Tension in Ochanja over Union Elections

By Jude Atupulazi and uche Amunike

Tension appears high in Ochanja Market, Onitsha, following the suspicion in some quarters that the current executive of the market whose tenure expires on March 11, has been asked to extend their tenure for two more years by the Anambra State Governemnt, writes Jude Atupulazi, with additional report by Uche Amunike.

The current executive of the market led by Mr Nelson Ojukwu, was inaugurated on March 11, 2016, with elections for the various offices expected to be held any time now. However, a section of traders in the market are suspecting plans not to conduct the elections, following rumopurs that the Anambra State Government had extended the tenure of the exco by two years.

Speaking with Fides in his office at Ochanja Market, a group of traders led by a stakeholder, Chief Bonaventure Muo, accused the market leadership of contriving to have their tenure extended for two years without elections at the expiration of their tenure on March 11 this year.

They argued that their union’s constitution provided for a four-year renewable tenure through elections and wondered why the exco was afraid of holding elections as provided by the constitution.

‘We are only bothered about the right thing being done. There should be elections and whoever wins should carry on. We are not interested on who wins but on the right thing being done,’ one of the traders, Mr Edwin Chimezie, said.

He feared that should the government allow the tenure of the current exco to be extended, it could have a negative spiral effect on other markets as their excos would also seek tenure extension.

The traders who alleged that the current exco bribed the state government with N15m to have their tenure extended, said with less than one month to the supposed elections, no signs were seen.

They said by now, an electoral committee should have been inaugurated, with guidelines given, and wondered why the exco were afraid of elections.

But when Fides contacted the union chairman, Mr Nelson Ojukwu, for his comment, he said anyone who needed explanation should go to government house to get such.

However, the Commissioner for Commerce, Mr Uchenna Okafor, said the tenure of the present executive was yet to expire and wondered what the excitement was all about.

‘I wonder why they are making noise. If their tenure expires, then, we can decide on what to do, putting into consideration, the Ochanja fire outbreak and everything that happened in its wake. These people saying all these things are still in power; their tenure hasn’t finished yet. So, why are we discussing what is happening without their tenure being exhausted?’ he queried.

He said while there were people in the market doing their business genuinely, there were others who believed their quickest way to survive was to make money by being members of the leadership of the union.

‘These are the people going about making insinuations. How can we be discussing these issues when the present leadership has not exhausted their tenure? It is when their tenure expires that we will consider so many things. Ochanja Market has just been gutted by fire.

What are we doing presently? We are telling everyone to go and face their businesses. There is no need to hit up the polity unnecessarily. Some are busy doing their business, but there are some that are politicians in the market who should go and join active politics instead of using people’s goods and livelihood as child’s play,’ Okafor stated.

He said government would only take a decision only when the tenure of the present executive expired, asking those worried about it to be patient.

‘We have not said this is the decision we have taken or not. Until we do, after the expiration of this present tenure, then they can say they either like our decision or not,’ the commissioner reiterated.