David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Trouble is gradually building-up at Onitsha Progress Market, otherwise known as “Biafra market” following the alleged refusal of the incumbent chairman of the market, Mr Ekene Okoye to vacate office after aspiration of his tenure since July, 2018.
Some traders of the market who spoke through their spokesman, Mr Mathew Obiajulu said that traders of the market had suffered undue hardship due to alleged high-handedness of the present chairman whom they accused of elongating his tenure of office after eight years as chairman.
Mr Obiajulu alleged that a few traders who had opposed the incumbent’s plans of continuing in office were suspended from the market union and eventually chased out of the market after shutting-up their shops permanently for business.
Mr Obiajulu said: “Any form of opposition against the elongation of the chairman, Mr Okoye has a lot of consequences, moreso, some of the shops he permanently shut out of business after their owners had paid N425,000 to acquire them were resold to other willing and wealthy traders between the sum of N4 million and N5million.
Mrs Florence Obalum, a female trader, who said she was denied of a shop after paying the sum of N150,000 for a metal shop (container) before it was converted to concrete shops, complained that since 2013 when the payment was made, neither a shop nor her money had been refunded to her.
The traders who claimed they are now living in fear of threat to their lives and businesses further said that since the constitution of the market did not stipulate “third term” for a chairman or endorsement, they did not see the reason the incumbent chairman should connive with members of his executive to continue in office through “Kangaroo endorsement’’.
They called on the Anambra State Markets Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA), Commissioner for Trade, Commerce and Wealth Creation to begin the process of conducting election in the market as the present leadership is lacking in legitimacy.
When contacted, the embattled chairman of the market union, Mr Okoye denied all the allegations leveled against him.
He explained that some of the people fighting him were among those who endorsed him to continue in office after observing all his achievements and struggles to liberate the market from a wealthy businessman who had wanted to mortgage the entire land where the market is presently sited.
Mr Okoye appealed for calm, adding that he was very popular among the traders and believes in democracy, equity, justice and transparency.
Ihiala traders demand arms for market vigilance group
David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Traders at Nkwo Ogbe Main Market in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State have appealed to the state government and other relevant authorities to give approval for their market security to carry arms.
Chairman of the market adjudged to be one of the biggest in Anambra State, Nze Cyprain Oledibe made the appeal at the market site when he narrated to Sunday Sun the traders’ recent encounter with night marauders who invaded the market.
“We have a vigilance group in the market, but they don’t carry guns. This has been our major headache as far as security is concerned. Government has not given approval for our security to carry guns like others elsewhere. But they use other weapons they manage to secure the market,” he said.
He said that about three weeks ago, armed night marauders attacked the market from Orlu Road axis, vandalized many stalls and made away with goods worth millions of naira, an incident he said the traders reported to the traditional ruler of the community.
Nze Oledibe disclosed that the Igwe later had a meeting with the security agents in the area, including the police and men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) during which time the traders were promised that security operatives would soon begin night patrol within the market site, “which we are yet to see.”
Oledibe explained that he had spent only nine months in office out of his four years tenure with his executive and they had been able to restore abandoned 14 gates at the market and built three additional new ones for security of the market.
He said that even though the market vigilantes were not armed they tried at the moment as much as they could to wade off criminals from Nkwo Ogbe with what they have.
He blamed the security lapses within the area on the fact that Ihiala central vigilance group was not working optimally together with the inability of the police to do adequate policing at the site especially at night.
Some other challenges of the traders were nonfunctional borehole at the market, dilapidated access road and a broken down culvert that could not allow for easy trading activities in the market.
The chairman said that the borehole had been out of use for the past eight years due to lack of a power generator that could be used to pump water for distribution.
He appealed to the Anambra State government under Governor Willie Obiano to beam its development searchlight to the abandoned borehole, broken down culvert and dilapidated road issues to make things easy for the traders in the market.
Nkwo Ogbe market, according to one of the traders, is called the food basket of Anambra State given the fact that many communities from neighbouring Imo State bring in their agricultural produce to the market on a daily basis apart from other commodities such as clothing materials, groceries and other items that are sold cheaply there.
We never stopped prayers in Anambra markets –ASMATA president
Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The President General of Anambra State Market Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA), Chief Ikechukwu Ekwegbalu has stated categorically that they never stopped prayers in markets in the state.
He dismissed the allegation by some prayer groups at Bridgehead market that he stopped prayers in the markets, saying that the group were trying to create unnecessary tension where there is none as the matter had been resolved by the leadership of market unions in the state.
Ekwegbalu while briefing newsmen in his office said that Governor Willie Obiano had expressed concern over the issue and directed that prayers should continue unaffected to avoid infringement of people’s freedom of association, worship and religion as enshrined in the constitution.
According to him, “we discovered that for many years prayers in the market have become a lucrative business as some have registered their prayer ministries in the market at the Corporate Affairs Commission as business venture.
“The truth is that I did not stop prayers in the market as many misinformed people have purportedly mentioned. I merely decided to apply moderation to the excesses of many in the name of prayers, resulting to obstruction and interference with market activities.
“The initial agreement with market leaders after many brought this complaints to my office, was to take a generally agreed day/date of prayer where market activities can be reasonably held, rather than the indiscriminate and unmoderated frequency obtainable before now. I had also gone to various markets to explain to them by myself.
“I’m a Christian and a man who loves God and understands the importance of prayers in our lives, but the Bible urges us to exercise moderation in all things (Philippians 4: 5-7). So, the general prayers, which we agreed on is different from the daily prayers which have continued unaffected, our only advice to them is not to interfere with market activities.
“Also let me add, that we have never restricted, forced or arrested anybody with respect to this issue. However, it seems that the opposition as usual would always lash at any given opportunity to cause commotion, but the church and the body of Christ is marching forward and the gate of hell shall not prevail against it,” Ekwegbalu stated.
1st Ride set to begin bike hiking services in Lagos
The Industrial Line of Alaba International Market, Lagos, comes alive as 1st-Ride, an arm of White Polo Nigeria Limited, is set to revolutionize the Nigerian bike hiking services.
Speaking ahead of the unveiling of its first batch of motorcycles, the Chief Executive Officer of the company, Chinyere Oguike said that 1st-Ride would make the difference in the way bike hiking service is done in Nigeria.
She said that the innovation that they would bring into the business would be second to none.
According to her, for some time, they have been researching on the ways to make the business not only profitable, but also comfortable to the stakeholders and end users.
She said that 1st-Ride is a professional, flexible and learning outfit that strongly believes in continuous innovation.
According to her, the company is aware that continuous innovation is the best way of delivering value services to its customers and as such would always be happy to receive feed-back from customers on the ways to serve them better.
She said that some of the unique selling points of the company are periodic training of bike riders in conjunction with relevant authorities, monthly drug test of the riders, prompt services and deliveries, accident insurance and pocket friendly fares for customers.
She said that its foreign partner has injected $2.3 million via bonds and guarantees for smooth operation of the company in Nigeria.
Her words: “1st-Ride’ is in Nigeria to make the difference in the bike hiking services. Like our name 1st-Ride, we want to be the first with regard to professionalism, integrity, innovation and quality services.”
According to her, 1st-Ride would not have restriction with regard to routes to apply.
However, she said that the initial beneficiaries of its services would be those plying Amuwo Odofin and Ojo Alaba routes.