October 7, 2020

ERA trustees disown Godwin Ojo; General Assembly reaffirmed me as ED, he insists

ERA trustees disown Godwin Ojo; General Assembly reaffirmed me as ED, he insists

Chima Williams, the new ERA/FoEN Acting Executive Director.

Chima Williams, the new ERA/FoEN Acting Executive Director.

By Agbonkhese Oboh

The Board of Trustees and Governing Board of the Environmental Rights Development Foundation, ERDF, of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, has distanced itself from “a purported General Assembly called on October 7 by the recently-disengaged executive director of ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Ojo, in Benin City” Edo State.

The Board, by its Secretary, Dr. Ike Okonta, noted that the illegal meeting was not worth any attention, but for the fact that the stakeholders of ERA/FoEN might be scandalised if it remained silent.

Vanguard had reported that that ERDF announced the appointment of Chima Williams(Esq) as Acting Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, following the disengagement of Godwin Uyi Ojo’s executive directorship at an emergency meeting of October 3.

Nnimmo Bassey’s playing godfather — Ojo

However, when Vanguard reached out to Ojo on phone, Wednesday, he said: “I remain the Executive Director of ERA. I have never been removed.

“The General Assembly has reaffirmed my position. For what Nnimmo Bassey did, we have put an end to godfatherism. He has been board member for the past 27 years.

“He was Executive Director and Chair for 20 years. Now he is still on the board. So the General Assembly has removed him. They are the parallel body.”

An independent report indicted him— Bassey

However, when Vanguard sought Rev Nnimmo Bassey’s reaction, he said the Board of Trustees and the Governing Board of ERA unanimously terminated the appointment of Mr. Ojo, “on the basis that his services were no longer required and for lack of capacity to manage or lead the organisation.

“He is no longer a staff member of ERA. So whatever he is doing is completely illegal. It is nothing personal, but organisational.”

He added that the evaluation report that led to Ojo’s sack was by an independent and professional United States-based consultant, who he (Ojo) hired and paid on behalf of the Board.

On the position of the umbrella body, Friends of the Earth International, FoEI, Rev Bassey said: “FoEI is waiting for the evaluation to be concluded.

“Before now a case of gender discrimination was filed with FoEI against him by some of his staff members.

“They are fully sympathetic with the Board’s position and all the partners are pledging support for the Acting ED.

“They are all worried that the Ojo’s moves are not in the best interest of anybody.”

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Board’s statement

In the statement by Dr. Okonta, the Board said: “To put the records straight, Godwin Uyi Ojo was removed from the Trusteeship of the ERA/FoEN in 2015, following allegations of gross misconduct and actions inimical to peace and progress of the organisation.

“Similarly, the Board had on October 3, 2020, held an emergency meeting where the decision to relieve Godwin Ojo of his appointment as executive director was taken.

“The decision followed the report of an independent evaluation of the organisation commissioned by the Board.

“The evaluation concluded that ‘The current ED who is by nature of the position ultimately responsible for the day to day functioning of the organisation and staff management appears to be out of his depth, lacking both leadership and management sufficient to the task’.

“Members of the Board, who signed Ojo’s ouster are Nnimmo Bassey, Dr. Ike Okonta, Dr. Joe-Okei Odumakin, Professor Margaret Okorodudu-Fubara, Akinbode Oluwafemi and Daphne Wysham.

“Instead of abiding by the decision of the Board, Ojo has been involving himself in illegalities including the purported General Assembly meeting where he brought together faceless civil society groups.

“The Board uses this medium to restate that Ojo is no longer a member of ERA/FoEN and does not in any way represent the organisation in any capacity.”