The Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) where Nigeria’s Owei Lakemfa serves as the Secretary- General is still battling with debilitating challenges which need to be tackled so that the body can forge ahead with the noble role of serving the needs of African workers across the continent. The infighting in OATUU can be understood against the background that the continental body has vastly exceeded the expectations of many, and this is of great worry to those who want to re-colonize Africa. It is a great worry that foreign imperial bodies and their local collaborators almost always succeed in sabotaging Pan-Africanist organizations like OATUU, thereby stopping them from achieving their great potentials.
At issue is that some secretariat staff of OATUU had mounted a sustained attack on the Secretary- General through documents that remain unsubstantiated. The three men then forged a letter, purporting that it had been authorized by OATUU to make them the new signatories of the body’s account, thereby excluding the Secretary-General Lakemfa. This was done with the apparent connivance of some officials of the Ghana commercial Bank. The collaborators then withdrew over $100,000 (one hundred thousand US Dollars) from the accounts of OATUU.
As ought to be expected from the head of the Secretariat of any organization such as the OATUU, Secretary-General Lakemfa went to enquire from the OATUU Bankers the documents that made the transaction possible. After receiving no cooperation from the bank, he reported the matter to the Police Criminal Investigation Department of Ghana. It is very obvious that but for the action taken by Lakemfa, the threesome would have emptied the accounts of OATUU.
Incidentally, the signatories to the OATUU ACCOUNTS, according to Article 30 of OATUU Constitution are: The Treasurer- General, the Secretary-General and one Assistant Secretary-General. Also, in the internal regulations of the OATUU, which is also part of the OATUU Constitution, Article 12 stipulates that “Cheques shall be jointly signed by the Secretary- General and the Treasurer-General or one of the Assistant Secretaries-General. In the event of the absence of the Treasurer-General from the country of the seat of the Headquarters, the Secretary-General and one of the Assistant Secretaries-General shall sign instead.”
It is very evident from the constitutional stipulations of the OATUU, the threesome violated the OATUU Constitution by withdrawing over $100,000 from the accounts of the body.
In a clear case of the accuser becoming the accused the Secretary-General was instead accused of violating the OATUU Constitution for taking measures to protect OATUU funds in the bank. In attending to the issue at the Accra headquarters, OATUU President Francis Atwoli reportedly sent out of the meeting the two OATUU Advisers, and OATUU Permanent Representative in the ILO and UN office in Geneva Comrade Lellouma Diallo, to which they were all invited, at great cost to the OATUU.
In the end, OATUU President Atwoli became the Accuser, Prosecutor and Judge of OATUU Secretary-General Owei Lakemfa. The pronounced suspension from office of OATUU Secretary-General is, from all accounts, against natural justice and trade union ethics. Curiously, Atwoli then set up a “Fact-finding Committee”. How can there be fact-finding without fair-hearing in the first instance? This is indeed a ruse to rationalize the injustice committed against Owei Lakemfa.
We would like to align with the candid advice of OATUU adviser and former Secretary- General Hassan A. Sunmonu that a meeting of the OATUU General Council be urgently convened to resolve the problems deliberately created to destroy the pan-African OATUU. This contrived crisis should be nipped in the bud before it brings total woe upon African workers. The attempt to split or collapse OATUU must be checked now by all the stakeholders.
All the anti-Africa groups using local collaborators in the vain bid to re-enslave Africans can be seen at work in the OATUU crisis. The sabotaging of the Constitution of OATUU cannot fly if all the affiliate bodies of the OATUU all over the continent can stand up to be counted. It is incumbent on these stakeholders to put the OATUU house in order, and all criminal elements should not be allowed to suborn the due process. It is crucial for the Secretary-General and the secretariat staff of OATUU to testify to get to the bottom of the matter. It will amount to shirking responsibilities and thereby dooming the working class of Africa if the contrivance at OATUU is allowed. We insist that justice must be done in a manner that will satisfy the world.