London, 1st August 2019, By Chief Nyerhovwo Ughwujabo
UPU President-General Worldwide, in a recent visit to the UK, has dissolved UPU-UK factions in a bid to end the five years long disunity and lay the foundations for unified elections. The move has laid the foundations for a united Urhobo community in the UK and in the broader Urhobo national interest. This article will explore the importance of his pronouncements and its constitutional underpinnings.
The crisis of disunity in UPU-UK goes back to the elections of 2012. We should note that Olorogun Taiga is the third President-General to intervene in this matter. President Aziza was in office when the crisis began, following several meetings in Nigeria with the disputing parties, he visited the UK in May 2013 and declared the 2012 elections cancelled. He ordered fresh elections. When chief Omene became President-General he also visited the UK on several occasions and also made declarations on how the Union should function in the UK.
The crisis has continued and deepened. There have been further interventions to unite the factions, including the efforts of the Heads of Kingdoms as well as the Urhobo Council of Chiefs; both factions continued to the second terms of the respective presidents. This has threatened to entrench the division, and both factions have strictly maintained separate events and alienated a significant proportion of the community who have openly refused to participate in the activities of either faction.
The intervention of Olorogun Taiga has been welcomed by most, particularly as it comes when the second and last tenures of the two factional leaders are at hand. The intervention, in consultation with the Heads of Kingdoms and Council of Urhobo Chiefs, culminated in a general meeting held on 21st July. Present at the meeting was his Royal Highness, AVM (Rtd.) Lucky Ararile, The Ovie of Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom; Olorogun Goddy Ibru, Chief Johnson Barovbe Chief Johnson Eruvweaghware. The meeting was duly notified to all parties and in accordance with the UPU Constitution (2005), Olorogun Moses Taiga, President-General Worldwide, presided over the meeting.
Article 10:2 states that the President-General shall ‘…unless he prefers to exercise his discretionary powers to remain as an observer, preside at any meeting or meetings of branches at which he is present’.
It is important to note that UPU Nigeria is the parent body and all branches are under its jurisdiction. The president-General has authority over all branches of the Union and no branch is recognised by the parent body, this is the very definition of a branch.
Article 4:3 clearly states that ‘A branch of the Union shall not be deemed to be duly constituted unless it has formally applied to the National Secretariat for registration and accreditation, …and has been duly registered and issued with a certificate by the National headquarters’.
It follows also, that headquarter’s National Executive, through the President-General has the authority to withdraw the certificate which is the license to operate; as he did in dissolving the two factions in the UK. This authority of UPU headquarters is clearly stipulated in the UPU Constitution under article 13:1 (f):
headquarters has the power to ‘Order dissolution of a branch Executive Council the activities of which in its opinion, threaten the unity and solidarity of the Union. ‘… order a fresh election under its own auspices, and in any case, a caretaker committee shall not run for a period exceeding six months’.
All the elements of the pronouncements of Olorogun Moses Taiga are present in this clause. In his utterances, he made it clear that UPU-UK has not functioned in unity over a five year period, and that this is clearly causing serious concerns for all Urhobo people. He said that numerous attempts have been made to resolve the crisis without success and as we approach the end of the tenures of the two factional leaders, it is right that as a community we do not fathom the possibility of factional elections which will further entrench the division.
There have been some concerns raised about the pronouncements of the President-General and some have cited the Byelaws of one of the factions. By definition, Byelaws are subject to a superior law. Byelaws are local, of limited application and can only use the powers granted to them by the superior law, in this case, the UPU Constitution. This is why Article 35 of the UPU Constitution states that:
‘a branch may make bye-laws for the conduct of its local affairs but such bye-laws and amendments thereto shall be submitted for approval to the National Executive Council. Such bye-laws shall not be operative unless such approval has been given’.
It follows that no provision in bye-laws shall be superior to provisions in the parent Constitution and the parent body represented by the President-General has the authority to suspend any bye-laws.
The action of Olorogun Taiga is fully within his authority and in the Urhobo national interest. In fact, the UPU President-General Worldwide has broad powers enshrined in the Constitution to do what he deems fit for the advancement of the Union and the Urhobo people. Article10:9 gives such powers:
‘The President-General shall …have the power to do all things that are necessary to be done in the best interest of the Union but which are not specifically described in this constitution…’.
There can be no doubt that the situation in the UK demanded his attention and he has taken decisive action which was celebrated by the over one hundred participants at the meeting. It is now up to all of us to deliver a unified election, enthrone a new executive that will be capable of securing the license to operate from headquarters and work closely with our community and institutions in the UK to deliver our vision and ambitions.