2022 Ikeji festival may not hold as company threatens court action

Posted on: February 4, 2022, by :

Imo State’s biggest traditional festival the Ikeji festival of Arondizuogu may not hold this year. This is as a result of contractual disagreement    between the organizers of the festival, the Arondiuzogu Patriotic  Union (APU), and a marketing company, Elveden Resource Nigeria. 

Elveden is threatening to drag APU to court and stop the festival over alleged breach of contract by the APU.  The company said it had on December 29, 2019, entered into a consultancy service agreement with APU for the marketing, branding and repackaging of the Ikeji festival for a period of four year, from 2019 to 2023.

According to the Creative Director of the company, Mr. Ikenna Anene, having entered into the agreement, Elveden had spent so much in marketing, promotion and publicity of the festival, first in 2020.

However, the Federal Government’s suspension of inter-state travels and all gatherings as a result of the COVID 19, forced the festival to be postponed.

He said in 2021, however, with a new APUexecutive in place, without having any form of discussion with his company, the new exco decided to jettison the contract APU entered.  

Anene said: “Why we are resorting to the law court is that they have not agreed to come to the table and discuss with us. After the agreement was signed with APU, we spent so much money on the Ikeji project. So, if they do not want to discuss with us to resolve whatever issues that are there…It is not a must that we must be the ones that will handle the festival, they can reimburse us the money we have spent on the project and let us go our way.” 

Asked if the new APU leadership had acknowledged the contract agreement, he said: “Of course there was a document that was signed. They have acknowledged that but what they are saying was that they were not comfortable with the agreement signed by the former exco of APU. They acknowledged the agreement but were not ready to enter into negotiation with us. They should pay us off for what we have expended and we will go away.

“ We started engaging them even in 2021, before the 2021 Ikeji festival. We didn’t want to come out to say anything. We wanted to show them that we were ready to negotiate, but their going ahead  to hold the 2021 Ikeji festival was a clear violation of the agreement we entered with them.  So, that is why we decided to take this action of stopping the 2022 edition.  If they don’t come to the table to negotiate, we will go to court for the agreement to stand.  This might also include asking that the festival be suspended until these matters are resolved.”

Last year, after letters for the festival was sent out, Elveden Resources’ legal firm, Nwakaudu Okechukwu Provins Esq. and Co., had also written to the new leadership APU to draw their attention to the agreement.

The legal firm, among other things, wrote: “We refer to the letter dated Monday, January 18, 2021 which is attached. We reiterate that on the 29th December, 2019, our client entered into a consultancy service agreement herein referred to an ‘agreement’, with Arondiuzogu Patriotic Union, herein referred to as ‘APU’ for general marketing, branding and repackaging of the Ikeji. A copy of this agreement is attached for ease of reference.

“The agreement between our client and APU was entered voluntarily, is binding and enforceable during the duration of the agreement.

Despite our letter and the agreement between APU and our client, APU has gone ahead to flagrantly breach the agreement with our client. Specifically on March 10, APU authored a letter tagged ‘Invitation to 2021 Ikeji Arondizuogu Festival,’ which was sent to the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Honourable Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Imo State and Chairmen Ideato North, Onuimo, and Okigwe local government areas and signed by one Mazi  Peter A. Obiangwu, President General.

“We want to state that any festival without the involvement of our client will amount to contempt of court. 

“Our client has brought to our attention a letter from APU dated April 1st, addressed to the Creative Director and Secretary tagged ‘Instruction to suspend any form of sponsorship arrangement on Ikeji’. This letter from APU is baseless and cannot in any way interfere with the right of our client as contained in the agreement our client and APU. We re-state that this agreement was voluntarily and duly entered into and did not violate any known APU constitution, our client discountenances this letter in its entirety.”

Africa Travel Herald made efforts to contact the APU President, Mazi Peter Obiagwu but his line was not connecting. However, the Secretary, Mazi Chinedu Okpareke had this to say about the threat by the marketing company to stop the festival: “Yes indeed, there is an issue. We are trying to get information from the former administration with some anomalies. I’m sure you’re a Nigerian. I’m sure you know how things may be done. I am not trying to be categorical, but we sort some explanations from the former administration we took over from. There are some things we inherited…, just discrepancies. So, we have done some background investigations and we have made some comments. We have directed it to the first people asking them to come and give us answers to the questions that we have.  But that is not forthcoming, so what we have done… Arondizuogu is a community, the Ikeji festival is a heritage. it is a gazetted festival by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. It started before all of us alive in Nigeria, all of us. It is not something that is a normal commercial transaction. This is a cultural event. Do your research, find out about Ikeji festival. So, when I hear that somebody is trying to go to court to stop Ikeji festival, I find that very insulting to our culture, insulting to the tradition. That is just what I can just tell you.

“APU was founded in 1932. APU is even older than independent Nigeria. Ikeji started before the slave trade. So, you can just understand what we are talking about. When I hear that a company wants to go to court to stop Ikeji, I find that very laughable.”

Africa Travel Herald also reached out to the Imo State government on the current crisis in the celebration  of Ikeji festival this year, however, a senior officer in the the state’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture who prefers not to be mentioned said the state government is not part of the organisers of the festival and would not be in position to comment. In addition, he said the state cannot comment on rumours since nobody has been served any court papers.

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