The leadership tussle in the Awka Central Market has continued to make relationship among the traders and other stakeholders a tense one. Emeka Osondu writes
There is this story that a leader in one of the zones in the market, Emeka Onyemaechi, who happened to be a member of old executive committee in the market had against the Awka Markets Amalgamated Traders Association (AMATA) employed a private security outfit, Udide Vigilante Services to provide security in his section, without the consent of the AMATA president.
On the fateful day, the AMATA Security Chairman, Anthony Ezekwesili and his team were on routine inspection of the market. On getting to Market 4B, where the said Onyemaechi was the leader and also had his shop, the Udide Vigilante operatives refused them entry. This instantly led to exchange of words after, which the visiting team left the scene and dispersed to their various homes.
But unsuspectedly, Onyemaechi later turned round and took his hired security to the home of the AMATA security chairman, assaulting him in the process, just as he ordered the operatives to allegedly shoot him on both knees, crippling him. After that, they dragged Ezekwesili into their van and raced down to the Eke Awka Round-about where they displayed and made public mockery of him.
Incidentally, when the wife of the embattled security chairman trailed the vigilante operatives and rushed to the scene to rescue her husband, the operatives surprisingly hit her with the butt of their guns and died there instantly!
While the police had since taken over the matter, the children of the slain woman have continued to wait endlessly for her return; just as their breadwinner and father has been crippled for life in a senseless power game.
Those interviewed expressed sadness that those who supposed to stand up boldly and speak firmly on the matter have remained silent obviously for self-interest, just as they expressed curiosity that at various intervals other groups keep coming up to claim the leadership stool irrespective of a subsisting court order.
On Monday, April 8, a new group laying claim to the leadership stool in the market led by one Jude Agumadu and Kenneth Ezisi, while announcing themselves as chairman and vice chairman respectively summoned the traders at the market’s park by 8am to tell them that they had received government’s backing to oversee the affairs of the market for the next six months.
Agumadu at the rally, which the police said they gave no permit to hold as required by law, solicited for the trader’s support to enable him and his teamwork for the effective development of the market.
THISDAY recalled that prior to Agumadu’s claim to the leadership of the market, another group led by one Charles Arinze had bandied itself as the market’s leadership, an action, which prompted the initiator of the substantive suit, Azubike Ezenwa, to institute a suit for contempt of court against them in an Awka High Court, insisting they were imposters.
An Awka High Court had on May 21, 2012 ordered and set up a five-man committee to oversee the affairs of the market and other adjoining markets in the capital city, pending the determination of suit No.A/31/2012 pending brought before it.
Chief Azubike Ezenwa, is one of the contestants in a recent election, and in the suit, he is claiming that no election was held before his opponent was declared winner.
In an interview with THISDAY in Awka, Hon. Kenneth Onuorah, leader of the five-man committee set up by the court to oversee the affairs of the market, expressed surprise that while the case was still in court, and a subsisting contempt charge against the group was yet to be determined, another group had brazenly stood up to lay claim to the leadership stool irrespective of the position of the court on the case.
According to Onuorah who is also the president Awka Amalgamated Traders’ Association (AMATA), the trial judge, Hon. Justice J.C. Iguh, had on March 4, 2013 warned the status quo remains in the market leadership and that those insurgent groups should stop further flouting of court orders until May 13, 2013 when the contempt charge before his court would be heard.”
He further expressed surprise that while Arinze and his team appeared to have restrained themselves to the ruling of the court, Agumadu, Ezisi and some other individuals, whom he said they used as foot-soldiers had sprang up in defiance of the court order and had persisted to harass, intimidate and extort money from the helpless traders.
Onuorah pointed out that even by allowing the crisis to deepen as it were, the union and government are losing a lot of revenue on daily basis, as according to him, “at an earlier stage before the crisis commenced, they (traders) were paying to us. But soon after, they stopped because they did not know which party to trust.”