As report to EFCC pits traders against union•
The hitherto ‘grave yard peace’ that reigned at the popular Agu- Ironsi International Market, Ladipo, Mushin, Lagos State, appears to have been shattered.
No thanks to a N48 million unsettled account and an alleged ‘biased’ Peace Committee Report that was sneaked to the Economic And Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), without the approval of the General Assembly of the Union.
Investigations indicated that subsequent protests over the alleged ‘biased’ content of the said report, by many of the shop owners and traders, has torn apart the fabrics of the said relative peace and unity in the market, thereby setting up disaffection between some of the traders and union leadership.
It would be recalled that the man at the centre of the tussles, is the popular ex- president of the union, Mr. Jonathan Okolie, (aka JAPAN), who fiercely contested with another ex-chairman, Chief Cyril Onyemaechi, that eventually handed over the mantle of leadership to the incumbent Chairman, Mr. Emmanuel Mbamara, his former Public Relations Officer, a hotly contested election.
Though, it is said to be an open secret amongst the ‘real’ traders, that against all market political permutations, Okolie in a bid to spite his people from Anambra, who he was said not to have forgiven for orchestrating his turbulent exist from office, nominated and sponsored Mbamara, an alleged non trader, new comer and novice in market politics, while Cyril Onyemaechi from Enugu State, who Mbamara, an Imo State indigene, served in his regime as former PRO, rejected Mbamara and opted for another candidate, who was defeated in the election by about 68 vote margin.
An aggrieved trader, who identified himself as Francis, regretted what he called a worrisome fact that majority of the political gladiators do not owe any shops and are not traders in the market.
According to him, “They create crisis, intimidate and do unlawful things to win elections just to rule us, force incalculable huge levies on the powerless traders, while our businesses bleed into bankruptcy, whereas they escape to their various states of origin to build hotels and buy property”.
Our findings showed that the present brewing crisis emanated over alleged move by Mbamara to shut out some of his election sponsors, including Okolie, who was indicted in the report of the 7-Man Peace and Reconciliation Committee, set up by Mbamara leadership on November 13th, 2018.
It is believed by some traders loyal to Okolie, that the said Committee and its report, which they tagged ‘Kangaroo,’ was biased, lacking fair hearing to Okolie and a carefully planned and calculated gang up to shut up opposition and forment trouble that would enable the current market leadership to Siphon union fund, as they claimed was the case in some past Administrations.
Other hot contending issues are the N48 million debt and repairs or replacement of two cars belonging to Okolie, said to have been damaged during the factional wars in the market as well as the said reluctance of the proponents of the committee report to condemn the alleged unprovoked assassination attempt on Okolie, which took place on April 12th, 2017, inside the market.
Alarming, according to the traders, was the alleged fraudulent submission of the contentious report to EFCC and Court, without their constitutional laid down provisions of adoption of such reports by the General House in an open meeting.
Like the case of brothers against brothers, the stage appear set now for a show down between traders from Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi States, fighting for the Soul of Agu-Ironsi International Market union.
However, Mbamara denied the above allegations and told our correspondent in an interview in his office, that his Executive and the Union were not responsible for giving out the said copy of the Committees Report to the EFCC and court.
He blamed Okolie’s opponents in a court case for sneaking the report to the court and the Anti Graft Agency.
As it stands now, the traders appear to be sitting on a keg of gun powder, especially with the divisions created, whereby there are pro – Okolie, versus pro – Mbamara and pro- Onyemaechi groups amongst the traders.
To most concerned traders, such similar situations in the recent time past, turned bloody, turning the market into a sort of theatre of war, where unbelievably, different kinds of dangerous weapons including ‘JUJU’, arms and ammunition were deployed, thereby paralysing business activities in the ever busy market.
However, Onyemaechi in a telephone chat told our correspondent that he did his utmost best to ensure that peace returned to the market before handing over to Mbamara.
He enjoined the warring factions to show restraint and resolve the brewing crisis. He expressed concerns, as according to him, Mbamara was Okolie’s choice candidate during the election that ushered in the new regime.
Extending the frontiers of the crisis, Okolie’s lawyer, Mr. Clement Onwuenweunor, was said to have sent a protest letter and text message to Mbamara, allegedly complaining of insults and disregards on his person in the said Committee report.
Denying asking for compensation from the Union as erroneously depicted in the report, Okolie in a telephone chat, stated that he only demanded for N48million owned him by traders, which he said was approved for him by the general house of the market.
Frowning at what he called falsehood and misrepresentation of his earlier statement to the committee, Okolie, who argued that he was not invited to all the proceedings of the committee, tagged the report biased.
“This is a gang up by Mbamara and his cohorts that he single handedly hand-picked into the committee. My lawyer and I were not given a fair hearing. This is a peace committee report from pit of hell. They did not condemn the assassination attempt on me in our market, where they cut me with Axe and cutlass. This is betrayal and I suspect some people, who wanted to be chairman at all cost is behind this crisis, deceiving Mbamara.”
Mbamara discredited Okolie’s positions as falsehood. He queried his N48 million claim and mockingly said if he was given N10 million, he will quit as Chairman of the union.
In a dramatic contradiction of Mbamara’s position, Market Youth Leader, Remigius Tochukwu, said thus: “We must always say the truth no matter what or who is involved. The report was presented but was not adopted by the General House because Jonathan Okolie travelled to Japan, even the current Chairman shifted the adoption until the person indicted is around“.
Confirming Remigius stand, Emeka Eze, Sam Akachukwu, Amaobi and Obi Shot, all agreed the report was not adopted.
“It was Amaobi that raised the objections during our May 2019 general meeting and in June, Mbamara only held an advertisements show from a company and dismissed the meeting, and since then, he has not called another general meeting. So, it’s wrong to send out the report to EFCC or court, ” they said.
With the above allegations and denials, the stage maybe setting for an imminent crisis in the ever-fragile Igbo dominated Market.