•Market factions in Lagos trade blames over finances
By Bianca Iboma
Anger recently boiled over at the popular Auto Spare Parts and Machinery Dealers Association (ASPAMDA) complex in Lagos. The market is situated at the popular Lagos International Trade Fair Complex.
Some members of the United Allied Spare Parts Dealer Association (UASPDA) located in a section of the ASPAMDA complex, were engaged in a tussle with the caretaker committee that had been managing their section of the market in the past 12 years. The traders had accused the caretaker committee leadership of “unfair dealings,” a development that led the police to wade in.
Coordinators of that section of the market had alleged that Mr. Bartholomew Achukwu, the head of the caretaker committee, had failed to render proper account of the finances of the association.
But in his response, Mr. Achukwu alleged that his traducers were out to kill him and destroy property at the market. His statement, it was gathered, prompted the police at Zone 2 Headquarters, Onikan, to invite the coordinators to come over and clear the allegation.
For supporters of the distraught coordinators, it was a carnival of some sort when they rode in 13 buses to and from Zone 2 Headquarters, Onikan, singing and chanting solidarity songs.
When they returned to the market, they caused some stir, as traders at the Auto Spare Parts and Machinery Dealers Association (ASPAMDA) came out in their numbers to watch the UASPDA traders display.
Commercial activities at the complex were literally halted, as some of the visibly irate traders and protesters carried placards and tree branches with which they tried to express their grievances. Some inscription written on the placards read: “The general will supersede the parochial interest of a few disgruntled elements;” “We are saying no to dictatorship,” and “We are calling on ICPC to investigate Mr. Bartholomew Achukwu and his cohorts.”
When Daily Sun encountered the leader and spokesman of the coordinators, Evangelist Fredrick Mmegwa, he explained the ills that bedevilled the association before its members decided to move over to ASPAMDA, where they resumed commercial activities again.
“United Allied Spare Parts Dealer Association (UASPDA) is an association whose members deal in motorcycle parts as well as generators and their parts,” he said. “Some time ago, we were trading in Idumota and Ebute Meta. We left those areas because of the challenges we had with the indigenes and social miscreants.
“Determined to do away with that challenge, we met our sister traders at ASPAMDA. We held a series of meetings and appointed a caretaker committee and charged it with governing, administrative and financial responsibilities of the association. We reached a compromise to construct our own market like the ASPAMDA. That was how we pulled our resources together to achieve this cause.
“Initially, everything went smoothly. But trouble began when we started clamouring for election and to have the accounts and the financial statement of the building project the association embarked on. We wanted this from the caretaker committee but it objected to the demand.”
Mmegwa pointed out that it was the major grievance that the traders genuinely raised during their last meeting in March that led to the misunderstanding they had with the committee members. He insisted that it had nothing to do with the alleged threat to life campaign mounted by Mr. Achukwu.
He disclosed that the traders were equally unhappy that at the completion of the market, the caretaker committee head allocated the shops to people, who were not members of UASPDA. He said that the action was carried out without following the association’s regulations and proper procedure being adopted in every market.
He said when information got to traders that the shops were being allocated without the association’s knowledge, they were shocked to receive an invitation from the Zone 2 Police Command Headquarters, Onikan, alleging that they had threatened to eliminate Mr. Achukwu.
“We are calling on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the law enforcement agencies to intervene in this matter.
“We want to inform the general public that we are just going about our trading business. We want the anti-graft agencies and the police to properly investigate this matter before unlawfully convicting our members,” he said.
One of the senior police officers from Zone 2, Onikan, Wale Lawal, who addressed the crowd at ASPAMDA complex, explained that the invitation of the coordinators was a fact-finding act and was not intended to prosecute them. “We want to investigate the issues at hand,” he said.
Lawal, however, called for peace and unity among the traders, advising them to go about their normal business. He promised the association that its members would get justice but should allow the police do their investigation.
When Daily Sun met with Mr. Achukwu to hear his own side of the story, he maintained that the 11 coordinators planned to kill him and destroy his property worth millions and those of other people abroad, who invested in the building of the market. He said based on that, he had to report the case of threat to life and property.
While explaining his position to this reporter, he was interrupted by an irate man in his 50s, who advised him not to reveal anything more, maintaining that the case was already in a Lagos court.
Achukwu challenged those whom he noted were fraudulently claiming to be part of the association to produce their identity cards or receipts of payment to the association in the past 12 years to show that they were actually genuine members of the association.
“We are all members of UASPDA. It is now 10 years that we have been paying dues with receipts and identity cards,” he said. “There was no union when we began; we only entered into an agreement with ASPAMDA when we came here.”
When Daily Sun visited the new market, it was discovered that only a few shops were open for business and activities at the market were slow. A woman trader there said that business transactions had been very poor due to low patronage, regretting that people were not yet aware that the place had started commercial activities.