The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) and the Southeast Zone and the Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) have alerted the four leading Governorship Candidates and two alternative others concerning the ongoing shambolic elections in various Markets across the State and associated rots threatening social peace and harmony in same. The dastardly act is being perpetrated by the outgoing Government of Anambra State through its Commissioner for Trade and Commerce, etcetera, Mr. Uchenna Okafor. The recipients of our joint letter are Prof Charles Soludo, APGA Governorship Candidate, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, Governorship Candidate of YPP, Chief Valentine Ozigbo, Governorship Candidate of PDP and Senator Emmanuel Nnamdi Uba, Governorship Candidate of APC. The two alternative Governorship Candidates also petitioned are Hon Chukwuma Umeoji of APGA and Senator Ugochukwu Ubah of PDP. The joint letter was successfully delivered to them on Sunday, 11th July 2021 through a WhatsApp mode of communication. The joint letter was signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi and Barr Chinwe Umeche for Intersociety, Comrade Aloysius Attah for the Southeast CLO and Comrade Vincent Ezekwueme for Anambra State Branch of the CLO. The four signatories also signed this joint statement.
In the three-page jointly written letter, the leading Governorship Candidates were not only put on early warning notice over the subject matter but also enlightened on the consequences of the dastardly act of the outgoing Government of the State. These include gagging the next or incoming Government of the State by throwing a spanner in the Government-markets/traders relationship, development and enhancement of trade and commerce, market security and harmonious social relationship, democratic culture of ‘one-man-one-vote’ or participatory election and absence of leadership imposition through use of ‘caretaker committees’ or the newly introduced “unopposed elections” as well as transparent and accountable revenue generation, etc.
Apart from indiscriminate imposition of unelected and un-electable persons as “unopposed elected market leaders” through “unopposed elections”-whereby all the Government appointed “caretaker committees” are now being restored and installed with four year tenure through the so called “unopposed elections”; the joint letter also highlighted other rots bedeviling Anambra Markets and they include undue interference in market affairs and muscling of democratic process and right of traders to choose their leaders freely and democratically. Others are favoritism and nepotism, sundry extortions and indiscriminate imposition of criminal taxes and levies out of which, at least 80% hardly ends up in Government coffers or cannot be traced to official Government revenue records. Fraud in Anambra markets has also risen to an apogee. This is to the extent that payers of stallage fees are hardly issued with receipts, in addition to imposition of criminal penalties running into tens of millions of naira. Also stallage receipts for payments made in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 are yet to be issued and collected by many, if not most of the affected traders.
The joint letter listed the recently conducted shambolic elections by the outgoing Government of Anambra State to include the “general election” of the Ogidi International Building Materials Market held on Wednesday 16th June 2021 where the serving Government appointed caretaker committee chairman, Jude Nwankwo and his loyalists were returned as “unopposed elected executives”. This is against the backdrop of the fact that it is anomalous and undemocratic to allow serving members of the Government appointed Market “caretaker committees” to stand as candidates. Other investigated shambolic or “unopposed elections” were those that took place at the Niger Street Timbers Market, Onitsha, where the State Government appointed ‘caretaker committee’ Chairman, Emmanuel Obumso (from Aguleri) and members of his ‘caretaker committee’ were returned as “unopposed elected executives” and the Iron Benders (Akpakara) Market in Bridgehead Market, Onitsha, where the Government appointed ‘caretaker committee’ Chairman, Okechukwu Nwani and members of his ‘caretaker committee’ were returned as “unopposed elected executives”. Another shambolic election has been fixed for tomorrow, 14th July 2021, at the Power Tools and Allied Market in Onitsha Bridgehead Market and those of the Bridgehead Central Market, Onitsha Drugs Market, Onitsha Main Market, Ogbaru Main Market, Ochanja Main Market and others have been lined up and dotted with predetermined outcomes or automatic emergence of their “Caretaker Committees” and their chairmen as “unopposed elected leaders”.
Also on 1st July 2021, another kangaroo election was organized by the State Commissioner for Trade and Commerce, Uche Okafor, for the Government ‘Caretaker Committee’ in charge of the State’s Central Market, “ASMATA” and its ‘Caretaker’ Chairman, Ikechukwu Ekwegbalu and other “Caretaker Committee” members: Jude Agummadu, Uchenna Maluobi, John Okafor, Kenneth Onyeka, Louis Onyeabo, Sunday Aniakor, Kenneth Amakaeze and Christopher Nwankwo, were all returned as “unopposed elected leaders of ASMATA elected through voice votes”. The media link to the shambolic election supervised by Anambra State’s Commissioner for Trade and Commerce, Mr. Uchenna Okafor (Wiper) is here: https://www.sunnewsonline.com/anambra-traders-elect-new-leaders/?fbclid=IwAR3sjAGSnaW3AdeZCQNMaTUQDd6D8MQYCteiYsgDFpX4V-9N4j6VlLzB6Tk
The joint letter specifically pointed out to the leading Governorship Candidates that the dastardly act of the outgoing Government of Anambra State, if unchecked or ignored, is capable of generating in the next dispensation combined negative forces of social disorder, disharmony and security threats or breakdown including setting Anambra Markets on fire. It is also capable of gagging the next Government of Anambra State and making same to operate afloat including forcing the installed Market “leaders” to maintain secret and perpetual allegiance to their installers and flittering into their private pockets revenues meant for the development of the State. This is more so when, till date, a good number of former local government chairmen in the State still sign stallage documents for a fee especially “Change-of-Ownership/Allocation Papers”; several years after they left office.
Lastly, the joint letter demanded from the leading Governorship Candidates that all the conducted “unopposed elections” leading to the emergence of “unopposed elected” Market leaders who are serving members of the Government appointed caretaker committees, starting from the “unopposed election” held on 16th June 2021 at the Ogidi International Building Materials Market, shall be scrapped in the event of the emergence and taking office by any of the Candidates as next Anambra Governor; and that all the remaining Government appointed Markets’ caretaker committees in Anambra Markets shall be dissolved and their leadership positions credibly and popularly democratized.