Lawrence Nwimo, Awka
The Anambra State High Court sitting in Atani, Ogbaru Judicial Division, has directed the State Commissioner for Trade, Commerce and Industry, Dr. Obinna Ngonadi, and the Attorney General of Anambra State, to maintain the status quo in Ogbaru Main Market Traders Association (Relief Market).
Justice A.O. Okuma gave the order following a motion ex parte seeking an interim order of the court to restrain the respondents from removing the elected Executives of the Market. He adjourned the hearing to June 3, 2022.
Barrister B.C. Uzuegbu (SAN), had in a Suit No. AT/MISC43/2922 brought an application of motion ex parte, seeking an interim order to restrain the respondents and their privies from removing the applicants and replacing them with Caretaker Committee without being confronted with any allegation and being given the opportunity to be heard in line with section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pending the determination of the substantive application.
However, despite the order, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Chinedu Ike, in a letter dated May 19, 2022, insisted that the Ministry would constitute a Caretaker Committee to oversee the affairs of Ogbaru Main Market pending the determination of the petitions and counter-petitions received in respect of the election of January 25, 2022, and publish the findings.
But Chief Uzuegbu (SAN), in a letter to the Commissioner for Commerce, copied to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, pointed out that the phantom petitions against the election that brought Chief Ndubuisi Ochiogu Executives on January 25, 2022, was the handiwork of those who feel that their man is in power. Therefore, they seek to uproot a duly elected Executives by mere intrigues.
He said the Commissioner should be aware that if there was any petition, justice, decency and good faith demands that his clients’ attention should be drawn to such petitions, which will afford him opportunity to respond to the issues raised by the petition.
That, he would have afforded the Commissioner the vantage position to reach a just conclusion.
He said: “The letter under reference shows that the petitions have not been drawn to the attention of our clients. The Government is yet to “investigate the allegations and series of petitions received as regard the election.”
The Senior Advocate said the intention was for Ochiogu and his executives to vacate office so that the writers of phantom petitions would be constituted as caretaker committee.
“Whilst they take the offices of our clients, the Government with its bureaucratic bottlenecks will then decide how and when to investigate the allegations. This procedure is bizarre! It is the practice during the time of the cave man,” he said.
Chief Uzoegbu expressed surprise that immediately the commissioner received the order of the Court that status quo be maintained in respect of the issue, he “impudently and without regard to due process and the rule of law caused the letter under reference to be authored.”
In a separate response to Ike’s letter dated May 19, 2022, the Board of Trustees (BOT) expressed shock that the same Permanent Secretary, Chinedu Ike, who signed the letter of suspension of Ogbaru election was the same person who joined in monitoring, supervising, and finally confirming the election as flawless.
They urged the Commissioner and his cohorts to put on hold the effort to suspend the elected executives and replace it with caretaker, warning that they “are not prepared to allow any imposition of caretaker Committee on the Market for now.”
Competent sources allegedly quoted the Permanent Secretary as saying: “the Caretaker Committees would be announced by Monday or Tuesday.”
He was also said to have boasted that they would go to court on June 3 and vacate the interim order since the court belongs to them and they have not fulfilled the 180 days requirements for suing public officers.