Magnus Eze and Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The brewing crisis in the leadership of the central body of the 72 registered markets in Anambra state may get to a head this week as the election of new leaders for the Amalgamated Traders Association (AMATA) holds today.
This came on the heels of rumours that Government may stop the election and install a caretaker body.
Some traders who were not disposed to the election had staged a protest at the Government House, Awka threatening to ground commercial activities in the state to protest against the activities of the outgoing market leader, Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo who was recently elected to represent Orumba North and South Federal constituency in the National Assembly.
They accused Ezenwankwo of having perfected plot to plant his protégées to run the markets for purely pecuniary gains.
The group under the umbrella of Concerned Stakeholders of Amalgamated Traders Association (AMATAS) which cut across market unions in Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi and Ekwulobia also alleged that the outgoing leader had been dropping Governor Willie Obiano’s name even as he intimidated and harassed traders.
Part of the petition signed by 43 people led by Ndubuisi Ochogu and Obi Chike Obi, Chairman and Secretary, respectively, stated that: “He has always violated your Excellency’s directive using his boys especially with regards to the collection of toll fees which you have abolished for the betterment of the poor masses, but up till now those collections are still going on now at Ogbaru Relief market and almost in all the markets in the state, thereby painting you black in the sight of the traders of Anambra State.
“Your Excellency, we wish to bring to your notice that our outgoing President, Mr. Okwudili Ezenwankwo (Ewepudike) has been the President of Amalgamated Markets Traders Association of Anambra State (AMATAS) for the past 12 years operating on illegal, non-valid and viable constitution written and signed by him and his secretary for themselves. Sir, any effective and viable working constitution, must have a well constituted constitution drafting committee set up in a general meeting who will draft the constitution and signed it.
“Sir, an organisation comprising all the markets in Anambra State cannot be registered as a company where one person will be the sole owner as the chairman board of trustees for life…
“His conducting this election in such a horrifying manner and a terrifying situation is highly unacceptable to us. He has boasted that he is the brain behind the removal of all the commissioners for commerce Your Excellency has always appointed.”
Reacting to the allegations, Ezenwankwo dismissed the petitioners as unserious people and noted that they were not market leaders; hence lacked the locus standi to speak on the issue.
“We have 72 unions in AMATA and those people that spoke to you are not executive members of the market unions. They are not even stakeholders of the market unions. In fact they are faceless people.
“I had it on good information that they are being sponsored by a certain politician who wants to contest governorship election after the second term of Governor Willie Obiano and he has this plot to put in place a market executive that would be there to help him become governor and that nonsense cannot work while I am alive,” he alleged.
Ezenwankwo also asked the public to ignore the petitioners’ threat to close the markets, as according to him, “They cannot close the market because they are not the leaders of the respective market unions in Anambra State.”
Regardless, controversy trailed the purported dissolution of the leadership AMATAS and sealing of their office, at the weekend, by the Commissioner for Trade, Commerce, Markets and Wealth Creation, Dr. Christian Madubuko.
The commissioner had last Friday reportedly stormed the AMATAS House along Modebe Avenue Onitsha with armed operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) where he allegedly announced the dissolution of the Ezenwankwo-led exco and subsequently locked up the office, saying that their tenure had elapsed.
Daily Sun gathered that the commissioner who may have acted without knowing the true state of things as the tenure of the leadership of the market would end by June 30 this month with an election scheduled for June 5.
A source said that the commissioner lacked the power to dissolve the leadership of the market that was duly registered by Corporate Affairs Commission as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).
He said that it was based on that premise that power from above in the state immediately called the commissioner on phone to revert his decision and unseal the office which he immediately did.
Nwankwo eventually spoke to newsmen on the purported dissolution of the AMATAS leadership, said: “I was in Awka for APGA convention when I got a phone call that commissioner for trade, commerce and market came and said that our tenure had expired since May 30 and based on the expiration of our tenure he is dissolving our executive.
“I want to state categorically that my tenure is supposed to expire on June 30 of this month which the election has been scheduled to hold on June 5 and the true story is that I have decided to bow out on that June 5 after the election. I had told the traders in the state and the executive of the association that I will not exceed June 5 in office.”
He declared that AMATAS is an NGO and so not under the control of Government even as he admitted that they could intervene in period of irreconcilable crisis.
“We are an NGO, so, the commissioner has no right to take the decision he took if it is true that he came here to dissolve us, it is uncalled for and I’m here; I didn’t see anybody.
“As I said, this association is NGO and government can come in when there is crisis and uncontrollable crisis but for now there is no crisis in our union. This association has board members and patrons and if there is problem these people will intervene first to resolve it.
“We have been giving the government support since I assumed office; the commissioner is on his own, that’s why I’m here in my office. AMATAS has come to stay in the state and I believe I have done well more than any person that ruled the markets,” he boasted.
He denied allegation that he wants to impose his stooge but challenged any person interested in the leadership to come and face election instead of seeking power through the back door.
But Ochiogu countered Ezenwankwo saying that the process put in place for the election was already skewed as according to him, the outgoing President has perfected how to hand over to his personal assistant.
“Ezenwankwo is talking against caretaker; how did he become President in the first place? Was he not appointed caretaker Chairman before he consolidated and started conducting all the kangaroo things that he calls election? Our own is that he should leave Anambra traders to elect their leaders and government must come in to checkmate these tormentors; for they’ve become nemesis to us,” Ochiogu said.