Anambra traders are currently at each other’s throat over the leadership of the Anambra Market Amalgamated Traders Association ASMATA -the umbrella body of all the market Associations in Anambra State.
The union was formed in the 1980s, but became prominent during the reign of three notable leaders -Chief G.U Okeke, Chief Pius Ozoanekwe and Hon Okwudili Ezenwankwo, now member representing Orumba Nort and South in the Federal House of Representatives. Okwudili had, during his tenure, acquired the association’s Secretariat at the tune of over hundred million naira.
The rift over who occupies his office rose shortly after the expiration of his tenure. The Honorable member had fixed July 5 for the election into the offices of the association but the state government suddenly placed a ban on the election.
Irked by the action of the state government, some members of the Board of Trustees, BOT, went to court. Their stance was that the state government should not meddle in the running of the Association, claiming that it is an NGO. While the crisis deepened, the state government appointed a 15-member caretaker committee to take over the administration of the market leadership.
Chief Ikechukwu Ekwegbalu, an Uncle of the wife of the Governor of Anambra State was made the chairman. Also, the state government in July, mobilized security agents who stormed the office and sacked the remaining officers of the association who were laying claims to the office. Following this development, the traders organised a press conference where they claimed to have suspended the immediate past president of the association, Hon Ezenwankwo.
They accused him of conspiring with the state government to take over the market leadership. But in an interview with journalists, Ezewankwo said he contributed over 60 per cent of the money used for the office project.
According to findings, he is the BOT chairman of the association known to law as far as the secretariat is concerned. Investigation by Sunday Telegraph revealed that the traders contributed less than 25 per cent of the total sum of the project. Some of the market leadership, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, collaborated Nwawnkwo’s claim, saying that traders contributed very little to the building project.
However, in an interview with the Commissioner for Commerce, Trade and Wealth Creation, Dr Christian Madubko, he stressed that the state government is not contesting for the ownership of the association, neither does she want to impose leadership on the traders. He said the state government is playing supervisory role, in line with government’s policy. “We are not contesting anything with them in court.
All we need is to ensure peace and stability of our markets. “What the government is doing is just supervisory role and doesn’t want to interfere in their internal affairs. We allow them to conduct their election according to their constitution and we only come as an observer and solve problem where there is, in line with the government’s policy for the markets.” The action of the government has elicited several criticisms from the traders.
Former president of the disbanded Onitsha Market Amalgamated Traders Association, OMATA, Chief Pius Ozoanekwe, is of the opinion that the traders are government’s tenants and only owe them their taxes and stall fees. He said government has no right to sack the traders in the office and appoint a caretaker committee for them against the wish and constitutional provision.