Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The leadership crisis rocking Anambra State markets took a new dimension as the state government has disbanded the Amalgamated Markets Traders Association of Anambra State, (AMATAS) and directed the newly-constituted Anambra State Markets Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA) to replace it and take over the office premises in Onitsha.
The Commissioner for Trade, Commerce and Wealth Creation, Dr Christian Madubuko, who led markets leaders and armed security agents to take over the ‘Traders House’ built by former leadership of AMATAS, located at Modebe Street, Onitsha and told the ASMATA’s leadership to occupy the house.
Madubuko who personally supervised the breaking and damaging of the entrance gate keys into the two-storey building and damaging the keys to the offices in the Traders House, before the whole offices were thoroughly ransacked by the officials of the government, was assisted by some leaders of the markets in the state and some traders who volunteered to assist the state government to take over the building by force.
The commissioner ordered the removal of all insignias, inscriptions in and outside the building and photographs of the former President-General of AMATAS and a former Commissioner of Trade and Commerce in the State, and their replacement with those of insignias of ASMATA.
While addressing newsmen in one of the large conference rooms after gaining entry to the ‘Traders House’ Dr. Madubuko said he was personally asked by Governor Willie Obiano to recover the Traders House for the traders in the state, following some alleged sharp practices by the leadership of the disbanded AMATAS.
Madubuko who was flanked by the President-General of ASMATA, Chief Ikechukwu Ekwegbalu, and other leaders of the markets in the state said: “Today is a special day for the traders; it is a freedom day for the Anambra State traders who have for the past ten years been under the bondage of AMATA.
“The leadership of AMATAS was dissolved and they insisted that they will without the consent of the state government continue to operate; we earlier agreed with its former President- General, Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo that once we are ready to take over the Traders House, that Chief Vincent Ifeme should hand over all the keys to us, but as you can see since we came here, I have called and sent text messages to both men, without any response from them, hence the decision to break into the house.
“The Traders’ House land was bought and built by the traders, and they should not be denied entry into the house because there is change of their leadership; the leadership of former AMATAS has been accusing my office of collecting levies, and they have been writing all sorts of deceptive memos and letters to the governor against me, and also claiming that I wanted to impose a leader on the traders; the governor knows what am capable of doing and ignored them, because their allegations lack substance.
“Today as you can see, we have recovered all sorts of fake receipts and letters they forged with the name of the Secretary to the State Government, and the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Primus Odili; we are taking the cartons of the receipts and all the forged letters to Awka Government House to show the governor and from there, we will know how much they have defrauded the state government.
“Sincerely speaking, what we have discovered in this house are enormous, you know that some people have been saying that being an executive member of AMATAS is like having an oil well, and I have seen it today and confirmed that their claim are correct. A lot of fraud has gone through this house against the state; the traders and customer coming to buy from the state, all have been defrauded.
AMATAS as they claim, is a registered body with the Corporate Affairs Commission but I’m not aware of that claim, but if their claim is correct, they are free to operate and have their meeting anywhere but they cannot operate as a body leading the traders in Anambra state.
In his speech while taking over ‘Traders House’ after over two months of appointment, but denied access into the office, President General of ASMATA, Chief Ekwegbalu, promised to rule with the fear of God, to be transparent and to carry the traders along in all his activities.