The Stable Must be Cleaned: A Call for A Refocusing of NISIG National

by ahjotnaija

To jump-move forward, a step backward is a must. As a group, it is urgent to critically look at the immediate past, with a view to better the community for the now and future. It is in no member’s interest if the group is run aground willfully, unwillfully, intentionally or unintentionally. Like the saying goes, the road to hell is full of good intentions. We know better.

Lets call a spade a spade. The NISIG Summit 2017 in Hamburg was not well planned nor executed. It failed in many aspect. This Summit, which holds once in a year is organized by NISIG National, the umbrella body which takes it place of pride in the fact that it joins the different NISIG chapters together and represents them as the face of the chapters in the public, particularly when the chapters must speak as one.

The conclusion of an awful and a completely left-footedly planned 2017 Summit in Hamburg is based and justified by the multiple dissenting voices registered via posts and comments on the group’s page on Facebook, a closed group to which only members of the association have access. NISIG is the short for Nigerian Scholars in Germany, a registered association as a not-for-profit association under Germany’s laws, for which a tax-free status is enjoyable so long the association abides by the rules under which it is registered.

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Incumbent President of NISIG National, Mr Ayansola Ayodeji. The president and his team, the executive body are working tirelessly since their inauguration to clean the stable left behind in order to refocus the scholar association which represents thousands of Nigerian students and scholars in Germany Source of Photograph: Facebook

It is noteworthy that there are 16 federating states in Germany, each federating state is entitled to have a chapter, operating as semi independent chapter, umbrella-ed under NISIG National. There are states in which the presence of Nigerian students are less strong. In such states, it is acceptable for a city or cities to form a chapter of NISIG and they are in theory accorded status of a state chapter. The big purpose of the association is bringing Nigerian scholars and students alike together in Germany to synergize them for the immediate benefit and common good of both countries, and long term for the greater benefit and common good of Nigeria at large.

Going back to the Hamburg Summit, the president of NISIG National, who coordinated the organising, pre-, during and post summit planning, was Mr. Kolade Moses Ogun, a Nigerian, resident in Germany. He was assisted by his team, called the executive body. He managed the affairs of the association as president for a two-term tenure. He has since not responded to any of the posts, comments or anything of such on the summit on Facebook, as members of the group demand answers to the myriads of questions that lay heavy on their mind, some of which are posted on the group page on Facebook.

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Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses, Ex-President. He is currently threatening a legal action against a member of the association who he claims defamed him because the member expressed his opinion on a closed Facebook group that the financial report submitted to the members of the association was an insult to the intelligence of the members. Efforts to persuade Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses to withdraw the case and settle inhouse is so far fruitless. Source of Photograph :Facebook

(Edit: The Organizing Committe of the Hamburg Summit posted a purported response on Facebook. It is a reponse which refused to answer the questions asked but dived into name calling, mind-guessing people’s intention and ultimately suggesting how the Facebook page of the association should be ironfisted-ly managed.)

However, an active member of the group reported that he got letter from the lawyer of Mr. Kolade Moses, who is now ex-president of the association, in which it was quoted that the member is being charged for character damage and defamation of personality. This further buttress the fact that Mr. Kolade Moses Ogun is not unaware of the questions and demands for answers to the questions being asked his administration while in charge of NISIG National. He only chose a different channel to attend to them, one of which is intimidation and indirect verbal blackmail. Permit a question: Where else could a member of an association raise issues that need to be attended if not in spaces that house members of the association? A closed Facebook group is one of such space. A WhatsApp Group, if any, is such space. The official E-Mail of the association is another of such space. Private messaging does not belong in this regard, because this is a not a private matter.

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In a letter made available, Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses parades himself still as president of the association although he has handed over in a publicly contested free and fair election. The election chairman is kindly requested to clear the air on this matter.

(Update: Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses, although having handed over officially in the presence of the whole of NISIG in an election fairly contested and won, still as at November 2017 in a letter parades himself as president of the association in order to pursue a court case wanting a member to renounce a statement made on this platform. In fact, he sent via his lawyer a written piece and confirmation, showing he was still president as at when he engaged a lawyer to legally pursue a case with this member for having aired his opinion in this closed space. If Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses still saw/sees himself as president as at when he was no more president or expected to be, what exactly is going on here in NISIG National? Who is the president? Who is still in charge? Are we being ruled by Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses still? Has he indeed handed over? Mr. Babajide Moibi, the Election Chairman should kindly enlighten us on this matter as at when the tenure of Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses expired and when that of the incumbent Mr. Ayansola commenced. We are in the dark on this matter.)

By the way, this is for the record, the data of the member Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses intends to sue/sues, was suspectedly gotten from the data submitted to NISIG National. Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses instructed his lawyer to send a letter to the place work of the member, a letter whose content demands that this member purportedly defamed Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses; a letter which clearly shows that it is from a lawyer to a place of work of a member he once sworn to work in his interest and benefit does not speak well of the image we want to project as NISIG National. I have questions: Does this not border on abuse of data protection policy? Who gave Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses the address? Who ordered Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses to use the address of a member in this manner? Did Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses took permission from the owner of the address or from NISIG National before using this address? Why did Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses acted in this manner? Many questions, but few or no answers.

Since this reported incidence, it is not uncommon for members of the association to express their opinion by expressly posting a caveat or a disclaimer before going ahead to air their view. Apparently, Nigerians are technically being silenced and threatened with legal action because they have chosen to associate with a course to benefit their country of origin, namely Nigeria. And to think that these members are now being cowed by a former president, who should be furthering progress and growth of the association, leaves much to be desired. To even think that Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses did not first explore other means of negotiation and dialogue, which is the responsible thing to do as a one-time leader of the association calls for great concern. What does he intend to achieve by dragging a member to court? Why did he leave out relatively peaceful means of conflict resolution? (given that an expressed opinion in a close space could be seen as a conflict). Does this in anyway have anything to do with his personal ego? Has he before now attended to issues in similar or related manner? What experience did/do members have with him? Does any member have reasons to be worried for being in NISIG National space? This is not the way to go.

Recently, a financial report was shared to members on the Hamburg Summit. A member, who apparently was not happy with the way the association’s money was expended, in the member’s subjective opinion, he surmised that bulk of spending clearly was a tailored wastage or near willful reckless spending, posted on the Hamburg Summit thus:

To the organizers (plural) of the last NISIG Summit in Hamburg + whom it may concern: I have some few questions after going through the financial reports document named “NISIG Summit Report Hamburg 2017.xlsx”:

– 250€ for 5 Persons Small Job-Registration: Why did we have to hire external labourers to do a job that could have been done by NISIG members (perhaps for free)? All they did was get people sign in on a paper, gave out paper bracelets in return, stood around. What part of that could have been too difficult to handle by NISIG members?

– 50€ for Small Job-Bar Keeper: see above! A NISIG member could have volunteered to do this and gained access to free drinks all night in returns as renumeration instead of paying money. Why did we have to hire someone for this? I was glad the lady was helping out, being an old friend of NISIG, unbeknownst to me it was a paid job
– 257,90€ + 184,00€ + 201,00€ (total of 642,90€) for transportation of the speakers: can we have/see the receipts to these costs?

– 104,24€ for lost borrowed items from the university: How could we have misplaced such equipments? Why was there information about this? Everyone could have joined in searching for these stuff. Could we see the receipts of the replacements? Or the bill from the university?

– 80€ for graphics: A member admitted that his company did the graphics, videos etc. I’d assume at this point he’s still a member and he pays his half-yearly dues. I’d assume he wants to see the NISIG-movement and dream progress. My opinion: this could have been done for little to no amount. Yeah a run company has to make profits, I get it. There are many other members that could have rendered these services for free. I could have gotten a friend to do it for free. Why did we not ask OUR members if anybody was interested to do the graphics? It could have motivated some people to get involved and feel important as part of the association.

– 56,99€ for armbands for registrations: Of what essence were these bands? Can we see the receipts?

– 200,00€ for DJ: did we really have to outsource this service? Believe you me, I could have done the same job. I am definitely not condemning anybody here. Why didn’t we ask any member if he could do this? All we needed was just a laptop device since we had every other music instrument in place, for which we’d paid extra 200,00€.

– 130,88€ for Ambiance Designer: I can point at some members that could have done this. This could have been done voluntarily by members only if we had asked. Why did we have to outsource this? Really why?

Expenses we could have DEFINITELY avoided and done without:
– 5 Persons Small Job-Registration: 250€
– Small Job-Bar Keeper: 50€
– Lost borrowed items from the university: 104,24€
– Graphics: 80€
– Armbands: 56,99€
– DJ: 200€
– Ambiance Design: 130,88€
TOTAL: 872,11€

I, (name removed) – an active member of NISIG, need some answers. I’d appreciate that.

(Name removed),
a worried member

PS: I am acting and asking these questions solely as a single member of this beloved association and there’s nothing I want but to see us as an association, a team move forward. This definitely is not the way forward if we have to spend money this way.
PPS: I am not accusing anybody and raising any false claims. I am just asking simple questions and giving suggestions on how we could have minimized costs being an Ijebu descent.

This view sums up what is wrong with the Hamburg Summit in many ways, especially with the planing and execution. Another commenter writes:

I would like to add the following as (Name removed) pointed out as most of my points already.
Form the financial report, I saw multiple courtesy visits made to the Nigerian Embassy in Berlin and Frankfurt this year and last year and I presume other members of NISIG Germany never got any update or matter discussed on “These courtesy visits”, therefore, I would consider them as personal visits.

I and if anyone reading this agree with me: The funds spent for such personal visits by the Excos should be kindly refunded to the NISIG account.
We are all free as NISIG members and Nigerians to visit the embassy any day, anytime, even when they are having a ceremony or visiting dignitaries.

I assume the current NISIG President got the petition sent last month and we are awaiting a response as a silent approach to any of this matter would make it worse.
Lastly, 68 Euros for Ballons, That really got me cracking!

The financial report the commenter referenced in the comment is the consolidated financial report of the association. This document, shared among members as clearly stated in the constitution of the association, is controversial at best; it is still being scrutinized and questions have been raised, calling for a diligent review of the content therein. One item raised by the commenter is the frequented trips to the Nigerian Embassy in Berlin, purpose of which was never reported back to the state chapters of the association or disseminated to dues paying member(s) of the association. Meanwhile, money used to execute the trips came from the common purse of the association.

(Edit: Since the post cited above was made, many commenters have given their piece of mind, and we are no more in doubt what many of them think of the summit. The opinion of manner of management of one person, in the person of Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses does not in anyway supercedes the opinion and views of the people who attended the summit and came up to tell NISIG National what indeed went south with the Hamburg Summit. A leader or an ex-leader would take this in good fate, accepting the wrong, wishing to learn from the errors of the past, attend to issues raised objectively and account in action by opening the books, instead of suggesting subtly and openly reasons why there should be no opening of books as constitutionally allowed. It is fair to say that there is a strong play of ego in this matter. We should be clear though and be quick to remind Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses that the call for accountability and responsibility, in fact a call for a probe, is in no way a personal issue. We want to refocus NISIG National on a solid ground for greater benefit for now and the future. NISIG National is not about him, his ego or any other personal hurt he might have felt or feel.)

It must be said though that the current administration is working to clean the stable left behind by the last administration and lay a solid foundation for future activities of the association. This submission stems from the response to a call for probe and for accountability in the association. It was stated in the response that Mr. Kolade Moses Ogun has been contacted to address the issues raised therein, many of which border on probable fund mismanagement, misrepresentation of office functions and duties among others, set out in the letters which seek to clarify matters arising during his administration, many of which (might) suggest gross abuse of office if left unaddressed in public space. It is hoped that the petitioning members will be furnished with Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses response once made available.

(Edit: The response posted on Facebook by Mr. Oreoluwa Afolayan on behalf of the Hamburg Summit Committee (HSC) is a move in this direction, although much of its content is a distraction from the core of the matters to be attended to, it still is a move in the right direction. The key matters were left out. The books should be opened. Receipts should be attached. If they are lost, they should be clearly stated. If the records were kept only in the heads of the HSC members and later recalled for writing out, it should be so stated. If the receipts and other necessary documents are not going to be released, this should be so said. It is not in the place of the HSC to decide whose audit is better. It is good that the HSC is accountable to the Hamburg State Government. This is not unusual. We should remind them too though that the fund given to NISIG National was gotten in our name, and as the constitution clearly states, members are allowed a look into the books and records of the association if they demand. The HSC, and Mr. Kolade Ogun Moses, should kindly attend to the key matters.)

To point out other areas in which the current administration can and should focus is to refocus the association away from a one-man affair to a communal body, which actually is the set-out goal of the association. To achieve this, it is suggested that the constitution of the association be reviewed. Another important aspect to emphasize in the course of a holistic refocusing of the association is the readiness and willingness to obey the provisions of the constitution without hesitation. Other recommendation is to place a ceiling on certain expenses incurable by the association without the permission of dues paying members or members in whose name the fund is secured. It cannot be acceptable that funds must be exhausted by all means. It cannot be acceptable to leave a backlog of debts for the incoming administration, if this is the case. This clause will save the association from certain misspending and bad expenditure, in short, NISIG National will be saved from objectively/subjectively bad financial decision as is represented in the financial report published and shared to us all. There really can be no justification for an association with an annual budget of less than seven thousand Euro to incur close to 700 Euro (ten percent of its annual budget) to transport and accommodate two persons, whose presence and function at the the Hamburg Summit was definitely not irreplaceable. Another miscellaneous but avoidable discretionary expenses is the purchase of balloon for 68 Euro or a figure in this regard. Pettiness aside, there really is no good reason why a president/HSC who is sensitive to the implication of a careless spending should not be discrete enough to cut out this kind of waste and burden on the association. It must be kept in mind that this is a young association with a lean purse.

Of importance is conflict resolution, negotiation and management in the association. It should be part of the association’s creed that members are not to be sued, threatened, blackmailed, or otherwise by any means on opinion, comments, views expressed in official spaces or reported in news articles or blog post as regarding the association. Of course, this formulation is a loose draft of what should be included in such a legal escape/guard/protection for members of the association, it should be further sharpened and modified as standard documents demand.

This should also be seen as a call on all to comment on this piece ways in which they want the association to be refocused, re-engineered, re-energized and reviewed. If I may, I will suggest in fact that the present administration should via social media ensure that members submit their views and opinion etc as to what they want to see in a reviewed NISIG constitution, the administration should initiate a committee to steer this refocusing effort within a set time and achievable period so that this is realized still before the next summit.

I thank you for your attention.

Ibukunolu Olugbemisola Ajagunna