From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The President of Anambra State Market Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA), Chief Ikechukwu Ekwegbalu, has denied the allegation of corruption, mismanagement of office and gross misappropriation of funds accruing to N200 million by some traders.
The Provost of ASMATA, Kenneth Amakeze and PRO, Sunday Anakor had accused the President of misappropriation of funds and other sundry allegations in a petition, but Chief Ekwegbalu while reacting to the allegations said that the union has not received up to N2million since Governor Soludo assumed office.
Ekwugbalu said that the union was battling to pay the salaries of workers since the government doesn’t give subventions to the association and wondered where he made the N200 million from since Governor Soludo ordered traders to pay their revenue electronically directly to the state coffers.
He said that trouble started when Sunday Anakor was sacked by former Commissioner of Commerce and Industry Dr Obinna Ngonadi as caretaker chairman in Ochanja market and he approached him (president) to approve and organize a protest against Soludo’s administration to return him which he refused.
“They alleged that I embezzled the sum of N200million, it is easier to be alleged but hard to prove. The question is where did the money come from? Is it from the electronic revenue payment system of Soludo? If ASMATA has such money in the account why should we battle to pay workers’ salaries? Then, again I’m not the only signatory to the account, how did I move the money to my personal account without others signing the cheque?
“The truth remains that Sunday Ankor started fighting me immediately after I rejected his plan to protest against the government for removing him as caretaker chairman at Ochanja market. He went and connived with my PRO Kenneth Amakeze to write all sorts of things against me.
“His annoyance was that I scuttled his plan to organize a protest against the state government after he had made an underground plan for the protest for him to be returned as caretaker chairman. At the appropriate time, they will come up with the evidence for their allegations because it is pure character assassination.
“They also alleged that the election that brought me into the office did not follow due process, but it was the same election that brought all of us as ASMATA executives. On the day of the election, Kenneth Anakor who emerged as Chief provost was the person that did accreditation for the same election while Sunday was elected PRO in the same election.
“They said that I collected the money from markets and they should as well provide evidence. Who are the traders that pay money to me instead of government electronic payment points? They should bring them out and the reason for such money. I have my secretary, financial secretary and treasurer and other executives who know the way the office is being run.
“I will surely put my enemies to shame because they cannot deter me from carrying out my duties. The welfare of the traders in the state is my concern and not the distractors. I support Governor Soludo in his transformation process and infrastructural development,” Ekwugbalu stated.