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Why we are against Sirawo -Lagos SWAN boss

Recall that on Friday, August 31, the Congress of the Lagos Chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (Lagos SWAN) resolved to dissociate itself from the current National Executive Council of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) and its documentation and purported registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission.

The said resolution was with a caveat that until it is fully determined if, with the registration, the association is still as we know it and belong to or if the body registered is a completely different association with which we have no relationship.

Our decision is in rejection of various anomalies and undemocratic actions which we have noticed in the administration of the association, the process of the said registration and the content of the documentations filed at the CAC.

In this regard, we here bring to your attention to the following anomalies with the hope that considerations will be made for their remedy or we remain in parted ways.

1. Principles of Governance

It should be noted that the National Executive Committee headed by Honour Sirawoo was elected into office on the basis of the Statutes of the Association (as amended on March 7, 2008). It follows that all actions of the NEC must be guided by the statutes, not only in its relations with members and chapters but especially also leading up to the formulation of a new constitution and registration of the association at the CAC.

In this respect, we are of the view that the NEC violated this principle in so many ways we further explain.

2. Lack of due process in changing the statutes of SWAN and formulating a new constitution

While we are not averse to the amendment and drafting of a new constitution to replace the Statutes (as amended in 2008) by which the current, subsisting membership registration was carried out and on which NEC derives its powers, we submit that the process of the formulation and activation of the new constitution was in gross violation of the procedure as provided in our extant statutes.

We draw your attention to Article 25 of the SWAN Statutes (Amendment of Statutes) which provides that:
a. The National Congress shall have the powers to amend any part of the Statutes subject to two-thirds majority vote of members present
b. Any proposal for amendment shall be sent to the National Secretariat not less than six weeks before the date for the congress

In this respect, we note that while indeed a Statutes Review Committee was set up at the Full Council Meeting in Bauchi, in May 2017, the committee never at any point presented any report nor draft amendment for consideration, ratification and adoption at any subsequent Congress nor National Full Council Meeting, neither was any such draft conveyed to state chapters for concordance and acceptance.

Most uncharitable in the falsehood of the new constitution is its statement that “We, members of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria do firmly and solemnly provide ourselves a constitution and to be governed by the provisions therein” dated “December 27, 2017” and signed by “Honour Sirawoo and Steve Alabi.”

We insist that members never had any such conclusive process, that there was no such meeting of the National Congress for the passage of a constitution on the said date (during the Christmas holiday of 2017) and we were not any party to any conveyance of any such authority to Honour Sirawoo and Stave Alabi to sign a new constitution on our behalf, much more to be governed by the content of such falsehood.

We strongly believe and do not accept that the issue of a constitution by which members and chapters are to be bound and governed should be processed through such manipulative secrecy and falsehood.

3. Name of the Association
We draw your attention to Article 1 of the SWAN Statutes which provides that the name of the association shall be SPORTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (SWAN), and the variance in the said new constitution wherein it is stated in Article 1 that the name of the association shall be INCORPORATED TRUSTEES OF THE SPORTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA.

While it may be the case that incorporated bodies can be referred to as such, there is need to fully determine where this leaves us in terms of the actual name of the association and the stakes of members and chapters in relation to the Incorporated Trustees of just the three persons.

4. Lack of due process in the appointment of Trustees
We draw your attention to Article 18 of the SWAN Statutes (Appointment of Trustees and Patrons) which provides that “The National Full Council shall appoint a Trustees Board comprising nine responsible Nigerian citizens for the association.”

We contend that this procedure for the appointment of trustees was not duly followed because the National Congress or Full Council was never presented with such names for consideration and adoption before their names were submitted for the registration.

Even going by the so called new constitution, we note that the provisions for the appointment of trustees was also not followed.

The new constitution states in its Article 4 that “The Trustees shall be ELECTED at a General Assembly charged with responsibility of selecting the trustees with 2/3 majority votes of members present.”

Granted, without conceding to its acceptability, that a constitution was formulated for filing at the CAC without due process, it is most unacceptable too that the trustees would be filed without same due adherence to the constitution so formulated.

The question is when, where and at which General Assembly was the election of the trustees conducted? Who were the candidates? Who nominated them? How were they nominated? Who constituted and who were the members of the electoral committee? Who voted? What was the result of the voting? Clearly, there are no answers for these because the event never existed.

We do recall that Messers Steve Alabi, Olu Amadasun and Sani Zaria were invited to the National Full Council in Bauchi in May 2017 at which they were introduced as members of Elders Council. They were never presented as nominees for Trusteeship of the association.

The position of the South East Zone as published on September 4, 2018, while intended to praise-sing Mr Sirawoo, actually comes to vindicate our argument that the procedure was wrong. The South East stated in its communique that “the issue of registration of SWAN with the CAC was duly presented at the general assembly in Port Harcourt while the choice of trustees was approved by NEC and supported by members…”

We point out that, whereas the CAC certificate was issued on January 10, 2018, the said Port Harcourt Meeting was held on May 14 to 18, 2018. The filing of the documents therefore couldn’t have derived from the May 14 Port Harcourt congress. It was therefore a case of the cart before the horse.

Indeed, what happened in Port Harcourt was that the certificate was merely displayed without members seeing and knowing the full contents of the article, memorandum and constitution of the association.

With due respect to our formal leaders cited as the trustees, we hold that it is not proper for them to have lent their names to such recklessly manipulative and dictatorially undemocratic violation of due process in the selection of trustees that would custody our patrimony for 100 years as stated in the constitution.

What was difficult in following due democratic and open process?

5. Non-definition of composition of the Association
While every association must have a clear definition of its composition and structure of governance, we point out that in the purported new SWAN constitution, the composition and structure for the governance of the association were not stated.

In the SWAN Statutes, the composition of the association is clearly stated in Article 8, to wit: “The association shall be composed of branches of state of the Federation and the FCT…Each state branch shall be set up by application to the NEC where it has up to five sports journalists…Each branch shall have equal rights…”

We emphasize that while we know what we are, as sports journalists, it is important to be clear about who we are, as an association, and how we are and relate as bodies or organs or chapters or branches of a single entity. As it is, this is not stated in the new constitution.

6. Unilateral Structure
Whereas, in the SWAN statutes, Article 9 (Structure) defines and provides that the association shall be governed through the following organs or bodies to wit:
“The Congress; The National Convention; The National Executive Committee and The State Executive Committee”, with clear definitions of their powers, limitations, checks and balances and relationship, there are no such structures nor definition of powers in the registered constitution.

Only two bodies are mentioned in the new constitution, to wit: the Incorporated Trustees, with Sirawoo as President, Alabi as Secretary and Zaria as member to govern for 100 years; and a Governing Council/National Executive.

The new constitution only stated in its Article 6 that, “For effective administration of the association, there shall be the following meetings:
1. Annual General Meeting
2. Executive Committee Meeting
3. Emergency Meeting or Special Committee Meeting
4. Board of Trustees Meeting”

These therefore, by the letters, spirit and intendment, are the organs for the governance of the association under the new constitution registered with the CAC. Where this leaves the National Congress or National Full Council as supreme organs, and the state chapters as distinct but integral part of a whole, leaves us in bewilderment.

While we note that no mention is made of State Chapters, Zonal Offices, National Congress or Full Council nor National Convention, we are compelled to further question what exactly the new constitution means by “meetings.”

This in our view would mean that the new SWAN is intended to be run without state chapters nor state executives nor Zonal Offices. This also would mean to us that state chapters are no longer recognized or would have no say nor stake in SWAN or that they are free to be or not be part of the the registered association by virtue of the non-recognition and non-acknowledgment of their existence in the new constitution.

7. Non definition of composition of supreme authority
Whilst the new constitution tends to have substituted the “National Congress” or National Full Council” or “National Convention” with the phrase “General Assembly”, in it there is no definition of who or what constitutes such “General Assembly” as it relates to whether it shall be composed of all individual members in attendance or delegates of state executive committees or representatives.

This would mean that invitations can be sent to any group of people and their convergence could be deemed to be a “General Assembly.” This is especially so as no mention of state chapters is made nor suggested whatsoever in the new constitution.”

It must be further noted that the new constitution includes no clause defining the powers of the General Assembly and thus provide no check on the powers of the Governing Council/National Executive.

This, to us, is a brazen enthronement of authoritarianism. This is so because the National Congress or Full Council, if deemed to be the same as the General Assembly is the only check on possible excesses or impunity of any of the National or State Executive Committees.

For instance, for the purpose of discipline of members as stated in Article 20 of the SWAN Statutes, whereas the NEC has powers to discipline members or state chapters, while SEC can discipline its chapter members, it is stated in Article 20 C (1 and 2) that “In all cases, affected members/states shall be given the right to defend themselves before an independent investigation committee appointed by NEC and SEC as the case may be” and “NEC and SEC shall submit report of the committee’s findings and recommendations to congress for determination before disciplinary actions are imposed.”

It is therefore dangerous to put with any constitution that provides no such protection of members and such organ is such important that its existence and powers cannot and should not be subject to any vagueness.

8. Non-statement of term and limit of tenure
We point out that while in the SWAN statutes, as with the case of in the statutes and constitutions of truly democratic associations, the duration of a tenure and the tenure limit for each officer are explicitly stated, this is not so with the new SWAN constitution. Nothing of this nature was mentioned in any manner.

For the avoidance of doubt, Article 12 of the SWAN Statutes makes clear that “the term of office of the National Executive Committee (and State Executive Committee) shall be for three years only” (and that) “no Officer shall serve in the same office for more than two terms.”

It is frightening that no such provision is made in the constitution filed at the CAC. The clear implication of this is that we might come full circle after a tenure to find that the tenure has either not ended or that the officers can remain in office in perpetuity.

It is especially so as no reference was made whatsoever in the new constitution filed at the CAC to the process of dissolution of the Governing Council/National Executive Committee – who dissolves them, where, when and how -, just as no mention was made about elections and the procedure for succession in the leadership of the association.

Conclusion
Given the multiplicity of anomalies and incongruences as have been enumerated, even though not exhaustive, we are firmly state that it is institutionally suicidal and therefore unacceptable to associate with the Honour Sirawoo led SWAN under such constitution, composition and structure as registered with the CAC and the arbitrary manner in which the documentations were processed and skewed.

We remain however to honour our caveat, to continue to associate if and when these grounds of our objection are remedied.

For the avoidance of doubt, we have noted the plethora of communiques from some of our counterpart state and zonal chapters that convey the impression of a political contest, but in standing our ground, we wish, respectfully to state that, for Lagos SWAN it is neither a matter of loyalty to Mr Sirawoo nor solidarity for the National Secretaries on whom the NEC might have inflicted a miscarriage of justice. We are simply acting on the conviction of the need to safeguard, uphold and defend the democratic principles that guide our association and protect our members from submitting to tyranny and associating in any process or union whose definition and respect for the rules of engagement have been eroded.

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