Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Anambra State traders under the auspices of Amalgamated Market Traders Association of Anambra State (AMATAS), has dragged the state government to the Federal High Court sitting in Awka to restrain it from imposing a caretaker leadership on the traders union against its constitution.
This followed alleged plot by the state government to allegedly impose a caretaker leadership whose tenure was supposed to elapse at the end of this month.
The President of AMATAS led by Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo had bowed out on June 4 during the general meeting of the association even before the expiration of his tenure and however postponed the June 5 scheduled election.
The traders rejected and situation as a way of creating a vacuum to impose a caretaker committee on the association against the constitution of the union which is a Non-governmental Organization (NGO) registered with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
As it stands now, various markets in the state are mobilising for protest and possible shutdown of markets if government insists on the appointment of a caretaker leadership instead of election of the leadership as stipulated by the constitution of the union.
The acting Chairman of Board of Trustee (BoT) of AMATAS, Chief Emmanuel Udegbunam, and the Secretary, Mr. Chuma Eruchalu, while briefing newsmen in Onitsha said that Governor Willie Obiano had been served pre-action notice.
AMATAS BoT alleged that government had perfected plot to appoint a caretaker for the union, saying that in as much they were not trying to oppose the government, they should follow due process to elect union leadership.
“We learnt that the government is planning to put relatives of the wife of the governor as the caretaker committee chairman; it is not done and we cannot allow that election to be conducted. We have complained to some people in the state over this matter including, the national chairman of APGA.
“But the board doesn’t want to go into confrontation or throw a challenge to the government. We want to raise some vital issues which government needs to look at and reconsider their position. In the first place, AMATAS is a corporate body; it’s a Non-governmental organisation registered with CAC and it is on that authority that we had to acquire the land where the secretariat was built.
“So, as a corporate entity, we have powers to do things for ourselves; we set up the process of electing new leadership a month ago; our election could have been held on June 5; the process had been concluded for a successful election but all of a sudden, on June 4, the government through the president gave a directive that the election had been postponed indefinitely and that a caretaker committee would be set up to take over the affairs of AMATAS. And we said it was not necessary and uncalled for; then why imposing caretaker on traders when the process of election is almost concluded?
“Even if the government has a preferred candidate to lead the traders, well and good, we support and endorse that but let that person or persons go through the process of election, pick nomination form and contest for election. We, members of the board are not interested in any particular candidate or persons. What we want is free, fair and credible election and the process of our election is option A4 not a secret ballot; so if you are winning you are seeing it, if you are losing you see it and anything outside this we will use any legal means to seek redress.
“Some market leaders have being calling us to tell us that they won’t take any imposition of caretaker, that they will shut down their markets in protest but we have been appealing to them to remain calm because it will affect our people negatively. We just finished a sit-at-home last week and it will not be good to shut the markets again. It will be punishment our people for matters that can be settled on a round table.
“We don’t want to create any tension in the polite or in the state that the governor will say that we are not supporting him or his administration and that is why we are making this appeal. We know that some people are hanging on to know the next action, if there is going to be a protest and close down of markets so that they can cash in to cause mayhem and loot people’s goods and property, and that is why we are tolling the path of peace and dialogue.
“The government connived with our former president, Chief Ezenwankwo who is now a House of Reps member- elect for Orumba North and South federal constituency to impose a caretaker committee. So whatever he planned with the government will not work. We know that since APGA gave him a ticket and he won on that platform, there is no way he won’t dance to their tune.
“The government should allow the traders to elect democratically those that are going to lead the organisation. So, an association that set up, the state government and any level of government never put a dime in this structure, the association is no longer a small association and for a government to come and say they have dissolve the union and want to set up caretaker committee is not done,” Udegbunam and Eruchalu stated.