The World Igbo Congress (WIC), a non-governmental organization (NGO), has been admitted into the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
Acho Orabuchi, the Media Director of WIC, announced this in a statement in New York.
The statement said WIC’s admission took place during a regular session of the world body in Geneva.
“The world body unanimously voted to ratify the admission of WIC into the ECOSOC of the UN on a Special Consultative Status,’’ it said.
Article 71 of the UN Charter opened the door, providing for suitable arrangements for consultation with NGOs.
To be eligible for consultative status, an NGO must have been in existence for at least two years and must have an established headquarters.
Being in existence means being officially registered with the appropriate government authorities as an NGO or non-profit body.
Also, for an NGO to gain this status, it must have, among others, a democratically-adopted constitution and authority to speak for its members.
It must also have a representative structure, appropriate mechanisms of accountability and democratic and transparent decision-making processes.
The basic resources of the organization must be derived, in the main part, from contributions of the national affiliates or other components or from individual members.
“With the status, the body now has the opportunity to take advantage of the economic development programmes of several UN agencies that partner with NGOs under the ECOSOC arrangement,” WIC said in the statement.
It added that WIC would utilise the resources of the UN organs that deal with social issues, which would help the group deal with Igbo social and economic issues.
The statement said the Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) had in February recommended the admission of WIC.
It stated Anthony Ejiofor, the Executive Director of WIC, received calls on the admission of WIC from both Geneva and New York.
According to the body, leaders of the Committee on NGO indicated in the calls that they had been monitoring WIC activities.
It added that the callers to Mr. Ejiofor assured WIC that they would help the organization make the most use of its new status.
The statement also quoted the Chairman of WIC, Joe Eto, as describing the admission as “definitely a rare feat”.
World Igbo Congress was formed in Houston, Texas, USA, to represent the general interests of the Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria. It serves as an umbrella organization for all people of Igbo descent who live outside Nigeria, primarily those that live in the United States. The organization was founded on 27 August 1994, following a meeting, in Houston, of prominent Igbo leaders from across the United States. In July 2012, WIC was granted “special consultative status” by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). WIC was patterned after the famous World Jewish Congress, WJC. In 1997, the World Igbo Congress Foundation (WICF) was established as WIC’s project development arm.
World Igbo Congress is listed in the open yearbook of The Union of International Associations, UIA, as an internationally recognized non-governmental organization. In a 2006 paper presented at the annual conference of the Igbo Studies Association, Dr. Ugorji O. Ugorji pointed out that many Igbo interest groups and organizations affiliate themselves with World Igbo Congress. It is also true that members of the organization retain their individual membership rights, hence, they vote and run for office on their individual merits and not as delegates of any affiliated organizations.
WIC states that its objective is to bring Igbo people and organizations in the United States together to focus on an established Igbo tradition of channeling initiatives for infrastructural development towards the homeland. Like many other Igbo community development associations, WIC works to bring Igbo people together and to encourage brotherhood and development. World Igbo Congress indicates that it is building a modern hospital, in Igbo land, to help mitigate the problem of “medical tourism.”
World Igbo Congress’s initiatives focus on encouraging good governance and accountable leadership in the Igbo speaking states of Nigeria. For example, WIC supported the new voting system initiatives (e.g. absentee voting) in Nigeria.
Over the past two decades, WIC has continued to find ways to exert its influence on issues regarding ethnic divisions and conflicts that affect the welfare of Igbo people in Nigeria. One example of such influence came after a meeting it called in July 2019. Following the conference, WIC criticized the state of insecurity in Nigeria; alleging that the clashes between nomadic herdsmen and farming communities have worsened the security situation. However, some of its past attempts to foray into hot button political issues have not gone too well. One notable example was the 2015 appearance of Nnamdi Kanu at the WIC convention in Los Angeles, California. In his speech at the convention, Kanu, the leader of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, publicly solicited the help of WIC in its effort to procure “guns and bullets” to fight the Nigerian government.
World Igbo Congress has worked to bring both international and domestic attention to socio-political issues and government policies that are deemed hostile to the interests of Igbo people who are predominantly business owners, merchants, industrialists, and general entrepreneurs. WIC has strategically aligned itself with international associations, including the various arms of the United Nations. Such alliances are used to bring other Igbo groups that advocate the cause of Igbo people into the network of international non-governmental organizations. World Igbo Congress also helps new immigrants integrate into the Nigerian diaspora network, in addition, to support in navigating the U.S. job market. WIC also provides support for new immigrants with transitioning and resettling in the United States.
Not all Igbo people buy into the idea of the World Igbo Congress or its agenda. The long-running leadership fights and other activities that observers consider frivolous have been sources of constant criticisms. These fights affect WIC’s ability to accomplish some of its objectives. One such conflict led to a 2016 lawsuit filed by Nwaguru. The case, which challenged Eto on who had the right to act as the president of the World Igbo Congress, illustrates many disputes that dragged from an unresolved 2014 chairmanship election.
Observers note that the organization spends much of its resources on these disputes. Many are further aggravated by other issues such as the failure to include younger Igbo people in the organization and its activities. In a 2008 article, an Abuja-based lawyer, Ikechukwu Ogu, famously described World Igbo Congress as “a jamboree in a foreign land.” The 2019 convention in Houston, Texas, however, saw a peaceful election and a smooth transition to the new leadership. Observers are watching to see if the years of “World Igbo Confusion” are behind.
Some critics also cite the confusion regarding identity. For instance, there are members of the Igbo ethnic group who fail to fully participate. These are groups that claim to be Ika, Ikwerre, Ngwa, and Arochukwu, respectively. Their source of contention, they say, is that they speak their own unique dialect of the Igbo language, (dialects) and not mainstream Igbo; or that they have different politics.