By; RAYMOND TEDUNJAYE, Lagos
The factional chairperson of Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) Lagos chapter, Hajia Sekinah Lawal has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to release the outcome of its investigations into the over N150million Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) housing scheme fraud.
Lawal, who was said to have been defeated in a controversial election, made the request at a joint press held Monday in Ikeja.
She posited that the EFCC ought to have made public its findings into the alleged housing fraud after two years of investigation or charge the case to court.
“We call on the leadership of the EFCC in Lagos to summon the courage to issue a report on their findings after two years of investigation and proceed to do the needful,” she said.
According to her, no fewer than 800 persons, mostly journalists, subscribed to the botched housing scheme.
She added that the EFCC had been silent for too long on a petition submitted two years ago by 26 of the subscribers calling for a probe of NAWOJ President, Ifeyinwa Omowole, over the failed housing scheme.
Lawal, who addressed the press conference alongside the NUJ Chairman of The Nation Chapel, Mr Musa Odoshimokhe, contended that the election conducted last Thursday by NAWOJ, Lagos chapter, was null and void, having been done in disobedience to a court order.
She said, “The election season came amid a struggle to get justice for our members who had lost about N150 million in a fraudulent housing scheme, spearheaded by Mrs Omowole, who saw a window of opportunity in the planned Lagos NAWOJ election to wrest power from the vocal incumbent chairperson of NAWOJ, Hajia Sekinah Lawal, and subscribers who were prosecuting a case against her (Omowole).
“After suffering the inaction of the past national and state leadership of the NUJ in the last three years regarding the housing fraud, some of the subscribers even reported those involved to the EFCC.
“Mrs Omowole openly boasted that nothing would come out of the EFCC and truly, the EFCC seems to have stopped working on the fraud case.”
She argued that the May 23 Lagos NAWOJ election should not stand as it was conducted against the order of the National Industrial Court (NIC).
While vowing that the housing scheme subscribers would do everything legally possible to get justice, Lawal called on the EFCC to release its probe report on the alleged housing fund.
“There shall be no retreat and no surrender in our collective struggle for justice as we rest assured that the harder the struggle, the more glorious shall be our triumph,” she said.
Also speaking at the occasion,The Nation Newspaper NUJ Chapel Chairman, Musa Odoshimokhe said the NUJ is in a disarray, adding that “if we don’t put our heads together to nip all these crises in the bud now, it will become a monster that will hunt all of us.”
According to him, NAWOJ President Omowole is at the centre of all these crises in the Lagos State council “Because she has an anointed candidate, as a result, she arranged the so-called electoral committee to favour her candidate in the botched election.”
Odoshimokhe said: “We are against this. The electoral committee set the constitution aside. If the constitution is to be set aside, it should encompass everything not that you set aside certain areas and uphold some areas because those areas you’re upholding are only favourable to you. Our members who came there to partake in that election were not allowed to participate.
They were chased out and some of them were even rough handled. Given that as it may, even when a constituted court of competent jurisdiction sent its bailiff to serve a summon on the electoral committee that the election should be stopped, they still went ahead to hold that election.
“As far as we are concerned at The Nation, that election has not held. That election was one-sided and it was only done by the so-called Public Relations Officers (PROs) in the Ministry of Information. The Nation, The Sun, The Guardian and some other chapels were disenfranchised. Therefore, there was no election.
There’s a court process on the ground. We may even go ahead to sue them for disenfranchising our members. Our members have paid their dues. You cannot come overnight and say people should pay N3000 whereas they have paid as members of NUJ. The money was deducted from the source. It is left for the NUJ to remit whatever it has for NAWOJ. By double taxing them with N3000, that has not been the process. The NAWOJ election is a charade. It cannot stand and we are against it and we cannot accept it in any way.”