The succession crisis is currently rocking the Association of Resident Physicians (ARD) chapter of Uyo University Teaching Hospital (ARD-UUTH) in Akwa Ibom state.
The crisis, which erupted a few weeks ago due to the election of new officials, escalated earlier this month after the name of the current secretary general of the association and presidential candidate, Eric Ojoko, was omitted from the list of candidates.
The association initially formed a disciplinary committee to investigate a petition against Mr. Ojoko, which he claimed was “illegally formed with the influence of the president, Jumbo Hezekiah” just to disqualify him from the race.
PREMIUM TIMES had previously contacted election committee chair Etiemana Jacob, who directed this reporter to the association’s national body, noting that NARD’s board reported the committee’s decision and that it is the only constituted authority that can speak on it. the case.
The association’s national body confirmed that the election would be postponed and set up an interim committee to investigate the matter, but the latest development confirmed that the election would now take place on Friday with Mr Ojoko still disqualified from running.
From letters obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, a disciplinary committee previously invited Mr. Ojoko to different virtual meetings about the allegations, but said he was unable to appear before the committee as a result of an alleged makeshift arrangement.
Mr. Ojoko said: “Although I have all the documents to exonerate myself, if the constitution recognizes the disqualification of a candidate based on a petition that has not been verified or investigated, the answer is no. But the president, Jumbo Hezekiah, has made the decision to make sure he doesn’t see me on a ballot.
“He even went ahead to submit my name to a disciplinary committee that was set up illegally. The disciplinary committee of my association is a standing committee that is only established at an annual general meeting.
“As secretary with all the association’s records at my disposal, there is no document that confirms the constitution of the disciplinary committee and its members.”
Mr. Ojoko said that the disciplinary committee, the election committee and the president made sure that the election chairperson who was appointed excluded him from the race.
“This is how I saw that my name was not on the list of selected candidates, but we are doing everything possible by law to ensure that justice is done,” he said.
However, efforts to contact the president of the association were futile as calls to his mobile line and messages were also unanswered at the time of filing this report.
A letter dated December 18 and signed by ARD UUTH disciplinary committee secretary Edikan Ekwere noted that committee chairman Adeneye Christian had invited Mr Ojoko to a meeting to discuss and answer questions about his alleged abuse. serious of the charge. and dishonest behavior “in addition to bringing the association into disrepute.”
In his response to the invitation, Mr. Ojoko said: “I received an invitation at 10:08 a.m. this morning requesting that I appear at 11:00 a.m. this morning to defend myself against important charges the details of which are not specified in the letter”.
In another response, he requested that in order to properly prepare his defence, the disciplinary committee must provide details of the allegations made against him, the evidence and the names of the witnesses that form the basis of the allegations, the details of the disciplinary committee and the who will be involved in the trial, as well as official records showing your membership on the committee.
He also requested that “trial of this nature must be open to the public in accordance with my constitutional rights to a fair hearing and the interest of transparency within the association.”
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the Secretary General of the Nigerian Association of Resident Physicians (NARD), Kelechi Chikerezie, a week ago, he said the national body’s position is that members/doctors who are not up to date with dues payments to the association are not eligible to vote or be voted for.
He said the national body was aware of the situation and would investigate it.
He said: “And then we have assigned a team to investigate what is happening and we are not working on the report of any committee, disciplinary or otherwise. After that, we will work on providing solutions, which is what the national body is working on now.
“When our team gets there, they will sit down with all the parties to hear all the cases and then make a decision.”
However, PREMIUM TIMES confirmed on Thursday that the election was rescheduled for Friday, December 30, after a three-person interim committee set up by the national body exonerated all those involved in the fight but disqualified only Mr Ojoko with the premise that he went to court for a matter that had to be resolved internally by the association.
When contacted, the Designated Chairman of the Interim Committee, Nnamdi Nd-Ezuma, who is the Vice President of NARD, FCTA, declined to comment, insisting that he does not have permission to comment. He then directed this reporter to the national body.
In a letter dated December 22, 2022, with reference: NARD/SG/2022-2023/221222/165 and signed by NARD President Orji Innocent, the committee is expected to complete its task within two weeks.
NARD had initially suspended activities at ARD UUTH and announced the takeover of its affairs in October.
“He is also expected to hand over all the necessary instruments of the association to enable them to investigate and resolve all issues raised by the various written petitions, and to conduct free and fair elections for the center and make proper handover to the newly elected leaders.
“This task is expected to be completed within two weeks from this date,” the letter read in part.
No commission report
NARD secretary general Mr Chikerezie, for his part, said on Thursday that the interim committee had yet to submit its investigation report, but said the national body “trusts its judgement”.
“I can’t say anything on the subject, but the interim committee hasn’t informed us yet. For now, we don’t have their report, we can’t say who is qualified or not for tomorrow’s election, but we trust their judgment that they will do the right thing,” Chikerezie said by phone.
Mr. Eric for his part told this newspaper that the committee made a unilateral decision to disqualify him.
He said: “The interim committee sent by the national body came, arrived in Uyo on Tuesday and interacted with all the parties involved, and met with me, the president, the president of the disciplinary committee and the president of the electoral committee.
“They pretty much blamed everyone one way or another, and there was a procedural effect in the way they want to do everything.
“The accusations that were made against me were without weight. It was more like a premeditated decision, more like they had turned around to carry out what they had planned.
“They exonerated everyone except me for raising an issue through a section of the NARD constitution that prohibits any member or non-member from bringing any issue or problem within the association to court.
“So they used that to disqualify me from running for election tomorrow, even though I raised a point of order that what got me into court was not purely a matter of association. It was about having my fundamental right as a citizen of this country taken away from me. They disqualified me under the premise that I took the association to court.”
Mr. Ojoko said that the association’s constitution cannot be superior to the Nigerian Constitution.
“The Nigerian constitution allows me to seek redress in court for a matter that I feel my fundamental rights have been tampered with,” he concluded.
Support PREMIUM TIMES journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. However, only good journalism can guarantee the possibility of a good society, a responsible democracy and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country, we ask that you consider making a modest support for this noble effort.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to keep journalism relevant and ensuring that it remains free and available to everyone.
TEXT AD: Call Willie – +2348098788999