The Environmental Rights Action, ERA & Friends of the Earth Nigeria FoEN, has removed Nnimoh Bassey as chairman of its board. This followed resolutions taken at a General Assembly of ERA, 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 for the current executive director.
According to Dr Ojo, ‘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’.
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). The organisation said it wanted to protect the environment and the democratization of development, a mandate which it has more than realized.
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 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 Livoti evaluation report of May 28, 2020, citing issues of confidentiality. Our efforts to reach Livoti before going to press were not successful. Bassey, however, said that the Livoti report also indicted several other organs of ERA because there were decisions that should have been taken over time that were not taken.
Analysts are of the opinion that the plan to remove Dr. Ojo as executive director had been well cooked. 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.
Pertinent questions begging for answers include the following: 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 specific reasons to sack a man who has neither put his hands into the ERA purse or has been wanting in the performance of his duties as executive director?
Insiders reveal that there are issues of financial indiscretion at the Lagos office of ERA. The insider alleged that a certain big name within the workings of the Lagos ERA office made off with $50,000.00 (Fifty thousand USD) and only paid up in instalments after a relentless audit by the Ojo-led ERA Exco. ‘Sometimes, they may want us to cook documents to cover up their indiscretions with the ERA funds but we have stood our grounds’, the insider said.
Prior to Wednesday’s General Assembly that sacked Nnimmo Bassey, a report made the rounds in Benin City that Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo had been removed as ERA executive director.