From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Traders in Anambra State, under the auspices Anambra State Market Amalgamated, Traders Association (ASMATA), have elected new leadership to pilot the affairs of the association for four years.
ASMATA is the umbrella body of 65 major markets in Anambra.
The election, which was monitored by the commissioner for trade and commerce, Chief Uchenna Okafor, saw the emergence of Chief Ikechukwu Ekwegbalu as president-general of ASMATA.
Ekwegbalu, who was appointed as caretaker president of the markets in 2019, was elected as substantive president of the association due to his track record of sustaining peace in various markets in the state.
The 10-man Anambra market association executive was elected unopposed through a voice vote in the election conducted by the chairman of electoral committee, Chief Sam Emeka, who read the constitution requirements in conduct of election before the commencement of the election.
The elected leaders include Chief Ekwegbalu (PG), Ozo Jude Agumadu (1st vice-president), Obinna Okechukwu (2nd vice-president), Uchenna Maluobi (secretary), John Okafor (assistant secretary), Kenneth Onyeka (financial secretary), Louis Onyeabo (treasurer), Sunday Aniakor (PRO), Kenneth Amakaeze (chief provost) and Christopher Nwankwo (welfare officer).
The new leaders were immediately sworn in by the legal adviser of the market association, Barr. Humphrey Udechukwu, who charged them to always respect and obey the oath of their offices and never contravene the constitution of the association.
The president of the markets, immediately after they were sworn in took over the mantle of leadership of the association and further elected zonal market leaders of the association as stipulated by the constitution.
The various zones include Onitsha zone (Sam Emeka), Nnewi zone (Edward Muozom), Awka zone (Emmanuel Achusi), Ogbaru zone (Ndubuisi Ochiogu), Idemili zone (Tony Onwuetiaka), Oyi zone (Chike Obiegbu) and Aguata zone (William Umendiagu).
The commissioner for trade and commerce, Chief Okafor, addressing the traders at the Traders’ House in Onitsha, venue of the election, thanked the traders on the way and manner they conducted themselves through the election without any iota of rancour or bitterness.
Okafor said government would set up adequate mechanisms to address touting in markets, stressing that government was determined to flush out touts in all the markets in the state.
He commended the leadership of the markets for their support to the administration of Governor Willie Obiano through their prompt payment of revenue due to the state and keeping the markets clean and safe for ease of doing business.
“I want to first of all commend you for the support of this government and the peaceful conduct of traders across the state and their recent endorsement of APGA candidate Prof. Chukwuma Soludo. I urge you to continue to support APGA candidate and to come out en masse to vote for the party in the November 6 governorship election.
“The ASMATA leadership has done well as caretaker committee and that is why all of you in one voice returned them unopposed. I want you to sustain the peace in the markets in the state. We are conducting election in markets after the lift of ban on election in the market by the state government.
“We want to start the conduct of election from ASMATA leadership, after which they will continue to conduct other markets’ elections, because we believed in democracy, due process and rule of law in the markets. We want all the markets to be led by democratically elected leadership as approved by the governor who is a market-friendly governor.
“I want use this opportunity to state that the certificate of occupancy (C of O) that we urge the shop owners to get to avoid resale of their shops is for only government markets and not private markets. It is also not compulsory and nobody should be forced to obtain it; it’s optional and willingly of the traders.
“You all are partners with the state. Markets are treated as another tier of government here in Anambra. That’s why under the community choose a project initiative of Governor Willie Obiano, your markets received N10m each to build infrastructure that will benefit the traders.”
“When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the government fumigated your markets and as a way of cushioning the effect of the virus on the livelihood of traders, Governor Obiano graciously approved a 10% tax refund for all the traders, which AIRs paid in full”, he said.
Chief Ekwegbalu, on behalf of other elected leaders, thanked traders for finding him and other executive members worthy of managing their affairs for the next four years and pledged his readiness to work for the traders.
He said it would not be business as usual in the markets, as market leaders should sit up to ensure peaceful business environment.
The president said, since government has lifted the ban on elections in the markets, he would begin to conduct elections into any market association that was not democratically elected.
President of Bridgehead markets, Chief Sunday Obinze, expressed happiness at the peaceful conduct of the election and commended the commissioner for his leadership that led to the successful conduct of the election.
He said the new leaders at the state and zonal levels would engender peace and progress in various markets in the state.