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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

2 injured, hospitalized as Onitsha Bridgehead market leadership crisis deepens



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By Chuks Eke
Two of a 15-man caretaker committee members of Bridgehead market traders Union, Onitsha,  Anambra State, Comrade Pascal Ezekwere and Hon. Obinna Umeh yesterday allegedly escaped death by the whiskers when about 40 suspected thugs descended on them and manhandled for allegedly storming the residence of Hon. Chinedu Ezekwike, Chairman of the market Caretaker Committee with a policeman to arrest him.
Speaking from his hospital bed, one of the injured persons, Comrade Ezekwere, who is the Vice Chairman of the market committee, said that trouble started for them when they reported Ezekwike to the police at Zone 13 Police Command Headquarters, Ukpo for not rendering account of his stewardship, high handedness and exclusion of himself and other caretaker committee members from piloting the affairs of the market.
Ezekwere noted that based on the previous petition against him, the caretaker chairman, Ezekwike, was invited by the AIG zone 13, interrogated and granted bail on condition that he should come back to the police yesterday for auditing of the committee’s book of account by an independent auditor.
Ezekwere noted that as agreed, Ezekwike  jumped bail by failing to show up at Zone 13, prompting the police authorities to direct the Investigating Police Officer, IPO to accompany himself and other caretaker committee members who were complainants in the case to Onitsha to invite Ezekwike to the Zone 13 Zonal Headquarters.
He noted that on getting to the Bridgehead market, Ezekwike was not in the market office and the IPO requested them to take him to Ezekwike’s residential home and on getting there, Ezekwike refused to open his door and they were left with on other option than to leave with the IPO.
“On getting to MCC axis, the IPO boarded a vehicle back to Zone 13 and as I and Pascal climbed the pedestrian bridge and came down to board a vehicle back tto the Bridgehead market, about 20 persons suspected to be thugs rushed to us with tricycles, beat us up to stupor, saying we took some thugs to the Ezekwike’s residence to attack him”.
“They bundled us to unknown destination and hit my leg with iron substance but after explaining to them what happened, they regretted their action and blamed the Ezekwike for telling them that we are thugs when we are not but rather caretaker committee members having issues with him. I am now in the hospital,” he revealed.
In his own contribution, Umeh who is the treasurer of the market caretaker committee, corroborated the position of the Ezekwere, adding that they were beating to stupor and accused of coming to Ezekwike’s residence with thugs.
“We never came with thugs but with the IPO and Ezekwike didn’t open the door and we left. It was when we got to MCC that the IPO departed for zone 13 and we were coming down to the other side of the road to enter a vehicle to our market when the thugs with tricycles, rushed and beat us to near death. Carried us in their tricycles to a place and hit Ezekwere with iron on his leg.
“After explaining our case with Ezekwike, the thugs regretted what they did to us and demanded that we should give them N20,000 which we did and they left, accusing the chairman of not telling them the truth and for labeling us thugs,” he disclosed further.
But in a swift reaction on phone, Ezekwike  described his committee members as evil men who have continued to cause crisis in the market, adding that they came to his house with thugs, suspected kidnappers and people of questionable characters.
“I did not open the door for them because they came with thugs, I don’t know if they wanted to kidnap me because some looked like kidnappers and questionable characters. As I talk to you I am still being threatened, this morning two people on bike were pointing at my house”.
“The AIG is not the person who gave me this job. He has no right to probe me. The Government that gave me this job never accused me of embezzlement. I am in the market to protect the interest of the state Government”, said Ezekwike.
“For them to say I sent thugs to beat them up, is it from my house when they were looking for me to attack  that I sent thugs to attack them or from where?,” he queried.
He reiterated that no amount of intimidation would deter him from piloting the affairs of the market the way the government directed him to do, pointing out that,”  The cause of the crisis is because I refused to share money generated in the market as they demanded but I told them that we cannot tamper with the market revenues because it belongs to the state government”.

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