Posted by Pamela Eboh, Awka | 29 October 2014 | 4,534 times
The embattled Chairman of Onitsha South Local Government Area of Anambra State, Lady Ann Chukwuneke, narrowly escaped death when her convoy was stoned by irate traders in the famed commercial town.
Traders at the Millennium Merchants and Importers Association Markets, Onitsha, have for some time now engaged in a squabble with the local government following attempts by the council to decongest the area and discourage street trading.
The battle however got to a pinnacle last Thursday when the traders organised themselves and attacked the convoy of the council boss during her visit to the market. Speaking to journalists, Lady Chukwuneke thanked God for saving her life, lamenting how the traders shattered her vehicle with stones, broken bottles and other dangerous weapons. She disclosed that five local government staff who accompanied her to the market had to be hospitalised following the attack by the traders.
According to her, “I would have been dead by now if not for my orderly and one other police officer who accompanied us to the market. I only went to the market with my PA, two police officers and the supervisory councilor for works in the local government.
“I had begged them severally to stop trading on the road, but if you go there now, you will see vehicles, tri-cycles, motorcycles, heavy duty lorries parked along the road, thereby obstructing free human and vehicular movement.
“Others in the market cooperated, but at Sokoto Road, their vice chairman, Prince Peter Okoye, and his men blocked the street with chain and turned me back. They started throwing stones and sachet water at me and I quickly rushed into my car.”
The council chairman debunked insinuations that she imposed illegal levy on the traders, saying that she has not in any way asked the traders to pay any levy since she assumed office. “I am in that position to effect a positive change and to save the masses and not to make money because God has made me rich before vying for the position,” she said.
On the right of the local government to give orders in the market, the council boss cited the 2011 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) and the Anambra State No. ANHA/Law/2012/03, both of which state that construction and maintenance of roads, streets and markets are the duties of the local government. She called on the traders to be law abiding.
Stating the traders’ side of the story, the chairman of the market, Mr. Valentine Ezechukwu, said the council boss allegedly stormed the market with over 100 youths to collect revenue from the traders and at the same time clamp down on street trading in the area. She wondered why the council boss should be demanding the sum of N50,000 per shop.
While describing the action as uncalled for, Ezechukwu claimed that they had earlier discussed with the chairman on the way forward for the market. He questioned why she stormed the market without notice.
•Photo shows Onitsha South LG Chairman, Lady Ann Chukwuneke, speaking at a campaign rally.
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