A section of Main Market, Onitsha
A Coalition of Civil Society organisations (CSOs), The Int’l Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) Civil Liberties Organization(CLO) Southeast Zone, and the Southeast-based Coalition of Human Rights and Democracy Organizations-SBCHROs, said they strongly back the recent announcement by the Governor of Anambra State Prof. Charles Soludo, dissolving the ‘imposed’ and ‘unopposed leaders’ in Anambra Markets.
This is contained in a joint statement signed by the human rights and democracy group leaders, Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi (Intersoceity), Comrade Aloysius Emeka Attach (Southeast CLO’S), Comrade Vincent Ezeekwueme, (SBCHROS) and sent to the Journalists on Tuesday.
The group urged the affected State Market leaders to prepare their handover notes, pack and go and stop flying bribery money in Ghana-Must-Go bags and Brown Envelopes at Awka Government House.
They were also told that no amount of nocturnal meetings and bribery money in Ghana-Must-Go can coerce the State Government to recant its stance on this.
The statement noted that “Leaders of Intersociety, Southeast CLO and SBCHROs have been receiving reports since the State Government’s announcement that bribery money in ‘Ghana-Must-Go bags and Brown Envelopes have been flying at different political quarters at the Awka Government House and top security formations by the affected Market traders so as to coerce the State Government to reverse its announcement and allow for continuation of ‘business as usual’. Pieces of available information also have it that it was when the Ghana-Must-Go and Brown Envelopes failed to do their biddings that some of the affected traders turned around and threatened the State Government with a showdown/shutdown.
“We therefore boldly commend Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State and throw our full weight of support behind his informed, timely, correct and popular decision. The governor also wisely acted on our letters of July and October 2021, and January (twice) 2022.
“We have also been in the forefront campaign for democratization and sanitization of Anambra Markets in the past five years or since 2017. It is our strong advice that no single Market and its imposed or ‘unopposed leaders’ in the State must be spared, and the caretaker committees when put in place in each of the affected Markets must not exceed six months or one year and credible and all inclusive market elections must be conducted with fresh and credible persons popularly elected into different elective positions in each of the affected Markets.
“The sacked imposed and ‘unopposed leaders’ (chairmen) in the affected Markets shall be ineligible in the upcoming fresh popular and credible elections; likewise those in charge of the new ‘transition caretaker committees’ except if they properly resign six or three months to their new Market election.
“We must also strongly warn all the supervising Ministries or Departments or Agencies and their heads in the Government of Charles Soludo to desist from and resist the virus of ‘Ghana-Must-Go and Brown Envelopes’ which have become the trademark of Anambra Market Leaders.
“We have already spread our tentacles to the State Ministries of Trade, Commerce and Transport and Offices of the SSG and the Chief of Staff as well as the SA on Security, etc so as to monitor the possible movement of ‘Ghana-Must-Go and Brown Envelopes for purpose of perverting democratization and sanitization of Anambra Markets.
“The Committee in charge of constituting fresh Market caretaker committees is also under our strict watch and any bribe collected must be exposed and made refundable.
“Finally, it must be remembered that most or over 90% of the Anambra Markets are presently under bribe induced caretaker committees or ‘unopposed leaders’ since 2018. One of the last credible Market Elections was the election of the Onitsha Electronics Market in 2018.
“As a matter of fact, all the “elections” conducted into various Markets across the State since 2020-starting with the “unopposed election” of the Ogbunike Building Materials Market in June 2021 are flawed and Government imposed. By “unopposed market election”, it is a multimillion naira bribe induced selection arrangement by former Governor William Obiano Government of Anambra State and its Ministry of Trade, Commerce and Investment under Mr. Uchenna Okafor.
“Under the unpopular and corruptive arrangement, all members of the Government imposed caretaker committee of each of the affected Markets were returned to elective positions in makeshift ‘Markets ‘elections’ as “unopposed elected Market leaders”.
The statement added that “Markets affected by this brazen and condemnable arrangement include Ogbunike Building Materials Market, Ogbaru Relief Market, Onitsha Bridgehead Central Market, Onitsha Tools and Allied Products Dealers Market, Onitsha Ogbosisi by Niger Street Market, Onitsha Old Iron (Akpakara) Dealers Markets (1 & 2), Oba Electrical Market, Anambra State Market Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA); a supposedly Anambra Central Markets’ leadership; etc.
“On the other hand, ‘imposed Market leadership’ is the imposition of a caretaker committee with three or six months renewal bribe of at least N5m and limitless elongation of same at N5m per three or six months. Onitsha Ogbogwu (Drugs) Market, for instance, had been under ‘caretaker committee’ since July 23, 2020. The above are just to mention but a few.”