ANXIETY ENVELOPS ANAMBRA COMMUNITY AS RRS ARRESTS MARKET LEADERS OVER THEFT & INTIMIDATION

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*Soludo ends illegal collection of revenues in the market.

Tension had on Friday, 3rd of November, 2023, being an Nkwor market day, enveloped the prominent Nkwor Igboukwu market, following the coming of operatives of the Rapid Response Squad from Awkuzu formation of the Nigerian Police Force for the arrest of Nkwor Igboukwu market leader, one Mr Uchenna Umennolim better known as Gbagagba and his members, over reported cases of theft, burgled shops as well as thuggery and crude intimidation of innocent traders, just as the Anambra State Governor, Prof Charles Chukwuma Soludo had a fortnight ago, during his visit to Nkwor Igboukwu Market condemned excessive taxation going on in the market and also banned collection of what he termed as illegal revenue collection in the market by Uchenna Umennolim led caretaker committee.

ANAMBRA NEWS gathered that the arrival of operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RSS) from Awkuzu Anambra State, was sequel to reported cases of stealing of goods belonging to innocent traders allegedly masterminded by the market leaders headed by one Mr Uchenna Umennolim said to be a native of Ezihu village of the town.

It was gathered that Umennolim who got hint of the impending arrest by RRS on that very Nkwor day allegedly went underground leaving his members at work on that Nkwor market day, some of whom ran away as soon as they sighted operatives of the RRS.

However, only one of their members, one Mr Abuchi Obieme was arrested and currently in detention, helping detectives in their investigation.

ANAMBRA NEWS also gathered that Obieme while in police net, had confessed to their involvement in the disappearance of a high configuration power generator, which was part of the items stolen from the shop of one Mr Echezona Ibeh from Ezihu village of Igboukwu town, a musician and mobile phone dealer popularly known as ‘Prophet’, operating a shop along Ezihu road in the market.

List of items carted away from his shop included high caliber mobile phones, chargers and physical cash ranging above N1million naira, among others.

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A case which according to our sources, had formally been reported to the president general of the town union, one Architect Christian Ikeh but no serious action was taken as the president general was also alleged to have been one of those benefitting from Umennolim’s leadership of the market.

The President General was also part of those accused of being on the payroll of Umennolim and always get bank credit alerts from Umennolim at the close of every Nkwo market day.

This very case according the source, was later reported to Ekwulobia Police Station and no serious action was taken as market leadership denied knowledge of the stolen items having influenced the officers.

This medium gathered from reliable sources that this case was later taken to Awkuzu Department of the Nigerian Police for proper investigation which led to the arrest investigation embarked upon by the RRS.

ANAMBRA NEWS further gathered that Umennolim’s intimidation and thuggery attitude towards the traders began as soon as he assumed leadership of the market about a year ago and immediately introduced different forms of taxations and subsequently employed hostile approach on implementation of same.

Market women who attempted to resist payment of the taxes were physically assaulted, flogged and faced additional fines after being threatened with matchets cuts and dangerous weapons by the thugs enforcing payment of taxes.

In another development, was the recent visit by the Governor of Anambra State, Prof Charles Soludo to the market was a huge source of relief for the traders who let the cat out of the bag on the excessive taxation in Nkwor Igboukwu to the governor .

Soludo, according to reliable sources, condemned the excessive taxations and called on the traders to stop paying what he described as illegal revenue collection in the market.

According to our sources, the burble bursted on that day of the governor’s visit to the market when one Engr. Chuks Victor Madubugwu, who also operates a shop at the market accosted the governor inside the market and requested for an audience which was granted to him by Governor Soludo and Mr Madubugwu while addressing His Excellency blew open bit by bit all the taxes imposed on the traders by Umennolim.

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Madubugwu who spent close to an hour expatiating to the governor on the rots going on in the market, finally pleaded for the intervention of the state government to save the traders especially market women who were being daily molested and physical assaulted during the enforcement and collection of levies and revenues.

Umennolim while answering questions from the governor, admitted enforcing collection of those taxations, which did not go down well with governor Soludo who immediately instructed him to stop with immediate effect the collection of specific levies and revenues.

Soludo said such revenue must not be collected except by those whose job it is to do so through modern technology guidelines as adopted by the state government.

It was further gathered that as soon as governor Soludo left Nkwor Igboukwu market that fateful day, Mr Umennolim, known as Gbagagba descended and attacked Engr. Madubugwu, threatening to deal with him for having the courage to speak up to the governor which has resulted to a situation where the governor had ordered stoppage on the collection of certain revenues considered as major sources of huge in the market.

It was also learnt that Engr Madubugwu, in return had forwarded a petition to the office of the governor with regard to the threat of life as well as physical attack meted on him by Umennolim, whom many knew as Gbagagba.

Further investigation conducted into the development revealed that Mr Umennolim who did not own any single shop in the market, was brought into the position of Nkwo Igboukwu Market leadership by the sacked Anambra State Commissioner for Commerce, Dr Obinna Ngonadi, who was found guilty of massive bribery and corruption while in office, then as commissioner.

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It was alleged that sacked Dr. Ngonadi while in office issued Market Management Authority (MMA) without expiring date and handed to Mr Umennolim popularly known as Gbagagba after collecting huge financial inducement to assume leadership of Nkwo Igboukwu market, contrary to the government rules that caretaker committees of markets in the state should be in office only for a duration of three months and subject to renewal at the discretion of the state government.

Mr. Umennolim, who assumed leadership of the market around the month of September, 2022 with his members identified as Abuchi Obieme, Ikechukwu Okoye, among others was alleged to have introduced all forms of exorbitant taxation for different categories of traders comprising mostly of market women, wheelbarrow pushers and hawkers in the market.

It was gathered the all efforts and protests by the market women to resist the taxes were met with physical assault intimidation and thuggery dispositions by Gbagagba and his members who were alleged to have always operate with matchets, Cains and Jack knives as part of their intimidating strategy when collecting their taxes.

Efforts made at reaching members of the market leadership as at Tuesday, 7th of November, 2023, an Nkwor market day, to speak on the development proved unsuccessful as none of them was on duty.

On further enquiry of their whereabout, a female shop occupant close to their office who chosed anonymity, disclosed they are still on the run for fear of being arrested by police.

The President General of Igboukwu Development Union, Archt Christian Ikeh was also sought for comments but a young girl at the office of the town union said the PG was an Enugu base and was not around.

Detailed Report by
Austin Nwokocha, Senior Correspondent, ANAMBRA NEWS.

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