From David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi and Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Tension has risen at River Niger Bridge Head market as a result of alleged leadership crisis between two rival executives to control the market.
At the last count, 11 persons had been injured while some leaders fled the market, accusing the Anambra State Government of fuelling the crisis through its Commissioner for Trade and Commerce, Mr Uchenna Okafor.
A petition signed by one of the factional leaders, Sir Peter Okala and Onumegbungwu, Secretary and Chairman, respectively, and made available to journalists in Awka and Onitsha alleged that a section of the traders had disobeyed various court orders.
The petition stated: “Our attention has been drawn to the unpleasant situation of worrisome disobedience of various orders of the court with impunity by Mr Uchenna Okafor, who doubles as Commissioner for Trade and Commerce, and building contractors of various plazas with Sunday Obinze and his group of gangsters at Bridge Head market, Onitsha.
“On 17th February, 2021, Mr Uchenna Okafor had a meeting with the plaintiff and some stakeholders at his Awka office, where he further brought his words of intimidation and threat to traders, that he may be forced to retain Sunday Obinze and his group, who we no longer want as caretaker committee on the troubled market, ‘in order to protect his investments in the market.’
“On Friday, 19th February, 2021, the said Uchenna Okafor, in total disregard to all known norm, rule, and grand judicial process, went ahead to carry out all his threat and assault.”
When contacted, the Commissioner, Okafor, contended that the State government did not have any business meddling with the internal matters of the market unless when it was a threat to law and order.
He, also, dismissed claims of attack on the traders by government, adding that the current executive of the market association was chosen by the traders, and that those making agitations and allegations were not speaking the minds of the traders.
Meanwhile, President General of Bridgehead market, Chief Sunday Obinze, has dismissed media reports that there was leadership tussle/crisis in the market in which some traders were injured.
Obinze, at a press briefing, said it was because he stopped Okala and his cohorts from using the market to campaign for their preferred aspirant in the forthcoming governorship election in the state that they were castigating the leadership of the market.
He also said the leadership of the market had, on March 3, this year, written a petition to commissioner of police and other security agencies in the state, urging them to checkmate and investigate the activities of same Okala in the market.
“…The truth is that Okala is working with his political godfather to destabilise the market because they were here in the market for campaign, but we stopped them and told them that our market is not a place for campaign. So, since that time he has been trying to cause problem in the market.
“There is no crisis, the market is calm as you can see, and we are calling Okala and his cohorts to leave our market out of their political interest. We shall not allow any blackmail, propaganda, misinformation, falsehood to prevail in the market,” Obinze warned.