The purported suspension of the national vice president of the Committee for Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), Comrade Prince Kehinde Taiga, singlehandedly executed by president of the foremost human rights body in Nigeria, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, may be counterproductive as other executive members of the body have dissociated themselves from the action of the national president.
Available details the national executive of the body presented to Emerald News revealed that the national executive comprises eight members but the suspension letter dated August 13, 2020 was signed only by the president, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, a development that indicates an action singlehandedly carried out by the president without the input of other six executive members.
Emerald News also got a copy of a query to the vice president, Comrade Kehinde Taiga which was also signed only by the president, in which he was accused of gross misconduct during the period he was chairman of the Delta state branch of the CDHR.
In the suspension letter, the president said the suspension was to pave way for full and unhindered investigation of the allegations of misconduct and acts of indiscipline made against Taiga as contained in the report of the three member stakeholder committee dated 20th June, 2020. He said it was a resolution reached by the National Executive Committee (NEC) held on August 8, 2020. He said the suspension is for one year.
However, five national executive members of the body in the persons of the general secretary, Comrade James Chibuzo Chikwendu; Assistant General Secretary, Comrade Kabir Ibrahim; Legal Adviser, Barrister (Mrs.) Violet Ekumankama; Publicity Secretary, Comrade Gerald Katchy and Internal Auditor, Comrade Ayuba Musa, dissociated themselves from being part of the action of the national president.
In a disclaimer signed by the five members, the group said: “We, the members of the national Executive Committee of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR) hereby write to disclaim the suspension of the vice president, Dr. Prince Kehinde Taiga as announced by the president, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana on the 14th of August 2020. We make this disclaimer on the fact that there was denial of fair hearing and no recommendation from the disciplinary committee.”
In a communique made available to journalists after a meeting of the aforementioned members, the body faulted the one year suspension placed on the CDHR vice president, Comrade Kehinde Taiga by the president. The members said the letter was only signed by the president without the general secretary.
In an interview with the general secretary, Comrade James Chibuzo Chikwendu, he said there was issue in Delta state branch of the CDHR where the vice president was accused of some alleged wrong doing when he was chairman of the Delta state chapter of CDHR.
He said: “There was an issue between the vice president and a member of the organization in the state, Israel Joe. We members of NEC asked that the vice president be subjected to investigations. Those allegations raised were when he was chairman of CDHR in Delta and not now that he is national vice president. These are mere allegations.
“A committee was set up by stakeholders in the state, the report of which did not indict the vice president. The report did not call for suspension or reprimand but that the vice president should not be part of the election in the state. He was not even questioned to know if those allegations are true or not.
“For these reasons, we, NEC members, decided to converge to disclaim that suspension and say it is illegal, it is against the constitution of the CDHR, hence we are not part of it. We did not reach such agreement that the VP should be suspended.
“The president does not have the right to use his veto power to suspend, we should enter voting, that is the system. After the voting, the simple majority may have their way.
“According to the constitution of the CDHR, it is the national secretary that signs such letters to the public and I, as general secretary, did not sign such a letter. We are hereby calling on the president to call for a general meeting to address these issues. If after due process, he is found wanting, then the law should have its cause.”
In a phone conversation with the vice president, Comrade Taiga, he explained the issues that generated the crisis leading to the action of the president. He said Israel Joe accused him of sharing money with police that they extorted from from yahoo boys as bail.
He added that the accuser alleged that he was attempting to foist leadership on Delta state chapter. Based on the allegations, he said, the Delta state stakeholders set up committee, adding that the committee did not indict him of any wrong doing. He told Emerald News that the president acted on his own, gave him query and suspension.
He said a petition was not sent to NEC but it was stakeholders report which did not indict him that was brought before NEC and the president acted unilaterally which is against the constitution of CDHR.
Comrade Taiga alleged that the action of the president was based on his demand for the president to account for the N5million a philanthropist gave to the human rights group and investigation of the previous tenure, led by Barrister Malachy Ugwummadu.
He also added that the CDHR accommodation in Lagos given out on rent yields N3.6million annually and that the previous administration received the annually for the four years of its tenure and other donations from good spirited Nigerians which amounted to millions.
He alleged that the previous administration failed to render account as stipulated in the constitution of the CDHR. He said every year, external auditors are expected to audit the account of the CDHR but the previous administration did not do so.
He told this medium that the president, Obayuwana, blocked the investigation since he was reportedly brought into office by the previous administration, he needed to cover up the wrong deeds.
In a swift response, Barrister Ugwummadu said he left office in October 2019. According to him: “I made a handover to a very senior member in the CDHR. he was the attorney general in Oshiomhole’s government. The allegation that I did not give financial record is a serious falsehood.
“I was privileged to be in a meeting in Benin where Taiga was suspended. We cannot act same way as people we are attacking. my handover note was printed in a booklet form. I distributed the report to ordinary members. My financial report was included in the summary form. Anybody saying anything contrary is trying to destroy what we are building.”
On the allegation that the president singlehandedly signed the letter suspending the vice president, Obayuwana said it is not true. He told Emerald News when contacted that the vice president was suspended for one year by NEC.
He said he was suspended to pave way for fuller treatment of the matter. He alleged that the secretary was dilly-dallying, hence, he signed the letter himself.
However, five of the NEC members out of eight have distanced themselves from the purported suspension.