian website was the only official address of the union. And it is owned by another Nigerian, Mr Toyin Akinwumi. I did not own a house in Budapest then to which any documents of the union could have been sent. I suggest that the facts should be checked before going public. If the statement again attributed to Mr. Kingsley about the handing over of the union’s address is true, I would like to have an explanation of how to hand over a union’s physical registered address.
It is therefore an outright fallacy to say the President held the keys to almost everything according to the statement: “ But in this case, the president holds the key to almost everything including the post office key. Important documents go to the principal address which is Peter's while only letters from the Nigerian Embassy go to the post office".
The only thing not handed over was the misplaced key to the union’s post office box which was blocked because of the inability of the union to pay for its further use when the contract between the union and the post office expired. And again to open a new post office box, all you need do is just walk to the post office and fill out a form, and it is done.
It is wrong to quote Mr. Kingsley as a matter of fact that it was “ unethical for one person to be the sole signatory to a union account, adding that since the union is not a one man business, at least three signatories are needed before any money could be withdrawn form the union account”.
It is not true that during my tenure the President was the sole signatory to the union’s account. The constitution stipulated that three signatories were required, and that was our guiding principle during my 7 seven-year tenure.
I completely agree with Mr. Kingsley where he was alleged to have said: “Under the ethics of accounting, the person who keeps records and money cannot be the same". Unlike in the present administration in which there is ONLY one financial secretary (Mr. Kingsley), in my administration, we had Mr. Arasomwan as the financial secretary who kept finance records, and Mr. Nnorom as the treasurer for handling cash.
The article went further to quote Mr Johnson as saying: “He adds that the union bank account is still in "their signatory” After two years we left the union, is anyone still out there suggesting that someone from my administration is still a signatory to the Union’s account?
The article also alleged “ controversy and scepticism surrounding the outcome of the election in which Peter Ihaza defeated Charles Akpan” . I wonder what the scepticism and controversy were about the outcome of the election in which I got more than 75% of the votes. The election was witnessed by officials of the Nigerian Embassy and to the best of my knowledge the results of the election were not contested anywhere as all the parties involved accepted and respected the wishes of the voters. I observed that the academic titles of some of my fellow former executive members were left out. I request that the academic titles of Dr. Husain Omar the former PRO and Dr. Remi Baderinwa, the former Protocol Officer be recognised and used.
I would also like to mention that with the exception of one, all the officials in my administration are university graduates with four holding master’s degrees from Hungarian universities.
It is imperative to make a point clear here. Nigerian Union was not formed to fight the Nigerian Embassy, but to find common grounds on which to work for the betterment of our people. The cordial relationship the then executive members enjoyed with the embassy enabled the Union to prompt the Embassy to help Nigerians in distress especially in terms of issuing the appropriate documents and intervening whenever a Nigerian was in need of help.
The former Ambassador Akintola was very pivotal to the formation of the Nigerian Union by encouraging the various ethnic associations to come together and form one Union. For Akintola, no one was too small or too big for him to personally receive in his office. That credit cannot and should not be taken away from him. And as for Ambassador Guyit (may his soul rest in peace), he was full of energy and had the intention to do a lot but his tenure was cut short by death. Having said that, I would like to say, they, as human beings, had their shortcomings too during their time as ambassadors.
Just in passing, while I may not be the biggest fan of our ex- President, Olusegun Obasanjo, I would not necessarily use the adjective “dictator” to describe him. I would also like to mention that the money spent during his visit to Hungary came out of the pockets of the executive members of my administration.
And nobody, except in article referred to above, has said something is wrong with having the pictures of the executive members in a calendar with President Obasanjo who was barely two years in the saddle when he visited Hungary in 2001. The idea of having a calendar done was a collective decision taken by the members of the Union. The calendar did not prevent me voicing our concerns about the welfare of Nigerians in Hungary to President Obasanjo.
I understand that we all have our different opinions of the man, Obasanjo, but I refuse to share in any hatred or dislike for him, and I have no regrets whatsoever in appearing in the same calendar as him. I do not wish to be a neighbourhood rascal masquerading as the law or a reformed sinner who prays louder than the rest to drown out his own undying doubts.
It is my wish that the Nigerian Union in Hungary should be formidable, active and regains at least a semblance of the importance and relevance it once had. Anything to the contrary should be a source of concern to any Nigerian living in Hungary. It is already two years since the new executive came to power. If I am correct, an election should be imminent anytime. It is time for everyone including the naysayers to come and participate in the activities of the Union.
By Peter Ihaza
The first and immediate past President of the Nigerian Union, Hungary