By Iduh Onah
THE Comrade Lateef Idowu Oyelekan leadership of the National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE) on Monday handed the union’s Ogun State Chairperson, Comrade Adesegun Oluwole Olubode, an indefinite suspension on allegations bordering on complaints over non-payment of statutory rebate due to the State Council of the union.
The suspension is however officially on grounds of alleged “unprofessional, misleading, unethical and unacceptable” conduct.
However, the sacked chairperson had prior to his suspension stated that all the allegations against him “are malicious, false and calculated to tarnish my good reputation.”
The suspension followed a vote-of-no-confidence passed on the state chairperson by the Nestle Branch of NUFBTE at a meeting reportedly held on the 29th of April, 2022 at Agbara factory, where Comrade Olubode is a member.
National Record gathered from impeccable sources within the union that the suspension of Comrade Olubode is one of the growing list of impunity and unethical practices that have become the norm in the Food Union.
According to one of the sources, a vote-of-no-confidence from one out of the 18 branches in Ogun State has no legal force to be used to remove a state council chairperson. The source said for a state council chairman to be suspended or removed, at least a simple majority of all the branches must first endorse the action.
“What is happening is a continuation of the impunity and abnormality going on in the union. The chairman, who has been suspended indefinitely, is Oyelekan’s kinsman whom he handpicked and imposed on the council without an election when the legitimately elected chairman opposed to Comrade Oyelekan’s tenure elongation was expelled,” another source, also a member of the union, told National Record on Tuesday under the cover of anonymity.
According to the source, the crux of the issue behind the indefinite suspension was the apparent agitation by the chairperson over the non-payment of monthly rebate to the state council by the national secretariat of NUFBTE.
The statutory 10% rebate payable to the Ogun State Council of the union, National Record gathered, is about six million naira. However, the state, along with other state councils, are said to have at the moment not been paid monthly rebates by the national secretariat for well over four months’ running.
“Many branches of our union are now broke. When they ask for their rebate, the national secretariat will tell them that the union has no money.
“The check-off dues from Ogun State Council of the union every month is well over 30 million naira and ten per cent of that is three million to the council in addition to another three million naira distributable to the branches based on their contribution.
“In spite of all this money going to the national secretariat, the Oyelekan leadership of the union is saying they have no money to pay branches the money [rebate] that should legally go back to them and when they asked, they are threatened with removal or suspension,” the source told National Record.
The suspension letter
In the letter with reference number NUF/NHS/GS/Vol 1/195 and dated 1st August, 2022, which was obtained by National Record from an unimpeachable source at the National Secretariat of the union, Comrade Mike Olanrewaju, NUFBTE’s General Secretary who signed the suspension letter, said the decision was taken at a meeting of the union’s National Administrative Committee (NAC) held on Thursday, 28th July, 2022 at the union’s Lagos national secretariat.
Comrade Olanrewaju said the decision of the NAC to indefinitely suspend Comrade Olubode followed his unsatisfactory response to a query he (Olanrewaju) issued him based on a vote of no confidence passed on the chairperson by his Nestle Branch of the union.
The letter entitled: “Suspension as the State Chairman of (NUFTBTE) Ogun State Council”, Reads: “The National Administrative Committee (NAC) at its meeting held on Thursday, 28th July, 2022 appraised the Vote of No Confidence passed on you by your Branch Union.
“Also exhaustively discussed is your response to the query issued to you by the office of the General Secretary and the outcome of the investigative meeting held by select team of NAC, yourself and the Branch Officers of Nestle Nigeria Plc which was held on Friday, 3rd June, 2022.
“The NAC in-session adjudged your conduct to be unprofessional, misleading, unethical and unacceptable. Hence your continued holding of the position of State Chairman in your Council cannot be justified or sustained.
“Consequently, you are hereby placed on an INDEFINITE SUSPENSION from your position as the STATE CHAIRMAN OF OGUN STATE COUNCIL with immediate effect.
“You are further advised to hand-over all Union documents and properties in your possession to your State Secretary and subsequently stay away from all activities of the Union in your State Council.” (Olanrewaju’s emphasis).
The letter conveying the vote-of-no-confidence to the NAC of NUFBTE through the union’s General Secretary, with reference number NUF/NN/BS/AG/22/35 and dated 29th April, 2022, has nine signatories, although the positions of the signatories were not indicated in the letter that was received on 4th May, 2022.
Entitled; “Vote of no Confidence on Com Adesegun Oluwole Olubode”, the letter narrated the circumstances behind the no-confidence vote.
In addition to rudimentary nuances of union politics, the signatories identified as a ‘BIG ISSUE’ an allegation that “Com Adesegun Olubode recently called a meeting with the Nestle branch at Citizens Hotel Sagamu, on the 28th march, 2022, where he declared war against the National administrative committee stating that NAC has refused to pay his rebate for several months. He said the nestle branch should join him to mobilize against the national” [sic]
The letter reads: “The branch in her meeting held on the 29th of April, 2022 at agbara [sic] factory, took a decision to pass a vote of no confidence on Com Adesegun Oluwole Olubode, the Ogun state council chairman who happens to be our member from Nestle Nigeria plc.
“1. Comrade Adesegun Olubode has been as source of confusion to the Nestle branch since he took over as the Ogun state council chairman; he call [sic] out our members for unnecessary address at any point in time thereby creating confusion in our locations.
“2. He has consistently instigated the FLOWERGATE UNIT against the branch which took the intervention of management and the branch excos to resolve, the ripple effect has not been totally eradicated.
“3. He has promised many staff that he will coopt [sic] them into the union when he remove [sic] all the branch and units executives from office and this unfulfilled promises has [sic] created a lot of crisis across our locations.
“4. THE BIG ISSUE: Com Adesegun Olubode recently called a meeting with the Nestle branch at Citizens Hotel Sagamu, on the 28th march, 2022, where he declared war against the National administrative committee stating that NAC has refused to pay his rebate for several months. He said the nestle branch should join him to mobilize against the national [sic]
“THE POSITION OF NESTLE BRANCH
“The Nestle branch writes to disassociate herself from all these actions of Comrade ADESEGUN OLUBODE [the Ogun state chairman] most especially his call for a protest against the National administrative committee for non-payment of his rebate.
“We are not in his support, [sic] we are solidly behind the national administrative committee [NAC] under the leadership of Comrade Lateef Idowu Oyelekan.
“We hereby recommend the removal of the Comrade Adesegun Olubode Oluwole and be replaced by a more loyal, intelligent and vibrant person from Nestle Branch.”
In his reaction to the vote-of-no-confidence conveyed through him to the NAC, Comrade Olanrewaju, rather than forwarding the letter to the NAC of the union, directly issued a query to the state council chairperson before the NAC met.
In the query to Comrade Olubode, with reference number NUF/NHS/GS/VOL.1/130, dated 4th May, 2022, entitled “RE: VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE ON COM ADESEGUN OLUWOLE OLUBODE (BY NESTLE BRANCH UNION)”, Olanrewaju, among other things, states: “A serious worded letter with the above captioned dated 29th April, 2022 was received by the National Secretariat of our Union.
“The letter contains complaints and allegations of gross abuse of office and other sundry issues pertaining to anti-union activities against you by the entire Branch Union Executives of Nestle Nigeria Plc.
“Without mincing words, the allegations levelled against you is so weighty that gives room for serious concern. [sic]
“Consequently, you are hereby directed to provide cogent and acceptable reasons within the next Seven (7) days to justify why disciplinary actions should not be taken against you in accordance with provisions of our Union’s Constitution particularly Rule 11 (x) and Appendix 11 (5).” (His emphasis)
Response to Query
Comrade Olubode’s response to the query offered further corroboration to National Record’s source that the major issue behind the indefinite suspension was actually because of the audacity of the Ogun Council Chairperson to ask for the rebate due to his council.
According to Olubode in the response dated 9th May, 2022, all the allegations against him “are malicious, false and calculated to tarnish my good reputation.”
He challenged the General secretary and the signatories to supply the evidence to back their allegations.
He said: “The truth is that, without mincing words, I will appeal to the management to bring forth evidence, as Nestle Nigeria Plc believes in Trust, Clarity, Respect, and Branch EXCO’s to bring their proof because my job is at stake also my life is under threats from some faceless individuals. Life is not about the people who act true to your face, it is about the people who remain true behind your back. It is very clear that I have been serving because of the zeal and passion inside me burns brighter than the fire around or that surrounds me. [sic].
“On the allegations that I promised many staff to co-opt them into the union after removing all the branch and unit executive from office, and the unfulfilled promise has creased [sic] a lot of crisis across the location. I will also submit that all this are [sic] cooked by some set of people, there is need to call the attention of the NAC member under NUFBTF, Management of Nestle Nigeria Plc and other relevant law enforcement agency to investigate the claim as no such was discussed.
“That I called the branch for meeting on 28/3/2022 where I declare against the NAC stating that NAC have [sic] refused to pay my rebate for month. [sic] They said I told the Nestle Branch to join me to mobilize against the National. It is true that I called the branch for a meeting inside the branch Chairman hotel room [sic] as I don’t have anything to hide. But they did not write the true story of my discussion with them.
“What actually transpired was that the unit exco called me from Agbara factory, informing me about how the branch has refused to pay their rebate for more than four (4) months, only to receive the alert of N10,000 each, which I advised the caller to calm down, while promising him that I will discuss with the branch, [sic] which was the reason why I called the branch EXCO’s, and I explained to them that if National is owing you four months, they are owing state Council also, more than four months.
“I also told them to try and explain to the unit EXCO’s, so that they will not think they have been paying or collecting rebate every month. They told me, they have borrowed money with interest from people to pay back with interest rate which is almost the main money disallowing them to pay the unit. After the meeting, we laughed together and hugged each other and also share some refreshments. [sic]
“I want to believe that the reason behind all this wrong accusations, was because of how I have been able to restore unity amongst the members, as well as so many achievement have been able to accomplish since assuming the helms of affairs as the state chairman, which have beat their imagination. [sic]
“I wish to state that the allegations are opened to further investigation, as I have no hidden agenda, and I have operated an open door policy with all comrades. I will therefore suggest that my accuser should be encouraged to come forward with proof of all the allegations, hence it will be totally unacceptable to me for someone or a group of person to undermine my capacity as one of the union leaders and malign my character in such a despicable manner,” Comrade Olubode stated amongst other things.