Traders, shop owners and stakeholders operating under the aegis of Balogun Business Association (BBA) in Lagos have raised the alarm over a rumoured threat to raid their market by thugs loyal to a former chairman of the association.
The aggrieved traders who addressed reporters yesterday at the Association Secretariat at the popular Lagos International Trade Fair Complex, Badagry Expressway, Ojo, alleged that credible intelligence at their disposal indicates that the planned invasion of their peaceful market would take place between Sunday, June 27 and Wednesday, July 28.
Warning of imminent bloodshed of innocent traders should the alleged invasion happen, the Principal Stakeholders, recalling that similar attacks by the same person in the years 2005 and 2007 had led to the loss of lives, vowed to ensure resistance to any unlawful take over of their market by those who have no stake in their association.
The group called on the Lagos State government, the Inspector General of Police, Directorate of State Security Service (DSS) and the Lagos State Commissioner of Police to urgently intervene and wade into the matter.
The Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the traders’ association, Mr Celestine Emechebe, vowed that the traders would do everything within the ambit of the law to defend themselves and the market from being unlawfully taken over by those he described as touts working for the powerful man
‘We got the information that the powerful man and his opposition group, after the Kangaroo election with hooligans at the Villa Park Hotel, have perfected plans to invade our market on Sunday and forcefully install his own administration with the help of his police friends. They will not succeed because we will resist it with all our strength. This was the same thing he did in 2005 and 2007 that led to the death of some persons,’ he stated.
Giving an insight into the cause of the crisis, Emechebe said that ‘it was the insistence on heading our association’s board of trustees as chairman, many years after he completed his tenure as president, contrary to the market constitution, which provides that the incumbent president should be chairman, that started the crisis.
‘Despite that, I regard the man as my mentor. I have advised him privately to allow the present administration and caretaker committee led by Chief Anselem Duru to complete its term next month, to make way for a peaceful election on July 28. But he refused to allow peace to reign in the market,’ Emechebe said.
According to the founding father of BBA, Ambassador Leonard Ogbonna, who is also the secretary of the caretaker committee inaugurated by the outgoing president, Chief Tony Obih: ‘Greed on the part of the powerful man has been our problem here. I was the person that invited him from Automobile Spare Parts Market to join us in BBA after few other founding fathers had conceptualised the idea for the association in 1990, due mainly to congestion, extortion by social miscreants and shylock landlords, who were oppressing us at our former location at Lagos Island.’
Lamenting at the briefing attended by other stakeholders and aggrieved contestants in their forthcoming July 28 elections, such as a Pioneer BOT Member, Chief Nicholas Okeke, High Chief John Ezeakor (aka Ojiji), contesting for the office of president, Ogbuefi Emmanuel Otunabor, Chief Okey Ojiaku, Chief Benson Amaechi, Dr Emeka Igbosopulu, Hon Elendu Ikenna, Hon Nnamdi Okoye, Hon Mrs. Pauline Onuekwusi and others, Ambassador Ogbonna regretted making the man a president of the association in 1992 after leading the traders for two years.
‘At the expiration of Chief Tony Obih’s tenure as president, he could not conduct an election due to the COVID-19 lockdown. As stipulated in our constitution, the outgoing administration then inaugurated a caretaker committee headed by Hon Anselem Duru. After the expiration of the constitutional two months lifespan of the committee, we approached a Badagry magistrates court for an extension, which was granted until July 31 and upheld by a federal high court. We have appointed a Constitutional Returning Officer, Chief GO Umunnabuike, who has instituted an electoral panel already working with our elections fixed for July 28, next month.’
Questioning the validity of the elections purportedly held at Villa Park Hotel, Amb Ogbonna queried why the said ‘powerful man’ is creating confusion by conducting illegal elections outside the BBA market and employing a CAC decision that has been upturned by an order of a federal court.
Collaborating Ogbonna’s position, Chief Nicholas Okeke said that 80 per cent of the market population of over 15,000 members trading in the market did not attend the illegal elections conducted at the hotel.
He appealed to Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwolu, the IGP, Director of the DSS and the Lagos State Commissioner of Police to wade into the matter to avoid a breakdown of law and order at the market.