Posted by Okegwo Kenechukwu, Onitsha | 7 July 2019 | 919 times
The disagreement between Onitsha traders and the Government of Anambra State over who takes over the chairman of the powerful Anambra State Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA), escalated at the weekend following the appointment of a caretaker committee for the umbrella union by the state government.
Sunday Telegraph investigation revealed that trouble started when the tenure of the last leadership of the ASMATA led by Chief Okwdili Ezenwankwo, now a member of the Federal House Representatives, expired in June this year.
Chief Ezenwankwo had before the expiration of his tenure won election to represent his Orumba North and South Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
Following this development the traders proposed for an election into leadership of the union slated for June 5, 2019, but the state government suspended the election. Dissatisfied by the action of the government, members of ASMATA went to court to challenge the suspension on the ground that the state government had no rights to interfere in the internal management of the union which they claimed was not an affiliate of the state government but a traders association.
But while government claimed they are the custodian of all markets in the state the traders say they are only but tenants. According to them what the traders owe the state government is the stall fees, taxes and other revenue as required by law.
The secretary of the union and member of the Board of Trustees of the ASMATA, Mr. Chums Eruchalu, said government has no hand in the association. “The association in owned by some traders who identified with the association and registered it.
Also speaking, another member of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Emma Ojukwu, a one-time chairman of the Old Motors Spare Parts Association, Obosi, said OMATA was proscribed by the Federal Government and we have nothing is common with the state government.
“The state government has also appointed a caretaker committee and claimed they have disbanded ASMATA; we are already in court to challenge the suspension of our election and the Anambra traders are waiting for the verdict of the court.”
“We are interested in having our elections and not the caretaker committee. They are at liberty to do their work as assigned by the state government.
“But let me make it clear that on no account should they contemplate to coming to the national headquarters of ASMATA, because we will resist it,” he said.
Another member of the Association and a human rights activist, Mr. Dede Uzor, said ASMATA is an NGO and it is owned by a few individual who believe in the philosophy of the stakeholders. He said that the association partners with the government on their supervisory capacity during election of the market leaders but not as a major stake holders or co-owners.
Speaking in the same vein, a former president of the OMATA, Chief Pius Ozoanekwu, said what the state government has not realised is that the traders are their tenants and government owns the market.
He said that the controversy came into the leadership of the market when the government ventured into the market through the instrumentality of traders who are either relations of those in power and each government gave different names to different associations that make up the traders union.
Chief Ozoanekwe blamed some notable traders who had in one time or the other been the leaders of the traders union but have stooped so low to accept membership of a caretaker committee either as a patron or otherwise. He said they have shut-out young ones who are talented to lead the traders. He said it is a shame. “These are the people who cause confusion in the state using their position to influence at the corridors of power to cause crisis between the government and the trader,” he added.
He advised Governor Willie Obiano not to allow his government to engage in confrontation with the traders who he said constitutes over 70 per cent of the residents in the state.
Some of the traders, who spoke to our correspondent on the crisis, alleged that the new caretaker chairman of the traders association is a senior brother to the wife of the governor who is not a trader in any market in Anambra State. Our source who didn’t want his name mentioned said the traders will resist his leadership at all cost.
He said: “The state government imposed him on the traders at the main market but now that the traders have appointed a chairman in the person of Mr. Onyeka Keneth Kenbbigger, he should go and occupy the office of the defunct ASMATA for those who appointed him simple and short.” (Sunday Telegraph)
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